ITIL 4 Service Tool Box

ITIL 4’s New Service Value System: Welcomed but Flawed

It’s finally arrived – ITIL 4. And with it, we see the demise and laying to rest of the venerable and frankly vulnerable service lifecycle. It was never really a requirement for many and was exposed for its product lifecycle origins of the 1980s by the digital-ready DevOps movement. We also see the relegation of “processes” to a bit part, transforming inputs to outputs. Like Charlie Chaplin in the factory worker role in the movie “Modern Times,” they’re now a minor cog in the hectic, grinding wheels of “management practices.”

Yes, that’s correct, for those ITIL aficionados out there who invested time and money in becoming certified at the “intermediate” levels, and minutia of the service lifecycle and processes, it’s a mental reset. But, there’s good news.

Like a transplant patient, ITIL now has a new and healthier beating heart in the form of the “service value system (SVS).” A much better and defensible strategy when promoting ITIL within the C-level of an organization. The underlying goal here is to help align service provisioning capabilities with the needs of the consumer, regardless of whether they’re internal to the provider organization, or not.

And, instead of processes nailed to a specific service lifecycle stage, we now have management practices that can engage and disengage at any point, in part, or in whole, within a service provisioning model. It’s good news indeed.

Now to the point of this blog, the flaws

Although the continued “shift left” of this ITIL version to the world of the consumer is very welcome, it’s only a nudge towards the original service management thinking pioneered by luminaries such as Richard Normann (in his book “Service Management,” Eiglier and Langeard’s “Services Marketing: New Insights from Consumers and Managers” research publication circa 1981, and summarized nicely by the perennial Christian Gronroos in his paper on service logic.

The three fundamental flaws are:

  1. The absence of any discussion on “personas”
  2. The lack of any situational context surrounding inputs to the ITIL 4 SVS and service value chain, commonly termed customer or consumer scenarios
  3. The failure to carry forward and expand on the “moment of truth” concept (“touchpoints that give the customer the opportunity to form or change an opinion about a brand”), discussed in the ITIL Practitioner’s Guidance within the second guiding principle, “Design for Experience.” By the way, this principle has been totally dropped in the new version of ITIL as part of a wholesale reshuffle of these original guiding principles.

These are serious but manageable flaws now we’ve called them out. Let’s take a closer look at each.

ITIL 4’s fundamental flaws explained

Personas summarize research about one or more individuals who exhibit similar behavior. They can dramatically influence consumer expectations and the path they take through a website, store, or order-fulfillment process, represented by ITIL 4’s service value chain.

Scenarios (customer and consumer), describe the situational context surrounding the trigger for entering the service value system.  The role, the location, the work being performed, and the desired outcome. All from the perspective of the consumer. Again, a massive influence.

Moments of truth, we can thank Richard Normann for this wonderful concept. The ITIL Practitioner Guide was close but inaccurate. It’s a key “interaction” (not touchpoint) between the consumer and provider, where the consumer can form or change their impression of any aspect of the service experience, service organization, its products and services.

Why are these flaws critical to the success of a modern service provider serving the digital consumer?

Let’s use ITIL v3’s bastardized quote from Ted Levitt, “People don’t want quarter-inch drills, they want quarter-inch holes” (ITIL Service Strategy: Service Strategy Principles, p35) as a route to explaining this.

It’s impossible to design and operate a service value system using this principle. The first mistake is the implied outcome – the hole. That’s not the customer’s desired outcome, it’s more likely a picture hung properly to please the spouse. But even this clarification is not enough. As a service provider of drill bits and picture hanging kits, it helps to know the persona. Are they an experienced picture hanger who know what aisle and what equipment they need? Or, are they a novice, and need help from a store expert to find and choose the right equipment? Personas help define each of these and influence how we design and operate our business.

As to the scenario – this is where the real outcome is defined. A scenario, like an Agile story, is evidence of capturing or synthesizing the “voice of the customer.” It provides key situational context, spanning location, time-zones, and language, and is combined with the persona information to provide our value system with this context, which can then match this to an appropriate path through our organization. What ITIL terms a “value chain.”

Finally, there are the moments of truth. Yes, plural. There’s always at least three, and as many as seven key interactions where the customer, the consumer, forms that impression of us and our products.

Back to the persona for a moment (no pun intended). This can also influence the number, placement and design of the touchpoints the new version of ITIL mentions, and the moments of truth any may contain. For example, is the persona one where the consumer prefers to shop online and order-in, versus visiting a store? The scenario and outcome are unchanged, but the value chain or path through the service provider’s systems and organization, are drastically different.

ITIL 4 in summary

It’s encouraging to see ITIL 4 take great strides in embracing the realm of the consumer, and the basis for a value-based consumer-provider relationship. The service value system, service provision and consumption concepts (thank you Lean Thinking), and respect for the importance of the Agile methodologies and DevOps movements (by sidelining the service lifecycle), are major advances. Albeit a nudge left rather than a leap.

But there are, in my opinion, these three significant flaws in ITIL’s service value system framework. Hopefully, they are known and understood by the team behind this version, and future publications will complete the picture. And, in doing so, perhaps they’ll also consider wiring back in the essence of the “Design for Experience” guiding principle from the Practitioner’s Guidance.


Posted by Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton
Ian Clayton

Ian M. Clayton has more than 35 years IT experience, and is the author of the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge (USMBOK™) series of publications. As a consultant, educator and sought after speaker, Ian’s pragmatic approach simplifies and brings to life complicated service management topics. His work enables professionals at any level to understand the original principles of service management, and how these are applied to establish and operate a customer-centric service management strategy, focused on the service experience, successful outcomes, levels of customer satisfaction, and the ability to continuously improve adjust organizational culture and performance.


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