Simulation – translating theory into practice

Published on Monday 16 June 2014 by in News with no comments

itchpapolloIT Chapter a Montreal based ITSM Consulting and Training company and certified GamingWorks delivery partner organized a demonstration of the Business simulation ‘Apollo 13 – An ITSM Case experience™’ to a team comprising of Certified instructors, Consultants, and ITIL® client practitioners and decision makers. The aim of the session was to explore what a simulation is, what it can do and its value as part of an ITIL® training or implementation initiative. The findings and conclusions were 100% unanimous. Delegates felt that simulations are not ‘Nice-to-have’ but ‘Need-to-have’ additions to ITIL training.

What is a simulation?

A Business simulation game is a form of experiential learning, or learning-by-doing. People from different departments, representing the complete end-to-end service delivery chain, can be brought together in one room to participate in a game environment. People can play different roles to their normal daily role, for example the CIO or second level support managers can be put at the help desk in the game. This allows people to understand each other’s roles and information needs much better.  People learn, in a number of game rounds, to translate theory into practice. They learn how to use the theory to achieve measurable results. They have to work together as a team, solve problems together, discuss and give each other feedback. In the game environment incidents, calls, changes arise, capacity issues occur, events are generated. The team is faced with increasing workloads and demands from the business. Can their processes cope? Can they successfully resolve the issues, manage the changes and realize their SLA targets? Can they demonstrate customer and business focused behavior? 

At the start of the simulation in my role as Mission Director I set the scene. ‘So we have literally tens of thousands of dollars of my IT budget represented in the ITIL theory in your heads. I expect great things today. Demonstrate you can apply it to realize my mission objectives!’

The team set about designing their processes. A wonderful, colorful process flow was drawn up on a flip-over – nobody bothered engaging or involving the technical team about the process, how it was to work or what they were expected to do. Fortunately the Mission Director insisted on performing an ‘ALL systems GO test’ in which each person was to say GO/NO-GO based upon their understanding of the newly designed Processes, procedures and tooling. The majority of the team said ‘NO GO’ – we were not trained, involved, informed….roles are unclear.’ We then launched the mission and the team experienced the effects of their design approach and their translation of theory into a practice.

At the end of the game round the team had created in their words ‘Chaos, Confusion, frustration, stress, lack of control’  and ‘dissatisfied customers through lack of engagement, prioritization, information and understanding or achievement of agreements’.

ITIL is all about consistent, repeatable delivery….we consistently ignored the customer!

Congratulations’! said the Mission Director ‘So this is what my massive budget investment in ITIL® certification has delivered to my business!’

The team then learnt the critical success factors and fundamental ‘essentials’ of making ITIL® work.( If you want to know what these are go and play a simulation!! This lesson took 30 minutes). The team then re-designed their processes and added a new process ‘Change management’. In the next round not only would they have to support the astronauts but they would also have to manage changes, dealing with resourcing conflicts and prioritization issues. At the end of the next round after applying ITIL success factors they had achieved their SLA, the customer was satisfied and the team had an altogether different perception ‘smoother, more ownership, more pro-active, people sticking to roles, more insight and control, more customer engagement’.  It was time to evaluate and capture some practical take-away’s.

At the end of the session delegates were asked ‘What did you really LEARN today? what did you discover today, that you did not learn in your theoretical training, that you will now take away and apply or do differently after this experience‘?

These were the captured feedback and findings from the delegates:


  • The need to effective collaborate with people (end-to-end) to achieve results (develop RACI and processes together); put people together and agree on roles, process, tooling; facilitate more interaction between managers and support – level 1,2 and 3 (end-to-end); bring teams together; the importance of not working in silo’s; collaboration and engagement helped create buy-in and management commitment
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities and empower people; Accountability; ownership and authority; the need for clearly defined, agreed and understand tasks, roles, responsibilities; Establish roles and responsibilities ‘Incident manager/Problem manager’
  • Enable(Empower) people to do their jobs (authority, tool, agreements, coaching, mentoring, supporting – especially in the beginning when tasks and skills are new);Provide the tools and the resources to ensure that teams can deliver the expected (agreed) outcomes
  • Applying ITIL together helped us reduce the feeling of working under pressure (better priority & escalation mechanisms)
  • The simulation showed how ITIL is essential and how we will benefit this created buy in (created sense-of-urgency and answered ‘what is in it for me’)
  • Better structured communication to ensure all parties understand each other
  • The need to gain commitment from managers
  • Effective change and OCM (organizational change management) leads to noticed change in efficiency


  • CSI register is key to prioritize improvements, to engage and empower people raising awareness (and buy-in) each iteration; Pragmatic CSI is powerful – the importance of getting together to ensure commitment to improvements; creating great (measurable) levels of service with the same level of human resources after putting CSI and process leadership in place; We need to include CSI on our process building and make it mandatory; the value of the 5 P’s and end-to-end use of this – always use them in every CSI initiative).
  • The importance of Transition check lists/tests & service acceptance criteria – Go/No Go – aligned to the 5 P’s
  • Committee design fails easily (engage all teams); involve all parties in process building for acceptance
  • Need to ensure process interaction (alignment between processes is crucial)
  • Simulation gave a lot of practical insights that will ensure we can stay on track and get buy-in from the board (for ITSM and CSI)’Simulation gave us a way in 1 day! To avoid the long, painful failures of the working environment failing to apply theory properly
  • Value of standardized processes, roles & responsibilities and tools for managing IT as a service


  • The importance of building the tool with those responsible for using the tools


  • Establish clear agreements with business partners and engage all partners early on in the process to get buy-in; More focus on BOTH the customer and the partner engagement – new approach in our company;


  • The importance of understanding the 5th P –Performance. It is all about VOCR(Values, Outcomes, Costs, Risks), ensure it is embedded in 4 P’s; investment in 4 P’s is crucial – especially the People side; Importance of communicating KPIs.  Make sure that the entire team understands the objectives and expected outcomes and empower team members to accomplish their tasks
  • Focus on alignment with the business; importance of alignment and constant communication with the business; Importance of understanding business processes and business activities and understanding  together with the business their needs for VOCR. Ensure the business is involved in defining priorities – aligned to business activities and cycle times

We closed the session with the following observation and question: ‘Many organizations don’t use simulations as part of ITIL training – Just give me the certificate they say, we don’t have the time or the budget for simulations. A simulation is just seen as a nice-to-have addition to make the training more fun or raise awareness. Should a simulation be a mandatory part of ITIL training?’ – the answer was 100% affirmative. As one delegate said ‘Even after so many years of using and deploying ITIL I learned and understand more than ever the value of the 5 P’s and have some concrete strategies to take away and use for deploying  ITIL processes’

As Axelos has stated when they started ‘…we recognize that there has been a significant shift in the way in which people learn over the last decade. Whilst there is still a place for traditional methods, practitioners in the 21st century demand the ability to learn at the time, place and style of their choosing. Increasingly, we see a shift from ‘learning by listening’ to ‘learning by doing’, underpinned by the increase in modular approaches to learning, plus simulations and other experiential learning techniques

I think we can clearly state that this demonstration event confirms the Axelos observations.



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