Paul Fegan: Rethinking ITIL® and PRINCE2® – what HR professionals need to know

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Products and services have become intertwined. Service delivery in most sectors is based on IT these days. Technology is now so complex that it must be supported by end-to-end service. HR and learning and development professionals face a real challenge in creating a workforce that has Best Practice skills for both project management and service delivery in a world where the lines between the two approaches have blurred.

As organisations feel the pressure to be more effective and efficient in their delivery of services, there is increasing agreement that the Best Practice for delivery is ITIL, whilst the Best Practice for delivering new services into a live environment is likely to be based on a project methodology – and PRINCE2 aligns closely with ITIL.

Perceptions must change. ITIL is not about IT any more – it is about delivery of services. PRINCE2 is not just about delivering large-scale government projects. There is a misconception that using PRINCE2 in smaller organisations is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. That is not the case at all. In fact PRINCE2 manuals focus on tailoring. Even if the organisation is only five-strong, PRINCE2 can be relevant if it is tailored, as it is intended to be, to that organisation’s needs.

As IT takes centre stage in the business, there is a need to provide IT people with wider Best Practice skillsets. Organisations have come to realise that the group of people who used to notoriously wear sandals and Iron Maiden t shirts – once sidelined as IT geeks – are now at the forefront of the business and need an understanding of customer service, who the customer is and the business case for any project. Both ITIL and PRINCE2 approaches demand that the business case for the project must be clear.

A marriage made in heaven

ITIL or PRINCE2 can of course support service delivery alone but a combination of both is ideal for robust service delivery into a live environment. PRINCE2 focuses on the delivery of products and ITIL focuses on the delivery of services. However it is rare that businesses are looking to deliver a product with no service element.

One of the major differences between the two approaches is that PRINCE2 is a methodology and ITIL is a framework. PRINCE2 mandates certain elements for delivery of the product, including documentation for stage reports and measurement. In contrast ITIL is less prescriptive and offers suggestions as to Best Practice approaches rather than mandating activities.

The strength of PRINCE2 is that it formalises the documentation needed to deliver the product. ITIL’s strength is that it is flexible and adaptable and it is almost modular. It is not necessary to adopt the entire service lifecycle within ITIL for the successful delivery of the service. ITIL is all about adapting and adopting the parts of it that will support project success. ITIL asks questions about the nature of the business and the vision for the customer. If the organisation is not clear about what it is trying to achieve with the services it is delivering to customers then it is not possible to make sure that the services provided are effective and efficient.

HR and L&D professionals can still produce new teams or improve service delivery by choosing and using either PRINCE2 or ITIL. However using the two approaches in tandem holds a much better prospect of successful service introduction. Organisations looking to create the right mix of ITIL and PRINCE2 skills can start by applying the principles of ITIL. An ITIL approach to HR and training can help make sure there is sufficient capacity and skills by helping identify what the organisation’s aims and objectives are. ITIL also supplies an approach for continual improvement relating to the vision for the customer.

The two Best Practice approaches become symbiotic. ITIL does not do project management but it can help HR identify where things could be improved, and then PRINCE2 can step in and support delivery of the planned improvements. PRINCE2 Best Practice comes into play by setting targets for where you want the organisation to get to, before then helping to work out how you are going to get there. It is a very useful methodology to help improve what you are delivering, and just as importantly, be able to measure that you have succeeded.

Ask the right questions

ITIL can be a good starting point to support the development of HR’s strategy regarding putting in place training and development for PRINCE2 and ITIL skills. ITIL will help HR and L&D people develop the right questions to ask to ensure that their workforce is obtaining the skills it needs for the organisation.

HR professionals need to ask the right questions before developing a blended Best Practice approach to closing the organisation’s skills gap. As a starting point, five key questions are:

  1. What do we do well?
  2. What don’t we don’t do so well?
  3. What is the gap between the two?
  4. How can we fill the gaps with the right blend of approach?

Why are we doing this? If the organisation is not delivering value to a customer or stakeholder why is it doing what it is doing? If the HR department is not certain it is delivering value then it needs to revisit the question.

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About Paul Fegan

Paul Fegan is Operations Director at the ILX Group, the global Best Practice learning company. He delivered training courses for the investment banking industry before co-founding a financial services e-learning company in 1999. He has since worked at training companies delivering courses for a number of audiences from Accountant and Lawyers to Digital Marketers before joining ILX Group.

ILX Group is a global all-in-one provider of Best Practice Learning Solutions. Courses are delivered through a blend of classroom, workshops, e-Learning and mobile platforms.

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One Comment - Write a Comment

  1. I’ve always thought that what was missing was people actually adopting PRINCE2, often they take the course, go back to work and carry on as before or only improve slightly. To help people adopt PRINCE2 and a better management technique I’ve created a free tool to measure and check how you are delivering projects, please feel free to take a look and use:

    http://www.totalprogrammecontrol.com/

    Feedback and questions are welcome

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