ITIL Practitioner critical review

This review is aimed to the ITSM professionals who know the Practitioner book and it will concentrate on some critical observations. Before I go in to the critical observation, I must say that the book was a pleasant surprise. The Guiding Principles are good; I wish I had written them myself.

Here are some problem areas:

The user versus customer discussion is an old dispute. This would have been a good opportunity to leave the ancient class-system thinking behind. The people who use a service, are the customers. If they don’t like it and walk away, the money will follow.

In many organizations there is a professional procurement organization, which handles the contractual negotiations and acts as a buying customer for the vendor. The real customers are those who need the service, but they do not get to sign the contract. It would be a major mistake to concentrate on fulfilling the procurement organization’s needs as they know very little of the real use of the service.

The danger in the user-customer differentiation is that people may start applying it in practice. Any issue reported by a mere user may become automatically low priority even though the ”user” could be the real decision maker for the service.

The problem with the old class model stands out in the Guiding Principles as the discussion on customer experience clashes very clearly with the definition of the buyer being the customer.

CSI looks almost like it has been rewritten. The seven steps are gone and replaced by an old model which I remember using back in the ´90’s. It is valid but rather heavy for normal improvement. Actually the guiding principle 2.5: Progress Iteratively is much better guidance for CSI than the CSI chapter.

The CSI chapter does mention that CSI is for small and large initiatives but the focus seems to be on the heavy side. A lot of opportunities will be missed if CSI is seen as a programme; trying to fulfill a vision; using a scientific method. Continual service improvement is more a culture than a program. It is the ability to continually make small adjustments, corrections and refinements to existing service components. It is less about visions and more like the CEO who bends down to pick some rubbish from the shop floor during a factory visit. At the end, the CSI chapter mentions it.

In my opinion the integration of CSI to normal work practices should have been more central subject.

CSF’s have been misunderstood. A critical success factor is something you need to have in order to be able to succeed. The CSF example in the book is an outcome, not a success factor: The new IT service enables sales people to spend more time with clients.

A classical book example of a success factor is to have water if you set up your operation in a desert. Water is something you must have but which is not automatically available in a desert. Here is an example, I know that Kaimar Karu is an expert on beer, so I gave him the role of a beer master.

Mr Karu has a successful micro brewery in the old town of Tallinn. He wants to build a new brewery as the capacity of the old one does not cover all demand. There are two important qualifications for the new brewery location: good water and easy access by trucks. These are the CSF’s as Mr Karu knows that he has everything else available to guarantee the continuing success. 

The key performance indicators are not related to the CSF:s. Mr. Karu knows from experience that it takes some time for the new brewery to start working on full capacity with high quality output. Therefore, the KPI is the monthly production volumes of high quality beer.

The CSF depends on the situation. In the Practitioner example let’s imagine that previously the sales staff have been too busy to attend any training. In that case, a valid CSF would be: The sales staff are willing to learn to use the new IT system. Another critical factor might be the devices the sales staff use. Let’s assume some of the staff use devices which won’t work with the new service. In that a CSF would be: The Sales staff will upgrade their devices to support the new IT system. The CSF’s and the KPI’s are not directly related. Actually the book’s CSF’s are KPI’s and the KPI’s are associated metrics.

In my experience the most common CSF in ITSM projects is management support. Without it, the project will fail.

The use of social media is missing. There is a brief mention in the header of Short messaging systems, instant messaging and social tools. The book misses the point that social tools are quite different from the closed communication via SMS or IM. The value in social tools is that the communications are open. Other people can read the discussions and comment on them while SMS and IM are closed communications.

The social tools can be a very valuable channel of communications and it is silly that is overlooked in the Practitioner guidance.


You don’t improve service with mistakes.

The customer wanted to return a tire. Never mind that the Nordstrom department-store chain sells upscale clothing, not automotive parts. According to company lore, the clerk accepted the tire because that’s what the customer wanted. Newsweek 1989

I heard the Nordstrom story years ago (it is probably just a legend, there are many variations about it). Consultant have been telling stories of great service recoveries. At some point the consultants made the next conclusion: If you are perfect, customers don’t notice you. If you make basic mistakes and recover well, they can be delighted! Stuart Rance said this in his presentation few days ago and I commented that I disagree with the idea and this blog is an explanation for my comment.

Of course a good recovery is nice and may lead to short term satisfaction but solid, reliable good service is better.  I specifically disagree with the first part of the sentence and the implied idea that a faulty but well recovered service might be better. Reliability or service warranty is really important and I doubt if people stop appreciating it.

I have worked from home for almost ten years. During that time, I don’t remember a single internet service outage which would have prevented me from working. I may have needed to use my phone as a WLAN provider for a short while once or twice during these years but that backup comes from the same telco. Reading about the difficulties other people have helps me to appreciate this reliability and I definitely don’t wish any basic mistakes to happen with the service.

Some people (including me) have argued that it is not possible to delight customers with ordinary, basic services; that delighting belongs to luxury services. I disagree with my earlier opinions. An ordinary service experience can be delightful if it is well done. As always, the customer expectations are important.

We moved recently and we hired a moving company to do most of the work. I went to pick up extra 20 boxes early so that we would have time pack difficult and time consuming items like fragile glassware. The transaction went like this. I reported at their office that I had arrived to pick up the boxes. They checked the order and printed out a document for their warehouse. Then I drove to the loading bay. The guy was there already waiting with my boxes, then he came down and looked at my car and figured out how to fit the boxes. Then he loaded them in the car and I just watched. It was a smooth operation and the service clearly exceeded my expectations. I had expected to need to wait for the delivery and that I would have to pack the boxes myself.

A simple, well operated, efficient, and seamless service operation is beautiful, just like good design in an object. Of course not all customers appreciate beauty and good design as sometimes it is a matter of taste; but most people do appreciate good service even if they do not understand the hard work behind it.

So, what if nobody appreciates your beautiful service. One reason could be that your service is not as perfect as you think. There might be some elements which are not so well planned. Remember that the service provider’s view of the service is different from the customer’s. You need to consider the customer experience. (Here you need to understand that the people who use your service are your real customers, it is not relevant who pays for the service. If the customers don’t like your service and they walk away, the money will follow.) You need to study the customer journey to your service from the beginning to the end. Details are important. The ITIL Practitioner gives good advice on this: Data is not a substitute for direct observation, page 20.

There is one important element in the Nordstrom story and it is the right to make decisions at the customer interface. It was the clerk who decided to refund the tires. Don’t make recovery a management decision, give your 1st line staff to right to choose the right compensation.


















Eri palvelukanavien yhteispeli

Tein kesällä vahinkoilmoituksen OP-Pohjolalle. Kännykkä oli päässyt meriveteen ja lakannut toimimasta. Aurinkolasit päätyivät samalla kertaa meren pohjaan. Vastausta ei kuulunut. Lopulta soitin ja tiedustelin asiaa. Kohtuullisen jonotuksen jälkeen minulle vastattiin ja sain ohjeet, miten toimia. Virkailija pahoitteli, ettei sähköistä ilmoitusta oltu käsitelty ruuhkan takia.

Toimin ohjeiden mukaisesti ja täydensin ilmoitusta kuiteilla kännykän vaihdosta ja uusien aurinkolasien ostosta. Mitään vastausta ei tullut, eivätkä luvatut korvaukset ilmestyneet pankkitilille. Soitin uudestaan. Nyt en jaksanut jonottaa vaan tilasin takaisinsoiton. Se tuli kohtuullisen nopeasti, mutta olin juuri silloin katveessa. Virkailija jätti ääniviestin ja lupasi soittaa uudestaan. Sen hän tekikin. Kerroin pulman, hän tarkisti hakemuksen ja sanoi sen olevan ok. Valitteli taas kiirettä, mutta käsitteli asian saman tien ja laittoi rahat maksuun. Ne olivat tilillä seuraavana päivänä.

Periaatteessa ihan ok palvelutapahtuma, mutta siinä oli mielestäni kaksi aika tavallista virhettä. Oli ilmeistä, että OP-Pohjola suosii puhelinasiakkaita. Puhelimessa asiat hoituvat, sähköisesti eivät. Tämä vastaa aika hyvin aiempia kokemuksiani Tapiolan kanssa, joten ajattelin kirjoittaa ilmiöstä.

Jos sähköinen asiointi olisi toiminut, olisi vältetty kolme puhelua. Toimintaohjeita ei olisi tarvinnut antaa puhelimessa, vaan ne olisi voinut kopioida ohjekirjastosta. Asian käsittelyyn olisi kulunut vain murto-osa nyt kuluneesta ajasta. Sama henkilö olisi voinut käsitellä arviolta viisi asiakasta siinä ajassa mitä heiltä kului kanssani.

Oletan, että kyse on siitä, että OP-Pohjolan johto seuraa palvelumittareita, joissa puhelutilastoilla on suuri paino ja siksi henkilökunta keskittyy tuottamaan mahdollisimman hyvää puhelinpalvelua. Perusteluna on varmaankin se, että valtaosa asiakkaista käyttää puhelinpalvelua mieluummin. Tämä argumentti ei toimi. Todellisuudessa ihmiset ovat valmiita muuttamaan tapojaan nopeasti, jos uusi tapa on parempi. Muistan hyvin, kuinka hauskaa oli ohittaa jono lentokentällä, kun ryhtyi käyttämään itsepalvelua perinteisen palvelutiskin sijaan. Valitettavasti muutkin oppivat sen nopeasti.

Vakuutusyhtiöiden pitäisi tarjota sähköisillä kanavilla nopeampaa palvelua. Sähköiset hakemukset pitäisi käsitellä 15 minuutissa, johdon pitäisi olla kiinnostunut sähköisten kanavien suosiosta ja puhelinkanavan painoarvoa pitäisi pudottaa.

Vakuutusyhtiöillä näyttää myös olevan taipumus tehdä sähköisestä asioinnista mahdollisimman hankalaa. Viestit pitää tehdä heidän suljetun verkkonsa kautta ja kaikki vastaukset tulevat myös samaa reittiä. Ymmärrän toki, että luottamuksellisen tiedon lähettäminen sähköpostilla sisältää riskejä, mutta valtaosa viesteistä on täysin epäluottamuksellisia. On typerää lähettää asiakkaalle sähköposti, jossa kerrotaan, että suljettuun postilaatikkoon on tullut (tyhjänpäiväinen) viesti. Sähköpostissa pitäisi kertoa lähetetyn viestin sisältö.

Vastaavasti sähköiseen viestintään on helppo asettaa turhia rajoituksia ja ehtoja, joita puhelinpalvelussa ei sovelleta. Kyse lienee kaikkiaan siitä, että erilaiset keskijohdon jäsenet pääsevät pätemään järjestelmän määrityksissä, ja asiakasnäkökulma unohtuu.

ITSM and surgery

Kuva1I had my right eye operated last week. It was a new procedure where they remove some tissue from behind the eye and the surgeon operates through the eye. Scary stuff, especially as I was wide awake throughout the procedure. After the operation I have been thinking of the similarities of surgery and ITSM.

It is clear that surgery is a service, I receive the value (if the operation is successful) and the staff is paid to do the work. I have criticized the ITIL service definition as it requires a service to remove the specific risks. That doesn’t really work in IT and in my case. All real risk is mine, or hopefully was.

It is quite difficult to assess the value of the operation. Without it I might have lost my sight from the eye but this would have happened gradually. It will take time to know if this operation was successful. Of course if it is a failure, I will know sooner. (Here in Finland it is not possible to make money by suing the doctor.)

I am a customer, the operation costs me 107.30 € but that is not the real cost of the operation. I am a user in the sense that I do not make the contract between the hospital and the city of Helsinki who pays the rest. Neither of these terms really fit in this case.

There is no service catalog for me, I was told that I must undergo this operation and this procedure is new but less risky than the old option. Actually this was the first week when they started doing this procedure, which has been developed in the USA. The original inventor was still present monitoring the operation and assessing the results. I don’t fully understand what was done and what are the risks. There is no SLA. Of course I would like to have a promise of 100% success but it is not possible.

The hospital has processes for managing patients.  They seem fairly efficient but they are not very relevant to me. The service part is not very important. The surgeons are not very good at customer service, they are interested in my eye, not me. But that is ok, the only thing what matters to me also is the procedure itself.  Customer satisfaction is not a good concept in this case, it is quite difficult to be very satisfied with this type of operation. I still need to apply drops to my eye more than 20 times a day which irritates the eye and there was some bleeding which makes the eye a bit cloudy. It should become clear soon and the number of drops needed is going down.

Somehow I think that the ITSM concepts miss something which is highly important. It requires a lot of trust to let someone operate through your eye. What I want is that the team doing the operation is competent, motivated and professional. Process metrics are not relevant. In this case I know that the general level of health care in Finland is good and this Helsinki University hospital is the best in the country. Trusting them was not difficult for me. Providing relevant metrics would be difficult. The other hospitals in the country send their most difficult cases here

I think this is what the business also wants from the IT provider. There are technical areas where the business decision makers don’t understand the details and cannot really estimate the risks. In serious matters they should be able to trust their IT providers to be competent, motivated and professional.


Here is a bit more detail information in case you are interested. My disease is glaucoma, it has no symptoms in the early stages but in the long run it will damage the optical nerve. The usual treatment is medication but it does not work always and it is not a cure. It is a good idea to visit an ophthalmologist regularly. The hospital was



Waste of effort

IMG_1615I had an interesting discussion with Mark Smalley when he was visiting Helsinki. We discussed the value of data on the ferry to Suomenlinna island.

System architects like to create beautiful models of operations. The models are based on information that moves between components. The model runs like a clockwork, but the problem is that the data entry is manual. It is quite easy to make mistakes while entering the data and there is no mechanism that corrects the mistakes. Soon the system becomes tainted. As Mark put it, it is like mixing wine and dishwater. Adding a little wine to dishwater doesn’t change the nature of dishwater, but adding a little dishwater to wine certainly does.

There are two major activities that include a lot of manual data entry in ITSM: incident and configuration management. Both suffer from this data quality problem.

In incident management the staff typically add service and configuration information to the ticket. The problem is that in many cases they do not have the required information and therefore have to guess. The result is like dishwater in wine. Nobody trusts the incident data and the reports based on it are therefore generally worthless.

In configuration management all changes must be recorded in the CMDB. It takes a lot of effort to build and maintain the CMDB. Unfortunately, it takes very little effort to ruin the system. Imagine a person making an emergency change at 5 AM to solve a major system outage. After a successful operation, he goes home to sleep. The next day he updates the CMDB but makes a mistake or forgets something. Then people stop trusting the CMDB data, they realize that they need to check the actual situation to be sure. After that it becomes less important to record the changes.

What’s wrong with IT4IT?

IT4IT is a new standard and you can now get an IT4IT certificate by answering 40 questions in one hour. I.e. being an expert seems to require that you need to learn it by heart. While I don’t like this type of certifications, the main problem is that the standard is not ready.

The standard is a curious mix of a meta model for an IT ERP systems and best practices. The model shows the application components and the data interfaces. The best practices thinking appears in the CSF’s and KPI’s

There is good thinking behind the model. It has some clear definitions and a defined description language. At some other parts, it looks like the model construction has taken over the model content. The service customer, consumer or user has been treated a hot potato. According to Charles Betz, the concept of the customer does not belong to this description level. I can understand the idea. It is possible to describe the working of some high level system leaving out the connections to the outside world, but this is not the case with IT4IT. The customer links are there. Customer has Requirements, there is an ”Engagement Experience Portal” and the Detect-component should ”understand user issues”.

While user issues are not important enough to have a component, events are. Surprisingly events have even a lifecycle. This is strange. An event is a notification of something that has happened. For example, a user may have entered a wrong password or one disc unit may have failed. In both cases the event is not significant alone, hundreds of users make mistakes everyday and the disc system is built for redundancy. Events need to be analyzed but they do not have a lifecycle.


A critical success factor (CSF) for the Detect to Correct value stream is Achieve Operational Excellence. It looks like the IT4IT has misunderstood the term CSF. According to Wikipedia:

Critical success factor (CSF) is a management term for an element that is necessary for an organization or project to achieve its mission.

Critical success factors should not be confused with success criteria; the latter are outcomes of a project or achievements of an organization that are needed to consider the project a success or to esteem the organization successful.

The key performance indicators are strange too. These are KPI’s for event management.

Increase in breadth and depth of monitoring endpoints, reduction of escalated events (via filtering/correlation/ automated resolution), reduction of false positives, and reduction of the number of security events that cause business disruption.

How do you measure ”breadth and depth of monitoring endpoints” and why would it be good to reduce escalations? Why do they assume that ”false positives” are an issue generally, why not false negatives? It is quite difficult to see how these would indicate good performance.

The next CSF is ”Improve Customer Satisfaction”. Again this is clearly the outcome, not a factor. As a KPI there is ”Increase rate of first call resolution”. The IT4IT architects live still in the era of telephone support.

There is value in IT4IT but it is far from ready.

Itilin virheet

Juttuni itil-managereiden potkuista on herättänyt poikkeuksellisen paljon huomiota ja jopa keskustelua Pohjoisviitan sivuilla, joka on melko harvinaista. Viime perjantaista tuli uusi ennätyspäivä WordPressin liikennetilastojen mukaan. Huomautan, että minä en suositellut itil-managereiden erottamista, ainoastaan referoin mitä Charles Betz sanoi esityksessä, eikä hänkään suositellut sitä, hän vain kertoi mitä eräs pankki oli tehnyt.

Lupasin eräälle kommentoijalle tehdä yhteenvedon itilin virheistä. Ehkä voisin aloittaa sittenkin luettelemalla itilin hyötyjä. Itil on parempi kuin ei mitään, jokin kehikko on hyvä olla, sillä sen avulla on helpompi keskustella aiheesta ja on hyvä joutua pohtimaan it-palvelujen tuottamista. Prosesseilla voidaan saada asioita haltuun, on tärkeää priorisoida asioita ja muutoksia pitää hallita. Itil voi toimia, jos sen soveltamisessa käytetään paljon järkeä ja arvostelukykyä, osataan tehdä itsenäisiä ratkaisuja eikä jäädä väittelemään siitä mitä itil sanoo. Itil tarjoaa terminologian ja vaikka se on vähän horjuva, on se parempi kuin ei mitään.

No sitten luettelo itilin virheistä. En takaa, että tämä on kattava mutta yritän listata tärkeimmät.

  • Turhat prosessit. Itil kuvaa liikaa päällekkäisiä prosesseja. Lukuisten prosessien pyörittäminen johtaa helposti siiloutumiseen, jossa jokainen prosessi keskittyy oman alueensa hoitamiseen ja kokonaisuus kärsii. Turhat prosessit tuottavat taas turhaa työtä ja luovat keinotekoisia raja-aitoja.
  • Integraation puute. Kuten Jarkko Hedman kommentoi tätä, ”ITIL-kirjoja lukiessa kysyy itseltään, onkohan näitä tarkastettu koskaan ristiin.”
  • Toiminnot prosesseina. Itil kuvaa suuren joukon asioita prosesseina, vaikka ne eivät mitenkään omaa prosessin ominaisuuksia. Esimerkiksi saatavuuden ja jatkuvuuden varmistaminen ovat suunnittelua, joka vaatii osaamista. Prosessien kuvaaminen ja keinotekoisten tapahtumien kirjaaminen on turhaa työtä ja tuottaa turhia raportteja.
  • Sertifioidut asiantuntijat. Itil sertifikaatit hankitaan vastaamalla monivalintakysymyksiin, joissa oikean vaihtoehdon tietäminen perustuu muistiin. Kuulopuheiden mukaan osa kouluttajista antaa kysymykset etukäteen ja kertoo niiden oikeat vastaukset. Joka tapauksessa sertifikaatti ei kerro mitään omistajansa kyvyistä palveluhallinnan alueelta. Pahimmillaan sertifioitu asiantuntija ajaa järjettömiä ratkaisuja vedoten siihen, että itil sanoo näin, vaikka kyseessä on k.o. ”asiantuntijan” itse keksimä ja täysin virheellinen tulkinta siitä mitä itil ehdottaa.
  • Virheellinen palvelukäsite. Tämä on aika laaja aihe. Lue keskusteluni Akin kanssa.
  • Häiriöhallinta. Itilin suositus syöttää event managementin eli automaattisen valvonnan kautta tulleita häiriöilmoituksia asiakastuen kirjausten sekaan on järjettömyyden huippu. Asiakastuki on aivan eri asia kuin tekninen valvonta.
  • Ongelmanhallinta on rinnakkainen prosessi häiriönhallinnan kanssa. Saman asian tekeminen kahdessa eri vaiheessa on turhaa. Uusiutuva häiriö on liian aikaisin suljettu häiriö. Sotku johtuu siitä, että asiakastuki ja häiriönhallinta on nivottu yhteen.
  • Jatkuvan palvelunkehittämisen (CSI) mittaripainotteisuus on virhe. Painopiste on toiminnan tuloksellisuuden kehittämisessä, ei prosessien tehostamisessa.
  • En viitsi edes repostella turhien prosessien vikoja, sillä enemmistö itilin prosesseista on turhia.

Mielestäni tässä on aivan riittävästi syitä hylätä suurin osa itilistä.  Mitä sitten tilalle? Se on vaikea kysymys. Olen nähnyt lukuisia vaihtoehto-tarjokkaita, mutta mikään niistä ei ole vakuuttanut. Olen myös osallistunut useampaan yritykseen luoda jotain vaihtoehtoista, mutta kaikki hankkeet ovat luovuttaneet.

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