Simulations and gaming can help speed up organisations' understanding of ITIL® version 3, says Linda King, head of marketing at G2G3.

ITIL®, a best practice framework for IT service management, has been brought into the 21st century with version 3, which takes the common sense approach of v2 to the next level. Through adopting a service-oriented life-cycle approach to ITSM, the ongoing quest for true IT and business alignment comes ever closer.

But is there a drawback? Hundreds of organisations across the world have invested heavily in v2, spending considerable amounts of time and money bringing their people, processes and technology in line with the teachings of v2. And just as we're at the point where being qualified in v2 foundation level is second-hat and everyone knows their service support from their service delivery, it's time to think differently, stand back and see the new and bigger picture.

ITIL® life - but not as we know it?

ITIL® V3 is not a complete change to ITIL® life as we know it - the ITIL® v2 processes continue to be a core element of V3 - only now they have been absorbed into the wider, all-encompassing life-cycle approach. The interface between old and new is seamless, which means organisations should not have to reinvent the wheel in order to take their service management into the realms of v3.

Many claim that an ITIL® V3 implementation will be easier and more natural than implementing v2 due to the fact that the life-cycle approach better reflects how service management is actually applied in day-to-day practice.

But what can't be denied is the fact that v3 is a paradigm shift in the way service management is thought about and approached - leaving organisations with a number of challenges. Not only do they need to understand what the impact of v3 is to them, but they also need to make the fundamental decision whether or not to take steps towards implementing it.

Many may decide not to, as the v2 framework meets their needs sufficiently. Many may wait to see how other organisations progress with their implementations. For those that do decide to move into the v3 arena - how do they effectively communicate the framework and benefits of v3 across the affected areas of the organisation - and fast?

A larger sphere of influence

The revised v3 framework is fundamentally more aligned with the business than its predecessor. The new v3 service strategy, for example, takes a business-focused approach to the design of new services, meaning the ITIL® sphere of influence has widened to incorporate more of the business and its representatives. This ultimately means that a significantly increased number of people will be touched by the ITIL® v3 framework - many of whom may never have been exposed to ITIL® before.

A successful v3 implementation will require commitment and understanding from everyone within this sphere of influence - from the CIO, down to the service desk staff - all the way through to the business representatives. This creates a significant education and awareness challenge.

One way to accelerate understanding of ITIL® v3 is to experience it. Simulations, or gaming solutions as they are also known, are a high-impact, energetic and practical way to accelerate understanding and acceptance of the new features of ITIL® V3 in any organisation.

Simulations can cause breakthrough understanding of v3 whilst transforming learning into an engaging and highly memorable shared experience.

The best simulations are set in realistic scenarios to which participants can directly relate and have actual experience of. Unpredictability, interaction and realism draw on participants' emotions and competitiveness to ultimately create high levels of engagement.

These simulations are designed to reflect the service management lifecycle and continuous improvement approach as defined by ITIL® V3. The games themselves are played over a number of rounds, dependant upon the organisational challenge.

In addition, the experience continues between rounds through defined transition phases which require the participants engagement in planning for strategic and operational continuous service improvements. Players quickly understand the need to at all times being acutely aware of the future needs of the business and how these could affect current decisions.

The practical, 'hands-on' nature of simulations are the main reason why they have an impressive retention and understanding rate. On average, 89 per cent of the training content will be absorbed on the day, with 63 per cent of the content remembered 3 months later. This is a considerable improvement on the three month rate of 2 per cent retention achieved with more traditional education methods.

Not only is retention superior, but the dynamic nature of simulations allow organisations to accelerate understanding of the benefits of best practice to large audiences and fast. All those involved will immediately understand the ITSM terminology and ITIL® processes. So within a day everyone can be talking the same language.

Industry analysts Gartner believe gaming can transform learning into a more engaging and dynamic process, enhancing people's work performance and driving business results. A recent Gartner report stated that, by 2012, high-performing enterprises will shift 50 per cent of development spending from training to experiential learning programmes to boost people's effectiveness.

Bring the silos crashing down

Successful implementation of ITIL® v3 requires organisational staff to collaborate across functional silos in order to deliver services that are meaningful to the business. Therefore, it's not just IT staff who should participate in these simulations. For maximum benefit, a cross-functional business and IT group should take part.

These cross functional groups should include everyone who is touched by an ITSM or ITIL® V3 program - that include business representatives, IT managers, IT staff - and where possible - senior executives and sponsors.

Taking a cross-functional approach will help give participants an understanding of the bigger picture of the goals and benefits, as well as the perspective of both the business and IT and how all the components are interrelated. This also helps break down some of the silos that are often encountered in organisations in order to create a shared vision of success.