ITIL 4 is Quite Engaging – the Service Value Chain Explained

Blown away by ITIL 4
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The entire technology world is aware that ITIL, the grand-daddy of all the IT service management (ITSM) frameworks, has morphed into ITIL 4. Taking over 30 years of service management experience, and a team of people I respect and I’m happy to call friends, to create something that can be the framework to create better, faster, safer ways of benefiting from technology.

This article is not a commentary on ITIL 4, as others are doing that now. I simply want to share how I was blown away by one ITIL 4 image while reviewing an e-course for ITIL 4 from ITSM Zone (shameless plug I know).

I wasn’t sure about this latest incarnation of ITIL until I saw the service value chain image:

What Do You Observe?

Sherlock Holmes in a “Scandal in Bohemia” tells Watson:

“You see, but you do not observe.”

So please stop reading for a moment. Look at the diagram. Observe and consider the impact of what it depicts against the way you deliver value with technology-based solutions at your organization today.

Are you blown away? Please keep looking! Ask others!


Does your demand flow like this: do this now, oh wait, not that but this, but could you do that by spending less and could we have it sooner? They DEMAND and you do what?


Whoever encouraged the use of this word in the ITIL 4 service value chain model deserves an award!

They demanded and now you’ll engage to consider why they want this, how it will benefit them, and what has to occur next to meet their demand. Engage is the often-missing step which needs to become mandatory.

Consider this: DevOps is about collaboration. Agile encourages people to work together to solve a problem. Lean suggests that to improve or deliver something, then people need to work together. VeriSM, which I played a small part in creating, encourages the interactions of everyone in the lifecycle of delivery – including suppliers – to play nicely in the demand mesh. ITIL 4 now underpins all of these practices, and others, with the use of the word engage.

Plan and Improve

Some people see waterfall. I observe one continuous process.

Plan and Improve: I try something, I learn from the outcome, and I improve. This activity encompasses the delivery lifecycle. It’s not something that occurs at the beginning and the end. I can drop it in anywhere I need to help remove a constraint that stops my capability to solve problems or enable solutions based on technology. How do I know I have a chance with my plan or in improving what I do? By engaging!

Obtain and Build – Design and Transition – Deliver and Support

Some people see waterfall. I observe a constant set of activities.

People engage to build something that’s based on an agreed design which when transitioned is affirmed by the people engaged to create or benefit from that Value.

All happy? Great then let’s deliver and support it no matter where it resides. Making people happy by providing things that are “right first time” is what engagement is all about, especially in these digitally disruptive times.

Deliver and Support

A further point on this aspect of the ITIL 4 service value chain. After four decades of supporting technology services for a variety of organizations, the one thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t engage on the way things will change or on how things need to be resolved if they break, then your service will always suffer.

Deliver and support requires commitment from all involved parties. Technology services depend on your people but also on others. Treat them as suppliers and get what you pay for. Engage with them as partners and reap the rewards.

Value = Products and Services

As written in many blogs and books: no matter what you do in your pipeline or technology lifecycle, or no matter how good and fast you are, it’s all a waste if what you deliver is of no use or poor quality.

Value is only perceived when that product or service is used and appreciated. You can’t determine this by sending out an occasional net promoter score (NPS) survey.

You can only determine a product or service’s worth by engaging with the consumer, be they internal or external. It could be Ops building an API for product teams or your organization providing a new digital service – you can only know if it was of value by engaging.


Synonyms for engage: involve, participate, take part.

This is what ITIL, no matter the version, has always been about. It’s not the processes or practices or tools that you use that matter. It’s the way you work together to create amazing things based on technology.

I won’t comment on the rest of ITIL 4 but I hope this encourages you to go and observe for yourself, and please engage with us on what you find!

IT Management Advisor at Independent

Daniel Breston is an IT consultant with over 30 years experience. With a focus on blending Agile, Lean, DevOps, and ITSM environments to help businesses get the most from their investments in technology, Daniel is also a well-established speaker, mentor, and trainer, as well as a Fellow of the BCS.

In addition to his day job, Daniel is also an Associate Consultant at

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3 Responses

  1. “Blown away” ? By common sense and what organsiations (business leaders) have been doing for a long time, no. Good to see ITIL catching up but value chains have been around for a long time and shows how out of touch ITIL has been (or the contributors anyway). Too many ‘academia’ people involved who lack practical delivery and when we get that addressed we will have a framework anybody can use to guide them.

    1. William, I couldn’t agree more. I have been doing “ITIL 4” with ITIL 3 for years, that is mixing it with concepts from Lean and Agile. I was using Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits” as my guiding principles which gelled really well with my teams.

      I’m an ITIL v2 Master so been adopting and adapting from the framework for a while now. My observation is that not much has really changed in ITIL at a practical level since then. Most orgs use the titles of the processes (now practices) and take little else from the books. They do Incident, Problem, Change etc. in title, making up their own way to do these with very little reference beyond Foundation level to the ITIL books. This being the case, the books could be at least a quarter the size they are now and probably have no negative impact on the uptake of ITIL practices. In fact, people would probably read them!

      Lean and Agile, along with other guidance such as Cynefin, KCS, and KT provide the more practical “how to” more than ITIL ever has. ITIL 4 seems to be having mixed reviews, especially from the die hard Service Lifecycle crew, but I think it is a move in the right direction. But I’m yet to meet someone who has just finished their ITIL 4 Foundation training that understands how the pieces fit together. They just don’t get things like the PIEDOD is the what to do, the Practices the how to do it with the guiding principles and 4 dimensions at front of mind. I’m betting there will be an ITIL 4 2022 release ala ITIL v3’s 2011.

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