itSMF Norway ABC & ITIL Practitioner Workshop

Published on Friday 4 December 2015 by in News with no comments

The itSMF Norway Stavanger chapter hosted what may have been the world’s first ITIL practitioner workshop. Well certainly the first in Norway. Paul Wilkinson of GamingWorks and Ole-Vidar Christensen of Sopra Steria conducted an ABC (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) workshop, and explored how the ITIL practitioner guiding principles could be used to solve some of the most common reasons ITIL initiatives struggle or fail.







GamingWorks, together with their partners and the itSMF, have been conducting ABC workshops around the world for more than 10 years. Year in, year out we see the same ABC ‘worst practices’ being recognized as reasons for ITIL failure. Despite the fact that there are some 2 million ITIL certificates still 70% of organizations we survey say they ‘fail to get the hoped for value of their ITIL investment’ It would appear that the current ways we train people do not help them translate the theory into practice. This is one of the reasons the ITIL practitioner was developed. The ABC worst practices are symptoms of our failure to approach an ITIL improvement initiative as an ‘Organizational change’ initiative. I am pleased to say that the Practitioner now recognizes ‘Organizational Change Management’(OCM) as a critical competency.

ITIL Practitioner

Why was the ITIL practitioner developed? Besides the persistent ABC worst practices presented below, AXELOS asked the market what was needed to enhance the current ITIL training, particularly in relation to the foundation level. The market needs were:

  • More focus on adopt & adapt (as opposed to ‘Implementation’). ABC common issues: 70% do not get value from their investments – ‘ITIL is the goal’, ‘That’s the way it says in the book….’, ‘ITIL says we should start….’.
  • We need guidance on ‘how to’ (from theory into practice). ABC common issues: ‘More than 50% fail because of resistance to change’.
  • Make it relevant to solving business problems (From ‘inside-out’ – ‘Outside-in’). ABC common issues: ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’, ‘IT is too internally focused’ – resulting in billions lost because of poor deployment of solutions or down-time.

(See Webinar on ITIL Practitioner).

To answer these needs the ITIL practitioner guidance has introduced 9 guiding principles, these will be explained shortly. In addition to these, the guidance introduces three critical competencies. These being ‘Organizational Change Management’, ‘Communication’ and ‘Measurement & Metrics’. Each of these competencies is supported by a practical ‘Toolkit’ of templates, checklists and tools to help drive an ITIL improvement initiative. ABC is one of the ‘Toolkit’ items to help support ‘Organizational Change Management’.

In this article we will explain how the ABC of ICT was used in the itSMF Workshop and what ‘practical takeaways’ were discovered using the 9 Guiding principles.

‘What are the 9 guiding principles? And how do these relate to the persistent top scoring ABC cards chosen in global workshops with literally 1000’s of organizations’?

FOCUS ON VALUE: Focus on delivering VALUE, as perceived by the customer, not the internal IT provider view on Value. This should answer the question ‘Why are we doing ITIL’? Everybody should know how their work contributes towards this value. (See also Axelos blog ‘Developing outside-in capabilities’).

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘No understanding business impact and priority’. (Less than 5% of more than 15000 ITIL adoptees know the definition of a ‘Service’ (Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks, let alone what their organization needs to achieve using ITIL..

DESIGN FOR EXPERIENCE: Design not only for the value to be realized but also for the customer or user experience, how the customer interacts with the service provider. This covers both subjective and objective experiences and ‘moments of truth’.

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘No respect for, or understanding of Customers & Users’, ‘IT too internally focused’.

START WHERE YOU ARE: Resist the temptation to start from scratch. Look objectively at what exists and which example of best practice or desirable behavior can be reused. Evaluate the risks associated with building upon existing practices and judge them by their contribution to value or user experience. Align with existing improvement programs and initiatives.

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘ITIL is the objective, not what we are trying to achieve’, We are going to install ITIL…it can’t be that hard’.

WORK HOLISTICALLY: It is not all about processes, nor is it just about the latest ITSM tools. As ITIL Service Design explained, it is all about the 4 P’s (People, Process, Product, Partner) – a complex integration of hardware, software, data, processes, architectures, metrics, tools, people and partners, all coordinated to provide a defined value. A service value chain is only as strong as the weakest link, the need to explore weaknesses, bottlenecks and constraints within the whole system.

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘A Fool with a tool is still a fool’ and ‘A process flow and some procedures are all you need’.

PROGRESS ITERATIVELY: Organize improvements into smaller, manageable portions, apply the principles of ‘plan, do, check, act’ – ensuring that each iteration delivers a minimum viable product (MVP) that is both fit-for-use and fit-for-purpose.

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘Plan, Do, Stop….no real continual improvement culture’.

OBSERVE DIRECTLY: Going to the source or ‘gemba’ as it is called in Lean. Going to where the value-creating activity is occurring and seeing what really happens, for example what is the customer really experiencing? (Many ITSM improvement initiatives are instigated to improve ‘customer service’ without ever engaging with, or asking the customer!).

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘IT thinks it doesn’t need to understand the business to make a business case’.

KEEP IT SIMPLE: If a process step, activity or field in a tool provides no value or useful outcome then eliminate it. Is it ‘fit-for-use’ or ‘fit-for-purpose? Often elaborate and complex process flows and books of procedures are created in splendid isolation and then thrown over to the organization to be used.

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘Throwing solutions over the wall and HOPING people will follow them’, ‘people saying YES but thinking and doing NO’.

COLLABORATE: The need to break down the ‘SILO’s’. Effective service provision is an end-to-end capability. Identify, engage and include all stakeholders to ensure buy-in and create sustainable improvements.

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘The SILO mentality – the need to break down walls’.

BE TRANSPARANT: The more people that know what is happening, how it is happening and more importantly why it is happening – the better the buy-in. The more people that see the results and benefits, the less resistance. This includes both internal AND external transparency to gain trust and credibility.

Existing pain point: top scoring ABC card ‘Them and Us culture – opposing and competing forces’, ‘We don’t measure or demonstrate our contribution to strategy realization’.

The itSMF Workshop

At the itSMF workshop we used the ABC of ICT cards as an awareness and assessment tool. The delegates could assess their own recognized ABC issues which are preventing ITSM success.

The delegates were split into teams, each team given a set of ABC cards. On each table a selection of Stakeholder cards had already been placed. These being:







The teams were askedWhich 3 cards represent the ‘resistance’ you see, or expect to see, when trying to ‘implement ITIL’ and which stakeholder displays this resistance’?

The following table represents the most commonly chosen cards across all teams, and the related stakeholders:

cardchoiceBelow are examples of the ABC cards chosen, these are 3 of the Top cards chosen globally in in more than 2000 organizations:

3cardsThe delegates were then shown the Guiding Principles of the ITIL Practitioner
(See Axelos video for a more detailed explanation), supplemented with a small personal interpretation by the facilitator. We explored what these actually meant and discussed examples.



The teams then received the following tasks:

  1. Each team choose a top card (from all the cards selected in the first exercise), which of the cards chosen has the most negative impact on Business Value or Outcomes, or causes the most negative impact on Costs and Risks.
  2. What is the impact of this card?
  3. Which Guiding principle was inadequately addressed and as a result caused this card?
  4. Which stakeholder(s) need to display which concrete behavior to deal with this ‘Resistance’ card? Relate this behavior to the guiding principles.

Below are the results of the tasks (In addition to the Stakeholders defined above we asked the team to add a stakeholder, themselves, ‘The Workshop Delegate (WSD)’:

Card: IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority














  • IT value is often not created
  • Risk is introduced as a result of not understanding priorities and impact which can cause ‘Value leakage’
  • Hampers collaboration and can cause conflict
  • Stimulates the behavior ‘ Everything has the highest priority according to the Users’
  • Not fit for purpose services
  • Resources are invested in the wrong priority initiatives
  • Not able to manage vendors (Partners) effectively

Underpinning Guiding principle(s):

  • Focus on value
  • Design for experience

Stakeholder: CIO/Workshop Delegate


    • CIO: Ensure business Involved in Design (requirements specification and testing) to validate design for experience and value realization.
    • CIO: Establish collaboration agents to continually align end-to-end teams in terms of value.
    • CIO: Ensure Business Analysts to gather needs at User level (Design for experience), also ensure effective BRM capabilities.
    • CIO: Also Participate in Lean Workshop.
    • CIO: Prioritize resources for CSI to improve existing weaknesses (prioritization, escalation)
    • CIO: Communicate clear priorities from business.
    • Workshop Delegate (WSD): Gather facts on impact (on value) and priorities, by observing directly.
    • WSD): Produce reports (Transparency) on impact (V,O,C,R) and present to CIO with suggestions for iterative improvements and who needs to be involved (collaboration) including end-user (design for experience).
    • (WSD): Facilitate value focused design (ensure it is simple).
    • (WSD): Communicate consequences (business impact) of outages and priorities to  colleagues (up-stream and downstream in value chain).
    • (WSD): Build practitioner competences.

Card: Not my responsibility














  • Poor end-user experience, dissatisfied customers
  • Increased business risks
  • Delays in solutions deployment and outcomes
  • Loss of revenue and/or benefits – Value not realized
  • Mistakes, rework, additional costs

Underpinning Guiding principle(s):

  • Poor collaboration (failing to agree RACI models end-to-end)
  • Poor transparency in terms of tasks, roles, responsibilities, user experience and business value expectations
  • Poor communication of business value needs (and priority/impact)
  • Not a holistic approach – tool little attention to the ‘People’ aspect of People, process, product, partner

Stakeholder: CIO (and all involved Stakeholders), Workshop Delegate


  • Ensure ALL focus on Value – consequences of no-one taking responsibility (impact).
  • Ensure RACI model is agreed end-to-end.
  • CIO/Managers: Ensure people confronted on responsibilities.
  • CIO: Ensure managers ‘walk-the-talk’ and lead by example.
  • Workshop Delegate (WSD): Observe directly instances of this behavior and confront
  • (WSD): Gather facts and figures of impact of this behavior, be transparent so that impact on business value and customer experience is understood and recognized.
  • (WSD): Collaborate with colleagues up-stream and downstream in value chain on RACI and escalate disagreements – propose broader workshops to include end-to-end stakeholders to agree RACI (related to process, product and partner).

Card: Throwing (ITIL) solutions over the wall and hoping people will follow them














  • Lack of buy-in and commitment resulting in increased resistance
  • Confusion, frustration, dissatisfied stakeholders
  • Increased downtime, delays, risk to value realization
  • Reactive, adhoc, firefighting

Underpinning Guiding principle(s):

  • Poor collaboration in designing processes
  • No fit with user expectations (design for experience)
  • Often too bureaucratic, over engineered processes – need to Keep it simple
  • Often too ambitious process design – need to progress iteratively and observe impact

Stakeholder: Process manager


  • Observe directly which stakeholders do not adhere to process and which process activities.
  • Gather evidence of impact on value and user experience.
  • Agree end-to-end collaboration from relevant stakeholders for end-to-end process design ‘adopt’ and ‘adapt’ – retain what is good.
  • Ensure a holistic approach – not just process, also agreed RACI and tool related agreements
  • Lean workshop to ensure ‘keep it simple’ and ‘customer focus’.

 Card: Never mind about following procedures, just do what we normally do














  • Unable to realize value from improvement initiatives
  • Dissatisfied customers
  • Failure in Service desk (e.g. Technical staff do not record work-arounds)
  • Increased risk
  • Rework and wasted costs

Underpinning Guiding principle(s):

  • Poor collaboration in agreeing processes
  • Poor transparency  ‘why are we doing this?’, ‘what is expected of people, what is in it for them’ No fit with user expectations (design for experience)
  • Not progressing iteratively (building in plan, do, CHECK, ACT)
  • Need to Keep it simple – fit-for-USE, fit-for-purpose.

Stakeholder: CEO/CIO/Line manager/Process manager/Workshop Delegate


  • CEO must communicate the expected value of ‘compliance’ and forcing the organization to adopt a framework.
  • CIO work sessions with teams ‘Why? What is in it for teams’ ‘ what if we don’t (create a sense of urgency and paint a vision of the future).
  • Line manager: Walk-the-Talk, confront teams on not following processes or suggesting improvements to make process fit-for-use and fit-for-purpose (CSI).
  • Process manager: Introduce CSI register to gather improvement needs.
  • Process manager: Agree end-to-end collaboration from relevant stakeholders for end-to-end process design ‘adopt’ and ‘adapt’ – retain what is good.
  • Process manager: Ensure a holistic approach – not just process, also agreed RACI and tool related agreements.
  • Process manager: Lean workshop (Process design) to ensure ‘keep it simple’ and ‘Customer focus’.
  • Workshop Delegate (WSD): Go back and observe directly, gather facts and evidence to make transparent the impact on user impact and business value. Present discoveries and ‘guiding principle’ advice to the process manager, line manager and  if possible CIO.

At the end of the session Ole-Vidar explained how his organization uses ABC of ICT and Business simulation games to help teams translate ITIL theory into practical Holistic (People, Process, Product and Partner) solutions. Bringing teams together in effective collaboration to design and agree their OWN ways of working.


  • The Workshop delegates found that the ABC of ICT enabled the facilitation of a ‘Stakeholder analysis’ providing input into a resistance management plan, supporting the ‘Organizational Change Management’ competency.
  • The ABC workshop can be used to bring different stakeholders together and the joint exercise helps foster collaboration and create transparency.
  • All found that the Guiding principles were an extremely valuable addition to ITIL guidance, the sheet showing the Guiding principles, was in itself seen as a ‘tool’ to foster dialogue, understanding and help shape decisions.
  • The ABC findings and the guiding principles helped delegates recognize where their own initiatives were failing and how using the guiding principles would help address the ABC issues they recognized.
  • Delegates recognized that presenting the ABC issues and ‘impact’ were primarily focused on ‘Risks’ and negative impact on Value, supporting a ‘Sense of urgency’ for change, however this must also be balanced with presenting a ‘vision’ for the future and answering stakeholder needs relating to ‘What is in it for me? How will this benefit me’?
  • Many delegates named ‘CIO’ as a key stakeholder for driving the change initiative, for Leading the change, setting as it were a Vision for the way forward and ensuring commitment from all stakeholder groups.
  • More than 60% of the delegates said they would ‘Take responsibility’ for taking away the learning points and try to apply ‘practitioner’ skills – As 1 of the top cards chosen was ‘Not my responsibility’, I challenged them to come and present their discoveries and experiences of applying the guiding principles at a future itSMF event – time will tell, watch this space to see what, if anything, happened! (See also blog ‘Are you a Hero or a Wimp when it come to dealing with ABC?’)

A CIO attending the event said ‘I really found this session valuable’ – particularly the guiding principles – going on to explain how he recognized the current issues relating to staff with ITIL certificates, and an inability to  practically apply the theory  focused on delivering Value.

A final recommendation from Ole-Vidar: Before sending people to ITIL practitioner, prepare them. What problem are you trying to solve in YOUR organization? What do you want people to explore and learn and what do you expect them to do differently following practitioner training? Start by exploring the Guiding principle of VALUE – what VALUE must an ITIL improvement initiative deliver to the business?


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