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Do ITIL for the Right Reasons: Lifecycle Adoption

May 28, 2010

David Moskowitz


Let’s summarize where we are, and then we're ready for closed-loop.

Everything wrapped up in the concepts of service, service management, lifecycles, and service management lifecycles revolves around the organization developing the communication, coordination, and control for understanding and delivering on the quality/value proposition to the customer. How that is accomplished is what leads to understanding closed-loop systems.

The Service Strategy book says: "Control processes in which the value of the outcome has influence (with or without some delay) on the process input in such a manner as to maintain the desired value are closed-loop."

That's a bit tough to understand. A bit later in book is this: "Closed-loop solutions, however, are based on compensating feedback." This helps a little, but it's still not totally clear. So, let's try a historical reference.

Writing in his book, Cybernetics, Norbert Wiener said: "(We) came to the conclusion that an extremely important factor in voluntary activity is what control engineers term feedback. … It is enough to say here that when we desire a motion to follow a given pattern the difference between this pattern and the actually performed motion is used as a new input to cause the part regulated to move in such a way as to bring the motion close to that given by the pattern."

Applying the two we get this: By continually monitoring and measuring outcomes, it's possible to use feedback to make adjustments (to compensate, to make corrections) in the same way a thermostat keeps the temperature of a room relatively constant.

The outcomes and expectations for service with regards to both functionality and reliability (in ITIL speak, utility and warranty, see How to Measure ITIL Service Utility and Warranty by Hank Marquis for more information) are recorded in service level agreements (SLAs). The SLAs describe what a service does (utility), what customers can expect with respect to how it will be delivered and supported (warranty), and the responsibilities of the parties.

Crafting SLAs requires input from customers (users) and the people who have the ITIL process-responsibility, for example, to understand the impact of this new (or changed) service on existing capacity and demand. It also means the parties need to understand the existing configuration items (i.e., services and the supporting infrastructure) and the relationships between them.

The service management lifecycle concept imposes a requirement for communication and feedback. In other words, the specialized capabilities of service management are really about developing the appropriate feedback mechanisms that lead to improving organizational maturity. That is what the concept of a closed-loop system has to do with adopting ITIL.

David Moskowitz is a principal consultant at Productivity Solutions, a Philadelphia, PA-based consulting firm that helps its clients thrive in an ebusiness, Web-based economy. He is a certified ITIL Expert, accredited instructor, and ITSM consultant. In these capacities, he has guided many successful projects. The goal for his efforts is to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of IT organization at the same time that the business recognizes IT as a strategic asset. His focus working with clients, for more than 25 years predating the formal naming, has been IT service management. David can be reached at davidm2@usa.net. Follow him on Twitter: DavidM2 (http://twitter.com/davidm2).