As with most things, ITIL® can be viewed from multiple perspectives. I have found that many people seem to take a polarized view of the set of best practices. They either see ITIL® from a very literal, functional and operational focus or they see ITIL® from a more figurative, conceptual and strategic perspective. The interesting thing about ITIL® is that it is both of those things and everything in between all at the same time!
After spending many years reading, thinking, teaching and using ITIL® I have found that one of its greatest benefits is its flexibility. The set of best practices can be seen from strategic, tactical and operational perspectives. In addition it is my firm belief that to be a true expert in the best practices one must be able to think at all three of those levels at the same!
Because ITIL® takes a lifecycle approach (cradle to grave for the life of a service) it operates very strategically. Because ITIL® provides a set of processes for achieving value for customers it operates at a tactical level. Because ITIL® offers a set of techniques, methods and approaches for delivering value through services and the underpinning components it operates at an operational level.
Although we might stop short of saying that ITIL® is the cure for whatever ails your organization, we can say that ITIL® can be used in many ways to solve many issues. The key is to know the best practices from a strategic, tactical and operational perspective and learn to map or apply the best practices to the situation at hand. By taking a “Keep It Simple” approach and finding the least common denominator between a given best practice and a problem our organizations face we can find the appropriate way to solve a problem.
For example if we look at each ITIL® process and recognize that they each basically map to a Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle we can find that the best way to overcome challenges with a process is to ensure that they really do follow a basic path of Planning, Doing, Checking and Acting. The Deming cycle can be used in a strategic, tactical or operational context because it is simple and basic in its approach.
One of the first lessons a baseball player in the outfield learns is that when a ball is hit their first step should be away or back form the ball, not towards it. Until they can judge the distance and approach needed they should believe the ball may be hit harder than they realize. The same holds true with an ITIL® implementation. Our first step should be away from the detail and outwards towards the big picture until we have time to judge and determine the correct level of depth needed in a given situation. The hard part for many in IT is that this is counter-intuitive. Part of following best practice is learning to sometimes go against our nature until we can make the right call. If we control our natural inclinations to dive into details we will certainly be able to enjoy the benefits of a successful best practice implementation.