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ITIL 2011: Strategy Management

The publication of ITIL 2011 has brought several new or revamped processes to light. One of those is the Strategy Management for IT Services process. This Strategy process is not actually new. It represents the formalization of best practice guidance for managing strategies contained in earlier editions of the ITIL publications.

The purpose of this newly minted process is to use a company’s perspective, position, plans and patterns to ensure better management, governance and control of the IT services an organization provides to support the business outcomes. The basic principles of the Strategy Management process include helping to identify the overall business strategy and then tie an underpinning IT strategy (including an IT service strategy) or manufacturing strategy to the business outcomes through integration and alignment activities.

Once an IT strategy emerges in relation to the business strategy, the organization can then decompose the IT strategy into IT tactics and IT operations. These lower, more detailed levels of decisions and activities then exist in parallel to the business tactics and operations.

The key takeaway from the Strategy Management process should be a recognition that the IT policies, plans, projects, processes, procedures and work instructions do not exist or get created in a vacuum, independent from the business strategy, tactics, or operations. IT is wholly dependent upon the business for its existence. The work of IT (and the delivery of IT backed services) occurs at the request of the business and on behalf of the business. IT does not and should not exist for the sake of existing. 

ITIL does provide a cautionary note when attempting to undertake Strategy Management for the first time, especially when no overall strategy exists or there is no linkage from IT to the business. An organization can quickly become “…inundated with data and information, before they can produce anything that can be signed off by senior management” (SS 2011

When undertaking this important, yet potentially overwhelming process, an organization should ensure involvement by the right stakeholders and to seek “…incremental progress to get an organization up to the point of addressing service strategy in the comprehensive manner described…” (SS 2011

Taking a properly scoped and steady, yet measured pace to Strategy Management can produce great benefit for an organization. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be an organization’s willingness to undertake a process-driven approach to developing strategies that help to meet the business outcomes and the needs of both internal and external customers.

Are you willing?