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 Optimize and automate:
Optimize and automate
Optimize and automate is about using people (often the most scarce resource) and automation effectively. The number of people you have is often the primary constraint on progress, so technology should be used to its full potential to ensure your people can avoid people wasting time on simple, repetitive tasks and focus on the complex decisions, creative endeavours, and problem-solving tasks which require human intervention.
While a person is working on a task that ought to be automated, they’re not working on a task which cannot (yet) be automated, so this is a form of waste. Automate the automatable to ensure people are used more wisely. This means automating standard processes and decision-making which can be modelled algorithmically.
However, you should be careful what you automate—and when. It might be more accurate to call this principle “Optimize then automate”, as automating a faulty process simply gets you to the wrong outcome faster.
Nothing is ever perfect first time. Ever. Although the waterfall model tries to do this, it rarely works out, because it starts with trying to capture the customer’s requirements perfectly (an impossible task) and degenerates from there. An interactive, agile approach will work far better--where changes can be validated with the customer on a regular basis.
The optimization principle ties in with the progress iteratively with feedback principle. Using specific optimization practices documented in ITIL—or borrowed from DevOps, Lean, and other areas—iterative improvements can be applied and then validated through holistic metrics such as customer satisfaction.
If an improvement is made and IT customer satisfaction goes up, that's a win. If a process is streamlined for cost, and IT customer satisfaction remains steady, that's another win. However, if customer satisfaction decreases, then a problem has been created. Generally, holistic metrics like IT customer satisfaction are useful tension metrics by which you can check that "local" improvements are not having a negative impact on the "global" system.
When working to optimize and automate, the think and work holistically, and collaborate and promote visibility principles also come into play, so that optimization is done from the value chain perspective and all the necessary stakeholders are involved and informed as necessary.