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ITIL 4 and Project Management – Blended to taste

Barry Corless
  • Date: 18 December, 2019

Nobody ever wants to seem to be out of touch, failing to keep up or lacking that zest. Be it a politician with their electorate or parents with their children - the result of seemingly not understanding, not being aligned with others’ thinking or simply seeming boring, runs the risk of being a disaster.

Similarly, our organisations can be a lot like people. They too can make excuses for not doing the hard work to rejuvenate themselves. Based on years of experience, Global Knowledge’s position on this is clear. For organisations with the willingness to get in shape and regain their corporate vitality, combining and aligning best practice frameworks is a sure way to achieve that goal. Admittedly, it takes work. This article will highlight why combining ITIL 4 and project management should be high on the list.

Why now?

The advent of cloud, automation and everything-as-a-service means a changing role for many information systems teams. ITIL 4, the latest iteration of the global standard for service management, can help IT teams to transform and provide real business value. ITIL 4 can help transform IT departments from a company cost centre to the driver of value co-creation within the organisation’s ecosystem of stakeholders. ITIL 4 provides the service management framework and project management (waterfall and agile) provides the structure to do it.

Where ITIL 4 comes in

When service improvement is driven by adopting and adapting ITIL 4 best practices, a company that transitions gets multiple benefits: the highly responsive functionality of a world class service delivery organisation, coupled with the agility, innovation and flexibility that is increasingly necessary in today’s competitive marketplace.

Almost since the first systems were computerised, technology and those delivering it have been disregarded by many within their organisations, frequently including if not led by senior executives. Why? Because despite their best efforts, many internal IT departments have been severely challenged in delivering real business value on time and within budget, often in comparison to external providers. External providers have been characterised as having no feel for their customers’ businesses. Checkmate and IT loses again!

ITIL 4 addresses many of the identified limitations of delivering technology. It provides a loosely coupled, service-oriented framework that meets the customer’s business needs and keeps outcomes, costs and risks into account. It enables the IT organisation to co-create value as a full partner in the ecosystem and service value chains that drive the 21st Century business. But in order to adopt and adapt ITIL 4’s best practices for your organisation, it must work closely with other frameworks, such as Enterprise Architecture, Business Analysis and of course Project Management.

Project management’s role

Project management has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years (after all, the pyramids must have been built by some kind of repeatable process). However, from an IT perspective, it was the threat posed by Y2K that forced maturity, better codification and wider adoption. Not forgetting of course that it was shortly after the shock of Y2K that the Agile manifesto was written and another episode started. Today, there is much talk about organisations practicing their own forms of ‘Wagile’, a mix of the two. All this activity around the millennium forced IT organisations to adopt a much more disciplined approach because failure was literally not an option.

ITIL 4 requires project management in two specific areas. First, the introduction and improvement of ITIL-based best practices is often a project in itself. It entails changing not only the people, technology, processes and partnerships, but also the culture and interfaces between stakeholders. Most ITIL-based best practice improvements require a degree of project management. Anything less and the adoption is at risk.

Organisational change management is at the very heart of any improvements. Since the whole point is to ensure high-quality delivery of IT services at the optimum cost, change has to be managed very carefully to avoid risk to a stable and functioning environment. You also need project management (and a chunk of Lean thinking) to contain unproductive expenditures. At the same time, we must remain highly responsive to the changing business needs of the customer. This is where project management really shines in both its Agile and Waterfall variants.

What to expect

A big challenge to service improvement via ITIL is acquiring qualified project managers with sufficient business acumen, a true product and service mentality, and enough ITIL knowledge, training and experience.

Managing the constraints of time, price and scope of work, while meeting quality requirements is the foundation of project management. Meeting the customer-defined needs for value, capability, availability, reliability and cost-effectiveness, while allowing for agility and responsiveness in the face of changing business requirements is the foundation of ITIL 4. Together, these disciplines truly deliver a competitive advantage. Imagine, if you can, a combined Project Management and Service Management Office who have the sole role of building the fabric to enable agility and self-determination within product teams.

Over the past years, Global Knowledge’s annual salary survey has proved time and again that for individuals in the IT industry, particularly in management, there are few skill-sets more valuable than ITIL and project management. Today, our organisations are hiring T-shaped individuals. You need a multitude of talents and a combination of the latest ITIL 4 guidelines and project management should be high on your list of must haves.

Related Information

ITIL Training Courses
Project Management Training Courses

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Barry Corless

Global Product Director for DevOps and IT Service Management

As a Global Product Director for leading IT and business skills training specialist Global Knowledge, Barry Corless is responsible for helping organisations enhance organisational capability through application of best practice frameworks.  His role incorporates the development and delivery of service management, DevOps, programme and project management, enterprise architecture and business analysis learning and development solutions.  An experienced consultant and IT specialist, Barry undertook additional voluntary roles Director of itSMF International from 2017-2019, and Chair of itSMF UK from 2009-2011.  

An industry champion for ITIL, Barry credits its common-sense approach to endemic IT issues as the reason for his long-term track record with this international service management practice.  He has trained and consulted on ITIL in over 20 countries. Barry continues to act as an ITIL examiner and has been part of the author team that inputs into the ever-adapting ITIL guidelines.  

Barry’s attraction to analytical problem solving began early and his first ambition was to be a weather man.  He became an Assistant Scientific Officer for The Meteorological Office after leaving school in Cheshire.  Barry recognises that passion for the topic is a key attribute for success as a trainer, as well as the ability to bring a subject to life.  He thinks open-mindedness is vital.  “Lifelong learning has taught me that we all have to prepare to unlearn what we previously accepted as best practice,” he says. 

Having spent over 20 years training he has seen many changes in an industry that has embraced virtual classroom and digital learning.  He advocates the teaching of project management and service management skills early.  “In an economy that is 80% service based, we should be teaching these key management skills in schools,” he says.   

As Best Practice department head, Barry enjoys the variety that his role brings him, and he continues to work with consultancy and education clients to ‘keep it real’.  Barry’s ability to identify with learners makes him a sought-after trainer and his passion and detailed understanding of ITIL meant that Global Knowledge was able to develop the world’s first bridging course for professionals going from ITIL v3 to ITIL 4.  Global Knowledge remains the world’s leading provider of ITIL certification and exams.  

A popular commentator on ITIL and a frequent blogger, Barry doesn’t like to think of himself as ‘one track minded’.  “ITIL skills are transferable outside the IT hinterland and lesson learned in other environments should be used in optimising technology solutions” he promises.  “ITIL4 is more focussed on people, agility and collaboration.  With the pressure on IT teams to provide a lightning-fast route to market, it’s vital that all stakeholders across an organisation and throughout the supply chain are working well together.”