itSMF simulation session reveals new insights and practical take-aways

Published on Thursday 1 October 2015 by in News with no comments

At the Ohio Valley itSMF LIG in Cincinnati Keith Sutherland and Lisa Hodges organized a business simulation event. The event had two key goals. One was to explain the benefits of business simulations in support of ITSM training and improvement programs, the second goal was to experience a simulation in action – focused on addressing the Business & IT alignment challenges facing IT organizations.

Why this event?

Lisa:” Many itSMF Ohio Valley LIG members and their organizations have invested heavily in ITIL certification training, yet still struggle to translate the theory into practice and to articulate the strategic value of service management practice.  Our goal was to expose LIG members to the simulation in the hope of equipping them with an effective new ‘tool’ to add to their toolbox” .

Keith: “The sim event largely promotes the need for participants to network and work together towards a common goal.  Grab@Pizza brings to life the importance of collaboration, whether bringing more value to business customers of ITSM or raising the capabilities of the IT service provider in cost efficiency and risk management”. 

All of the delegates had some level of ITIL certification, some even to expert level. We wanted to explore whether a simulation would give them new insights and teach them something they hadn’t learned in the THEORETICAL certification classes, something PRACTICAL they could take away.

Lisa opened up the session and explained the benefits of business simulations drawing on results from the GamingWorks global survey into the benefits of ITSM simulations.

Keith then set the scene on the business and IT alignment issue. In ABC of ICT workshops worldwide this card scores number 1 in the business and IT alignment exercises.(See blog for other TOP scoring cards)














Business & IT is like an old married couple, they moan about each other and put up with their strained relationship. However there is one significant difference than with a marriage. In this situation only one of the parties can outsource the other!!!…and with the growing dependency upon IT and the impact it has on the business, business executives are critically looking at the relationship – If IT wants to improve the relationship it must find a way to bring Business and IT together and have somebody perform the marriage guidance counselor role – perhaps this is the ‘Business Relationship Management’ role in ITIL’?

Grab@Pizza is a dynamic, business simulation in which IT and preferably Business managers can come together to explore Business & IT alignment. In this simulation a team of players plays the business and IT management team of an international Pizza corporation Grab@Pizza. The business wants to realize an ambitious set of business targets for revenue growth and customer loyalty through the successful adoption and deployment of IT.










In the simulation IT must also manage and maintain the Infrastructure to ensure that it poses no risk to business operations and continuity. The game simulates a year in the life of the Grab@Pizza organization. The first fictive 6 months were dramatic in terms of IT and business performance. A Transformation is required. The delegates must work as one team to prioritize their IT investments and IT project portfolio for the remaining 6 months of the year. Failing to align business and IT will cause wasted costs, lost business opportunities and revenue, lose customers and damage the company reputation. Between game rounds the team will apply CSI (Continual Service Improvement) and assess their alignment capability, agreeing executing improvements. At the end of the session the team will discuss and explore success and fail factors they experienced and identify actions they can take away and apply into their own organizations.

What happened at the LIG event?

In the first month of the simulation the business strategic initiatives aimed at realizing revenue growth were not realized. Instead of $25 million profit the business had made only $5 million. $millions were lost because of IT outages and changes not being realized. It was clear that the team had displayed one of the top ABC worst practice cards chosen world-wide.  ‘IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority’. The team was too internally focused, processes were not aligned – causing wastage and additional support costs and the business was not taking its role in governing IT decision making properly. All-in-all the team had created exactly the reason we were here today. Poor business and IT alignment. The CEO of Grab@Pizza was not amused!











What did we experience and discover?

The delegates, the majority of who were ITIL trained were asked ‘What is the definition of a service?’ – because this sums up what business and IT alignment is all about and demonstrates why we keep failing. Only 1 person half knew the definition. ‘Value’ was mentioned.

‘A means of delivering Value to Customers in terms of Outcomes they want to achieve without the ownership of specific Costs and Risks’. (VOCR)

Did anybody understand what I wanted as CEO in terms of Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks? Did anybody use this in prioritizing? In making investments? In making decisions“? As is common in these sessions the answer was ‘No’!

Is it any wonder we struggle with alignment! The team then explored success and fail factors for making Business & IT alignment work.

Three teams of observers used some COBIT Control checklists to help the team identify weaknesses and improvements. The team then applied improvement and played another month in the simulation. Revenue growth and profit were realized, wasted costs were reduced and less revenue was lost due to downtime.

The team was then asked ‘You are all ITIL trained, some of you at intermediate level, two even at expert level. What did you discover today in this simulation that you didn’t discover or apply following your certification training, that you will now take away and apply or do differently in your organization’?


What did you discover today, that you can take away and use, that you didn’t discover during the ITIL certification courses?

  • The definition of a service Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks and how this can be used to drive prioritization, decision making and allocating scarce resources.(see related blog ‘Meet the VOCR’s’).
  • The importance of integrating processes. Getting the right people together to discuss and agree inputs, outputs and dependencies. Too often processes are implemented as silos. Today we discovered the need to ask other processes ‘what do you need from my process to make you successful’? ‘Many of us recognize that we have reached a certain level of maturity in ITSM and struggle to reach the next level – this next level requires end-to-end integration of processes.
  • The importance of a CSI register one that everybody contributes to – and the importance of prioritizing the items – based upon Value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks. Some CSI items were ‘no brainers’ as they contributed to multiple goals improving outcomes, lowering costs and reducing risk. (see related blog ‘From Crime Scene Investigation to Continual Service Improvement’)
  • The importance of understanding business impact of outages – engage with the USERS – they know better than the customer! (Business unit manager or person who signs the SLA) what the impact is to their work in terms of VOCR. (see also blog ‘Why don’t we ask the Users!)
  • If you don’t want to be outsourced or you want to be seen as a value added partner to the business then start communication VOCR in business terms – not internal KPI’s, metrics and terms that mean nothing to the business. BRM is a vital capability to fufill the role of marriage counsellor.
  • The importance of Problem management making business cases. This means problem management must have more understanding of the business strategy and plans and be able to explain problems in the context of risks and impact to the strategy/plans.(see related blog ‘The Problem is Problem management…..or rather lack of it!’)
  • The role of SLM in ensuring all processes understand VOCR and for ensuring that processes are aligned and sharing information.

Keith: “ I have strong conviction in ITSM being more about empathy than most anything else – the ability to see things from another’s perspective is more about art form than it is about science.  Grab@Pizza brings that art form to life in a real and pragmatic way.  It is powerful to watch the skills of relationship management and negotiation come to life throughout the several rounds of the simulation”. 

Lisa: “Our goal was to expose LIG members to the simulation in the hope of equipping them with an effective new ‘tool’ to add to their toolbox.  We far exceeded that goal – Grab@Pizza is a ‘power-tool’.  It was such an incredible experience to watch the ‘ah-ha’ moments as they happened, and to speak with members who walked out of the event energized and excited”.


Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *