The IT4IT™ Standard Brought to Life

By Paul Wilkinson with Gaming Works, and Rob Akershoek with Fruition Partners

At The Open Group Amsterdam 2019, participants were offered the chance to participate in an exciting new gamification of the IT4IT™ reference architecture, a standard of The Open Group. Jan Schilt, co-owner of GamingWorks BV acted as the CEO role of a banking concern named UBanQ. In that game role, Jan challenged several teams to prove that they could become the bank of choice for customers in a highly competitive, rapidly changing digital world.

The IT4IT™ standard brought to Life-2
UBanQ stands for ‘Your-Bank’, but also ‘You bank’, connecting people”, explained the CEO.

The teams took part in an IT4ITTM business simulation for UbanQ. During this simulation, teams were challenged with investing in new products and services and applying concepts from The IT4IT standard to reduce costs, increase speed, and improve quality with an aim of making the bank the preferred choice of customers.

Three teams competed against each other to run a UbanQ branch better and each would try to realize the ambitions of the CEO. The CEO declared that he expected a dashboard showing the performance of each branch revealing revenue growth, cost reduction, increased margins, industry-leading CSAT, increased market share, and increased numbers of customers.

Improvement would be easy if work didn’t get in the way!

As the simulation started, the teams were confronted with customer issues, product defects, new customer requirements as well as existing ‘inefficiencies’ causing wasted work as a result of structural problems, supporting redundant products / services and balancing technical debt. The teams had to plan and execute the work and at the same time plan and execute improvements, working together as separate plan, build and run units needing to operate as a value chain.

What happened? After the first round, the team reflected on what happened and more importantly how it reflected daily reality. Reflections revealed the following recognized real life issues:

  • Difficulty organizing an end-to-end team and flow. Who does what? Who has what information? Who needs what information? How should hand-offs occur? 
  • Poor communication across the siloes (both in terms of team skills in communication and collaborating as well as in terms of accurate, complete, timely, relevant data and information)
  • Poor insight into data and information across the different silos such as, ‘Which services are connected to which applications and configuration items. Which services should be made redundant. There are mismatches and missing information to support ‘plan, build and run’ needs which causes wasted time, effort, costs and mistakes.’ 
  • Unclear prioritization of work and poor insight into the shared goals and value expectations

There were no champagne corks popping for the CEO as he presented the dashboards of both teams revealing significant dips in Customer satisfaction, wasted costs and revenue loss.

Building ‘fit-for-future’ capabilities

The building blocks from the IT4IT standard were then introduced. The teams could now choose from these building blocks, experiencing which ones could help address the challenges or which ones would help reshape the organization to become the preferred digital bank for the customers. The building blocks are ‘improvement ideas’ based upon concepts from the IT4IT standard that each silo in the team can suggest such as integrated databases, automated testing, portfolio plans, or strategic initiatives.

Different UBanQ teams often choose different building blocks to start with – architects often choose the CMDB (e-2-e backbone); business product owners choose for portfolio planning; DevOps stakeholders may choose for automated deployment. The question is, who is responsible for the end-to-end alignment and dependencies of these building blocks to optimize the value chain? 

Theory – easier said than done!

The teams in the simulations all selected different building blocks and realized that improvement meant more than simply installing new tools and processes. Changing behaviors and integrating end-to-end capabilities would be crucial. What happened?

  • Double ‘wasted’ work (inconsistent, missing end-to-end CMDB), unused capacity (poor visibility into backlog and work-in-progress)
  • Despite investing in an Integrated database it was not seen as relevant; it was unclear how that would benefit people
  • An Integrated database was installed, but not everybody knew how to use it or integrate it into their working practices
  • Too much siloed working, doing one’s own work without end-to-end goals and priorities that deliver value
  • Nobody was ensuring alignment and integration of building blocks throughout the value chain

Streams and chains, but where’s the value?

‘….did anybody know the goals and value expectations?’  was a general question during the team retrospectives. The CEO shook his head in frustration ‘It is all well and good applying new approaches and buying new technology but if we do not have a clear goal as to the value to be realized, and ensure that this flows through the end-to-end value chain then it becomes more a chain around my neck slowing down my progress…..’

The teams once again agreed upon improvements and adopted new building blocks to be applied, ensuring a focus on end-to-end capabilities. Still, teams struggled to embed the new improvements into their way of working. Behavior change, coaching, ownership, leadership were all invisible aspects and skills required to allow the IT4IT standard to deliver end-to-end value.


‘Revenue was a little higher, CSAT lower.’

What were the key discoveries from the teams relating to the importance of the IT4IT building blocks and approaches for using them successfully within their own organizations?

It was clear that this is a long, tough journey of iterative improvements to change mindsets, behaviors and build end-to-end value chain capabilities.    

  • It is critical to have the end-to-end data and information flows, integrated, consistent and usable (people know how to use it to support and enable e-2-e value stream activities and decision making)
  • When work piles up, the focus is on new business demands and outages, and often too little focus is on removing waste, barriers and blockers. Prioritizing resources and reserving time for continuous improvement is key.
  • Efficiency is not effectiveness, one team had won on efficiency for ‘automating’, however the CSAT scores showed lack of effectiveness. A clear need for continual learning and improving focused on doing the right things.

What the team had personally experienced in this last point was exactly one of the messages during “The Digital Operating Model” presentation earlier in the day from Charlie Betz and Myles Suer during Digital Management Professionals Day which reminded everyone that “Efficiency does NOT equal Effectiveness.” Agility without value delivery is a fail.

‘The IT4IT standard got started by trying to make multi-vendor IT environments work well together. There was a need to standardize interfaces and data architectures to help tool users to stop wasting money on tool integration’.

‘…What we need is the ‘automation of the flow of data through the tool chain’ to enable a DevOps tool pipeline…’

‘…Flow of information between silo’s is often unclear and inconsistent…’

The IT4IT standard, DevOps, and the latest ITIL4 all have value chains and value streams. DevOps is often interpreted as CI/CD tool pipelines, ITIL4 is often focused primarily on processes and workload management tools. Whereas, one of the key benefits of The IT4IT standard is that it helps add the end-to-end value chain focus on integrated data and information that supports, underpins, and enables both DevOps and ITIL4.

Paul has been actively involved in ITSM for more than 40 years in a variety of the roles from Operations, Development, IT management through to Consultant and Director. Paul was co-author of the ITIL publication “Planning to Implement IT Service Management”, was a member of the ITIL advisory group for ITIL Version 3 and member of the architect team for the ITIL Practitioner. Paul is also co-director and owner of GamingWorks, the company that developed the internationally renowned ‘Apollo 13 – an ITSM case experience’ simulation game as well as the most recent ‘Phoenix Project’ DevOps simulation, ‘MarsLander’ which can be used to support ITIL4® courseware and the UBanQ simulation to support IT4IT courseware. He was also co-author and developer of the ‘ABC of ICT’ (The Attitude, Behavior and Culture of ICT) publications, having conducted ABC workshops and simulation workshops with delegates representing more than 5000 organizations world-wide. He is also a DevOps Agile Skills Association (DASA) ambassador and global champion for BRM (Business Relationship Management) Institute.

qcvJFd9i_400x400Rob is the IT Architect for Fruition Partners and his areas of expertise include: DevOps, IT4IT, IT Service Management (ITIL), Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), Enterprise Architecture (TOGAF®) and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), AIOps, Agile development, Service Integration and Management (SIAM).

Rob helps organizations to architect, design, and realize an end-to-end IT management blueprint (new digital IT operating model) also referred to as IT4IT, a standard of The Open Group, to enable the digital enterprise; covering IT processes, IT management tools, IT data models, and IT organization. Transform the IT organization to an agile, lean and automated IT service organization (covering both the Toolset as well as the Mindset).

Rob also designs and implements of IT processes, IT organization roles/responsibilities, as well automate the IT processes across the entire IT value chain. This work enables the transformation of the IT organization (agile / lean IT, continuous delivery, cost transparency, DevOps, secure by design, etc.) to manage the new digital eco-system.

Rob is the Chair of The Open Group IT4IT Forum.  He has previously worked with Nationale-Nederlanden, ABN AMRO Bank N.V., and Shell.