Want to know more about IT service management (ITSM) adoption? If you already follow how other organizations are faring with ITSM, and the adoption of ITIL best practice, then you’ve probably found that the available statistics and commentary are usually either North-American-based (with HDI publishing regular reports) or UK-based (with the Service Desk Institute (SDI) providing).

These two membership bodies both offer valuable perspectives but what if you want to know about ITSM adoption and success in other parts, in particular your part, of the world? For instance, Japan. Or what if you want to know about where ITSM best practice is heading as we rapidly approach 2020?

This is exactly why I wrote this article – it’s a view on the current state of ITSM and ITIL adoption and then where the industry is going from someone who just happens to live and work in Japan.

ITSM today

ITSM and ITIL have been adopted widely by organizations in both public and private sectors, and of different sizes, across Japan. This is helped by the local-language translation for ITIL, with this localization required for people to fully understand the contents of ITIL or any other best practice.

ITIL Foundation is one of the first training courses a new employee is required to take when working for an IT service delivery group. As a result, over 10,000 people per year have taken the ITIL Foundation exam (in Japan) since its introduction in the early 2000s. And the ITIL terminology, such as incident management, has also been adopted, with such terms widely used now.

Japan is known for quality control (QC) activities. And thus, many Japanese organizations have traditionally begun their ITIL journey with the service operation processes (plus those from service transition) in conjunction with continual service improvement (CSI).

More recently, though, we are now also seeing organizations adopting processes from service design and service strategy in addition to the processes in service operation or service transition. With ITSM professionals understanding that the service lifecycle concept is key for their organization to use ITIL (and ITSM) successfully.

In Japan, there are different players in each stage of the lifecycle. Therefore, it’s important for the organization to work collaboratively internally and with external suppliers in each stage of the lifecycle.

Looking to the differences in Japan, “Omotenashi” is a Japanese way of providing services. It’s used to improve customer satisfaction, and it’s becoming a very important concept in the digital age. There are three main points in Omotenashi:

  1. Understand priority, and be agile
  2. Understand the customer position, and determine needs
  3. Common to you does not mean common to your customer

There is also a heavy focus on operational excellence. For instance, organizations in Japan focus on how to prevent major incidents, with them putting efforts into documenting procedures and into management to ensure that people follow these procedures. There is thus in-depth knowledge on how to manage quality in service delivery.

In addition to ITIL, ISO/IEC 20000, the international standard for ITSM, is a widely used ITSM approach in Japan. And PMBOK is very popular in the developer community and there is a growing interest in program management. There is however a declining interest in COBIT.

Positive and negative ITIL behaviors

On the plus side in Japan, the “plan-do-check-act” (PDCA) concept, and the 5W1H (the Five Ws and How – who, what, where, when, why, how) approach to improvement,  are widely-adopted practices in Japan thanks to the focus on QC. Thus, the ITIL CSI concept can be adopted easily.

One bad point though is “over quality.” Where the focus on quality means that organizations spend too much time on quality. For example, banks in Japan make sure that ATMs are always available, without even a second of unavailability.

Another – and this is probably experienced globally – is that many organizations struggle to make ITIL initiatives work holistically. In these cases, the authority of the CIO is limited because each business unit has their own IT budget and each of these units prefer to go with their own way and are reluctant to adopt standardized procedures, processes, etc.

Finally, starting small, getting a quick win, and then gradual expansion is a very important approach to delivering organizational change in Japan.

The future of ITSM and ITIL

It doesn’t matter where in the world you live and work, we’re all experiencing significant change – and it’s a globally-affecting change rather than a localized change. Why? Because in most industries, companies are doing business globally. And thus, there are few differences in the required aspects and speed of change.

Digital transformation will increase the importance of ITSM. Enterprise ecosystems will be expanded as digital transformation evolves, which means that there will be more suppliers to be collaborated with and to be managed. Thus, key areas of focus for ITSM in the future will be areas such as business analytics and relationship management.

The importance of knowledge management and CSI will increase too, with the utilization of information captured from service operation and service transition by service design or service strategy (via CSI) becoming more common.

The new version of ITIL understands and reflects all of this – it needs to in order to better help people and organizations as we advance into the future.

A key aspect front of mind for me, and my fellow ITIL authors is “value” and the new version of ITIL will introduce the concept of “value systems.” IT organizations have been trying to change themselves to value centers (from cost centers) for at least a decade. And, in order for them to accomplish this, the organizations must ensure that the potential value of business-changes enabled by IT investments are understood by the business, and fulfilment is managed throughout lifecycle.

Getting a head start on the future (of ITSM)

So, if you’re itching to start your future ITSM career now – either as a newbie or someone who is eager to change with the times – then I suggest concentrating on the following five things:

  1. Fully understanding the concept of the ITIL service lifecycle and what it means to IT service delivery and support. This will stand you in good stead.
  2. Reading up on the subject of value, including value systems, to differentiate between what the IT organization considers to be of value versus what the business (and customers) deem to be of value.
  3. Looking to business relationship management in better understanding value but also as a way to better understand how the consumer-world concept of customer experience is affecting corporate IT organizations and the services they offer.
  4. Identifying and agreeing how your organization’s current ITSM practices create, or destroy, value. And use this as a platform for value-based improvement.
  5. Leverage CSI wherever possible – ITIL has always been considered an improvement-based journey and this will continue with the new version of the best practice framework.

So, that’s how I think people need to prepare for the future of ITSM, what would you add?

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Takashi is a service management professional based in Japan.

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Aale Roos
Aale Roos

You write that one should “fully understand the concept of service lifecycle”. I disagree with that. The service lifecycle is actually a misunderstanding. There is no such thing. Service means three different things: service promise, service system and service acts. Their lifecycles are very different. Look at a basic business service like payroll. Salaries need to be paid and the HR is in charge. IT provides some elements of the service like platform, backups, basic security etc. The service promise stays the same from year to year, Salaries must be paid. Service acts happen continuously, The service platform and application… Read more »

Takashi Yagi
Takashi Yagi

I thank you for the comment.

In Japan, it is very common that IT service provider is an independent.
Our challenges is to provide frequent and effective feedbacks from Service Operation & Service Transition to Service Strategy & Service Design.
The concept of Service Lifecycle is useful in this sense in Japan.