Work Holistically

ITSM best practice frequently suggests working holistically.   This is particularly true when defining a strategy and architecting a design solution but when you think about it, this holistic viewpoint should permeate every investment, improvement, and action in the entire value stream from thought to end of life for every service or product deployed.

At a high-level thinking holistically involves looking at things from a people process technology perspective but cannot leave out our partners and suppliers.  No service, process, or functional team stands alone.   Changing one element of a complex system will impact others.  This is a real challenge because no one team can know everything about all aspects of the system.  Therefore, working holistically requires a balance between specialization (functions and departments) and the coordination of complex integrated process activities.  It is only then do we get a clear picture of the lifecycle of a service and any hope of managing it efficiently.

A holistic approach must expand to ensure that results are delivered to customers or the business.  Providers should consider the creation and management of this complex integration of hardware, software, data, processes, architectures, metrics, tools, cultures, partners and be sure that they are all coordinated to provide a defined value.   Did you get that; VALUE must be defined before we can create and manage the holistic solution.  The results delivered to customers are likely to suffer unless the provider works on the whole and not just the parts.

This holistic approach to looking at things is sometimes called systems thinking. By seeking to understand the system's structure, interdependencies and how changes in any area will affect the other parts and the whole system over time, organizations can create a sustainable long- term approach to service management. 

When systems can organically adapt to changes as they occur, the systems will be able to evolve in a way that is appropriate to the need.  This idea is something that most providers are aware and is likely not new to you. When day to day firefighting sets in we forget.  As service providers, it is a good idea to step back from time to time and to consider “Are we really approaching this from a holistic view point?”  “Do we have that Systems Thinking approach?“.  In addition to ITSM, other best practices and methodologies agree about looking at the whole. One approach that can be helpful when working holistically is using the 'Theory of Constraints' as defined in the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement (by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox)to identify bottlenecks in an end-to-end process.   Use what works but be sure to think work and act holistically.

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