Understanding ITIL and the Service Lifecycle from a “Non-IT” Perspective


Have you ever found yourself trying to explain the ITIL Service Lifecycle to someone that is not “IT-savvy”? Or maybe they are, but don’t understand the end-to-end development, delivery, and support of IT services in general. If you’ve found yourself either working on an ITSM engagement or providing training to a group of professionals that are learning about ITSM and the ITIL framework, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

While in a meeting with an executive, who wasn’t familiar with managing services for the IT organization, I was asked to give a “non-IT” example that would help him understand the ITIL Service Lifecycle. This executive didn’t have a good grasp on what goes on within the IT organization but still had a stake in its success. This particular organization had a strong desire to provide quality services to its users/customers and improve their image through the use of best practices and an industry recognized ITSM framework (ITIL). However, those who would be sponsoring and pushing the improvements that would come from adopting best practices wanted to feel confident when talking about the activities that were occurring throughout the organization.

So there was my challenge. Provide a “non-IT” example of the ITIL Service Lifecycle to a “non-IT” executive. A great example that came to mind, that I feel everyone can relate to, was the experience and activities that take place when dining in a restaurant. By the way, for the purposes of this example, I’m referring to a sit-down restaurant that provides a menu and a waiter to accept and deliver your requests made from their menu of offerings. Not that this doesn’t apply to McDonalds or Burger King, I just want you to picture yourself sitting in your favorite fine dining restaurant and follow me as I walk through this “non-IT” example that I will tie directly to the ITIL Service Lifecycle. Now, walk with me into your favorite restaurant and lets take a seat…

Before we get started, if you don’t already know, the ITIL Service Lifecycle consists of 5 stages (or sometimes referred to as phases). They are: 1) Service Strategy, 2) Service Design, 3) Service Transition, 4) Service Operations, and 5) Continual Service Improvement. As we progress through this experience, we will tie restaurant examples to each of the lifecycle stages. Also, for the following examples, we will refer to our restaurant as “Harbaugh’s” (The owner is Jim). Can you tell which NFL team I like? Ok, lets get started.

Service Strategy

If we look at the restaurant that we just entered (Harbaugh’s), we need to understand that a few things went into play in order for this restaurant to even exist. Some of these decisions were very strategic in nature. For example, Jim had to make a decision on a few things before he built or purchased the restaurant. Jim had to decide whether to build or buy the location we are standing in. He had to decide what type of food (Italian, Greek, Mexican, etc.) his restaurant would offer and what items would eventually make it on the menu. Jim also needed to take a look at the competitors in the area and how he was going to differentiate his restaurant from the others. Lastly, after a few short years of success, Jim might want to expand the business, transform it, close it, or even franchise it. These, and other factors, will help Jim build the strategy for his business. Keep something in mind; Jim’s strategy is not static. Jim will periodically review the strategy for his restaurant and change it as required. Your organization will also develop a strategy for determining target markets, differentiating your organization from competitors, and developing a Service Portfolio that includes the complete set of services managed by your organization. As Jim will change up his menu over time to meet the demands of his customers, your organization will continue to design and deliver services that provide value to your customers while working within the constraints of your organizations resources and capabilities. And just like Jim, in order to adapt and plan, your strategy will need to change as business conditions change over time.

Interested in learning more? I’ll continue to tie these examples together as we make our way through the Service Lifecycle ending with Continual Service Improvement. Stay tuned through the next few weeks to see how our dining experience is made possible through the implementation and management of quality services (and dining experience) at Jim Harbaugh’s restaurant. Read More


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