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 ITSM ITIL 4 The 7 Guiding Principles of ITIL 4: Think and work holistically

The 7 Guiding Principles of ITIL 4 are the key messages of ITIL. They are designed to guide decisions and actions so the people who are responsible for managing and operating the organization’s service portfolio can benefit from these high-level best practices.

These principles aren’t new. They’re influenced by ideas born in disciplines outside of service management (such as manufacturing and software development) but have now been proven in the service context.

Today we look at Think and work holistically:

Think and work holistically

Like collaborate and promote visibility, this is another anti-silo principle. A holistic viewpoint is necessary because nothing happens in isolation—there is always a bigger picture to be seen. The delivery of services requires coordination of activities performed by different teams and automated systems. Thinking and working holistically means thinking and working across teams, departments, systems and other boundaries to focus on creating value. The parts need to work together to create a clean flow of value across the value chain. When we don’t think and work holistically, we experience friction at the hand-off points.

Few of an organization’s products and services start and end within the same team or department. More often, the chain of activities that makes up a service involves many moving parts. So, the people and teams who perform the different parts of a value stream must be aware of how the work that they do fits in with the rest of the value stream–and that there is a customer at the end of it.

It is important to understand how the value chain integrates into a complete, end-to-end process. What are the inputs and outputs of each step? Are the handovers efficient? Is there a smooth flow? Or do teams need to constantly loop backwards to ask for more information on what was passed down?

 ITSM ITIL 4 The 7 Guiding Principles of ITIL 4: Think and work holistically


This holistic perspective is particularly important when change is applied: a minor change to one step in the value stream can have a profound impact on upstream and downstream steps, so changes must be assessed from a whole-view perspective. Often, a well-intentioned improvement made by one team in isolation can break a value chain.

Working in siloes means people often fail to spot opportunities and risks. So, to deliver optimized services (and minimized risks), it is important to work with the various stakeholders to ensure that everybody is on the same page.

The 4 Dimensions of ITIL 4 provide a useful tool here to ensure you are considering all the necessary angles. The 4 dimensions cover value streams and processes, information and technology, organizations and people, and partners and suppliers. People are the collective representatives of the whole system, so close collaboration is critical. When change is required, it is necessary to pull together the people who represent parts of the system to discuss the change from both the systemic perspective and the holistic outcome perspective. It is necessary to appreciate the complexity and fragility of a value chain—and this cannot happen when teams operate as black-box siloes. Transparency is critical to getting the holistic perspective.

In the current situation, the need for social distancing prevents Change Advisory Boards from meeting in the same place, so virtual CAB alternatives must be available–for example, using teleconferencing or videoconferencing where CAB members can share their screens to show information like service maps and infrastructure maps. This can be complemented by use of a digital forum technology to consult with a wider group of IT people–and IT customers–to gain a more complete and accurate appreciation of the potential impact of change.

For example, even when IT are 100% certain they have considered all the technical aspects and dependencies relating to a change, they may not be aware of a major business initiative which is set to overlap with the timing of the change. To business stakeholders the timing may represent an unacceptable risk and the change window shifted to another time. This is why a getting a holistic appreciation of the situation is so important.





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