The 7 ITIL guiding principles

Date: 16/06/2020| Category: IT Governance & Service Management| Tags:

The seven guiding principles are the most practical parts of ITIL. If you use these principles as your base, share them with your colleagues and use them to make decisions, then you will make great use of them. Following ITIL’s guiding principles, you will create bigger value for all stakeholders involved in your organization.

When ITIL updated from v3 to ITIL 4 (the current methodology), also the 7 guiding principles have been updated. They are now the core part of the ITIL architecture. The 7 guiding principles provide guidance, encourage decision making and promote continual improvements at all levels.

The seven ITIL guiding principles are:

  • Focus on value
  • Start where you are
  • Progress iteratively with feedback
  • Collaborate and promote visibility
  • Think and work holistically
  • Keep it simple and practical
  • Optimize and automate

The 7 ITIL guiding principles are universal

All together, the guiding principles embody the core messages of ITIL and service management in general. They can be used to guide organizations as they ‘adopt’ a service management approach and ‘adapt’ ITIL guidance tailored to the organization’s specific needs and circumstances. The 7 ITIL guiding principles are recommendations that guide an organization, regardless of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work or management structure. The 7 ITIL guiding principles are universal and enduring.

Focus on value:
Everything that the organization does needs to deliver, directly or indirectly, value for the stakeholders. Therefore it is important that the organization has a clear understanding of who the stakeholders are.

It is also key that the organization understands what is truly of value to the service consumer. This is something that changes over time and circumstances. Last but not least the organization needs to understand the customer experience, whether subjective or objective, in order to offer the best service.

Start where you are:
ITIL does not request that you build something new. The guiding principle ‘start where you are’ is there to remind you that it is not wise to start over without considering what is already available.

It is important to have a clear view of the current situation in order to build something new. So with this guiding principle, organizations are advised to assess where they are. This includes a clear overview of available data and measurements.

Progress iteratively with feedback:
This guiding principle is there to remind organizations not to do everything at once. Instead, ITIL recommends to use improvement iterations. Hereby work is organized in smaller, manageable sections that can be executed in a timely manner.

Important is that these iterations are continually reevaluated and potentially revised. This to reflect any changes and to make sure the focus on value is still there.

Collaborate and promote visibility:
Key for all initiatives is collaboration and trust. Therefore it is important to inform, understand and trust. Organizations have to be transparent and share as much as possible. They also have to keep track of the flow of work in progress, identify bottlenecks and uncover waste.

To create the best output, organizations also have to make sure that the right employees have the right roles and responsibilities. Collaboration and communications is important, but can be different in every situation depending on the stakeholders.

Think and work holistically:
To create the best service, it needs to be clear that all is connected. No service, practice, process, department or supplier stands alone. All activities should be aligned with the same focus on the delivery of value. This is done by clear communication, automation and a clear view of patterns.

Keep it simple and practical:
This guiding principle is there to make sure things are not over-complicated. To do this, exceptions need to be defined and rules need to be put into place. Another activity is to judge what to keep, done by asking the question: ‘Does this practice/process/service really contribute to value creation?’

To keep things simple, sometimes it is better to do fewer things, but to do them better. In the end, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!

Optimize and automate:
This principle is put into place to make sure there is a focus to maximize the value of work carried out by both human and technical resources. Automation can help the work on frequent and repetitive tasks, freeing human resources. These human resources can then be put into place for more complex tasks that contribute to the value.

Important is, that automation is not done for automation sake. It needs to be clear beforehand how the automation will help the complete organization to increase value.

How to use the 7 guiding principles 

As an organization you do not choose one or two principles to apply, you should consider the relevance of each of them and how they apply together. The 7 guiding principles interact and depend upon each other. None are critical, but all could be useful. The guiding principles should be reviewed on each occasion to assess how appropriate they are. The 7 ITIL guiding principles are universally applicable to practically any initiative and to all relationships with stakeholders.

It is important to refer to the principles at every decision making process or plan of improvement. But also when you are stuck, face some challenges or need some help. You might even consider to print them out and hang them somewhere where you can see them multiple times a day!

The 7 ITIL guiding principles do not stand alone

These principles are not just connected to ITIL but are reflected in many other frameworks, methods, standards, philosophies and/or bodies of knowledge. This allows organizations to effectively integrate the use of multiple methods into an overall approach to service management.

Do you want your list of guiding principles to print out? We made a clear overview for you. Download it here.

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