ITIL Tattle

ITIL Tattle

Blog posts on ITIL and ITSM news and best practice from the ISG ITIL Team

Time for a Spring Clean?


Plasticine blue elephant

Spring Is Just Around The Corner…

Crocusses blooming near Melville Drive, Edinburgh.

Whilst cycling in this morning there was still snow on the hills but also signs of spring just around the corner…

In nature spring is a time of rapid change and this change is often cruel and time bound. The crocuses in the picture are in a race against time to flower and be pollinated before the surrounding trees steal their light with leaf canopy. A crocus survives by seizing its window of opportunity to flower. For much of the year the bulb lies dormant.

We often draw analogies from  beyond the workplace to keep ITIL processes engaging. ITIL is best practice but it can appear intractable to those on the outside. Making it relevant allows colleagues to realise the value (see Guiding Principles 1).

Spring cleaning is not about day-to-day service hygiene. It is about decluttering, removing what once was relevant but is now obsolete. Now doing this with services and systems and infrastructure requires process – change management. However some spring cleaning is within the scope of service operation. Changes to data and configuration are usually operational. Often tidying data is the task that get put off. It is the elephant in the room.  Moreover, because it accrues slowly and thus does not overtly affect day-today operation, we don’t notice how over time data clutter makes our processes less efficient.


Every House is Different…


Rustic hut at Little Sparta, Scottish Borders.

Carved tree stump on Kinnoull Hill near Perth, Scotland.

“Start where you are” [2] seems sensible. Just as each house is different so your operations, your data and configuration will be different.  However you will have a sense of areas you have scope for improvement.  There will be a some obvious decluttering which gives quick wins. These wins will typically be those achieved by catching up on operational tasks backlog.

One of the reasons we can be reluctant to do the spring cleaning tasks is that they can quickly become much bigger than we anticipated. We don’t necessarily know what is under that piece of furniture but we do know we might not like it if we look!

And spring cleaning is about considering that deeper clean, that once a year purge going into nooks and crannies usually left untouched.

Asking A Different Question? Using “Not” Data…

Often operational reports focus on what is happening or what is being used.

However spring cleaning requires us to ask the not questions. This might involve some data analysis and some thresholds. So you might ask find me all configuration not used in over a year? The choice of a year is to allow for seasonal variation.  You can refine by excluding configurations added in the last year (thus perhaps not having yet had the opportunity to be used).

Another spring cleaning approach is to consider staff turnover. When staff leave, there may be configuration and documentation outside your leaver’s process which becomes obsolete. Even if still useful, unless your processes are robust, the former employee’s contribution is liable to be orphaned and uncurated unless it is properly handed over.

Until you ask the not questions, it will be difficult to be sure what you don’t know.

Effective Data Analysis Informs Decision

Delete or Archive and Rollback?

If you throw enough out you will eventually realise something you thought was obsolete is actually needed. Within in technology, the paranoia around permanently losing something can frustrate any cleaning initiatives. But having a rollback can significantly reduce that paranoia.

Recently I was procrastinating about tidying up some old data. The task had been agreed in the correct place of governance. But the actual completion of the task felt stressful because there was the potential for someone to be upset. This was despite evidence that the objects were not being used and were in effect creating noise, cluttering up the interface for users.

Visual representation of noise.

The task was to delete several hundred objects in the service management tool. It turned out that it is possible to archive rather than delete. That is, the task action was reversible. By logging what was archived, and when, and emailing those (still in the organisation) who had created the objects to explain and to outline how the process could be reversed if required.

The task was completed and nobody complained. Nobody acknowledged the action.

So here is the rub.

The example given is unlikely to be unique. Interrogating at our data with  “not” questions suggests obsolescence is prevalent! Furthermore, whilst seasonal spring cleaning can help reduce the inefficiency creep, it may not enough. As our use of data and configuration increases, we need to better manage the data and configurations.

We need Knowledge Management…


Notes and References – ITIL 4 Guiding Principles

  1.  Focus on value
  2.  Start where you are
  3.  Progress iteratively with feedback
  4.  Collaborate and promote visibility
  5. Think and work holistically
  6. Keep it simple and practical
  7.  Optimise and automate


(Copyright 2015 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

(Copyright 2016 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

(Copyright 2017 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

(Copyright 2015 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

(Copyright 2016 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

(Copyright 2018 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

(Copyright 2019 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

(Copyright 2017 J. Jarvis - used with permission)

1 reply to “Time for a Spring Clean?”

  1. Stephan says:

    Fantastic advice James with superb writing!

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