After having given an introduction to the BiSL® framework for business information management at the itSMF conference in 2014, Mark Smalley had the pleasure of presenting some new perspectives at the 13th conference in 2016. The overarching theme of the conference was how IT service management (ITSM) must transform itself in order to support the greater demands of the digital enterprise. Read his blog!

Special Interest Groups at itSMF Japan

‘I represent the interests of the nonprofit ASL BiSL Foundation. This membership organization for professionals in the information and technology domains is based in the Netherlands and is supported internationally by ‘ambassadors’ in nine countries in Asia, Europe and North America. Our Japanese ambassador is Mr Yohsuke Murakawa, who has been a strong supporter of the Foundation for several years. Together with other BiSL enthusiasts at itSMF Japan, he proposed the formation of a special interest group (SIG) to study how BiSL can help the ITSM community. The proposal was approved by the board, who have recognized the need to be able to apply other bodies of knowledge than the traditional ITIL® and ISO 20000 oriented guidance. At itSMF Japan, this is reflected in the wide range of the 14 SIGs.



First BiSL presentation

Mr Yano and Mr Murakawa presenting BiSL Next

On the first day of the conference, Mr Murakawa and Mr Yano represented the SIG and gave a solid presentation that demonstrated the SIG’s good understanding of BiSL. It was the first time at a conference that a preview was given of the new version of BiSL, ‘BiSL Next’. In the new version, there is more emphasis on topics that are critical for the success of digital enterprises, such as governance, strategy, security, alignment. The formal release of BiSL Next is on 26th January 2016.





Second BiSL presentation

Mark Smalley presenting

My presentation was at the end of the second and last day of the conference. I focused on how IT’s operating model needs to change in the digital enterprise. In particular, I mentioned the topic of centralization/decentralization. My conviction is that in a digital enterprise, most of the traditionally centrally organized IT department needs to be decentralized to the various lines of business, enabling them to act better and quicker. This will not necessarily result on lower IT costs, by the business benefits will justify this choice.





My presentation was translated by an interpreter, Ms Grace Liu. In order to communicate as effectively as possible when using an interpreter, I always write a script for the presentation, which I share in advance. During the presentation, I adhere strictly to the script. This takes a fair bit of concentration and is certainly not as free flowing as my usual style, but it gets the message across. A by-product of

Ms Liu before the presentation, checking the script

having a script is that it can easily be repurposed for use as an article. This will be published in itSMF Japan’s Newsletter.








Post-conference BiSL workshop

The day after the conference I delivered a half-day workshop for the BiSL SIG members. The workshop was also attended by Mr Tomita, who, as their President, has led itSMF Japan for many years. He is very conscious of the need for ITSM practitioners to broaden their horizons.

Two groups discussing desired behaviour from business people (left) and IT people (right)

In order to set the scene for the content, we started with an exercise to identify the kind of behaviour that results in effective collaboration business people and IT people. I have conducted this workshop in nine other countries and was interested in adding the thoughts of this Japanese community to my compilation of findings.






Their findings were very similar to those in previous workshops but there were some useful additions, as illustrated below (left: the workshop findings; right: the compiled findings across ten countries).

Japan workshop findings
Workshop findings around globe









Appropriate approaches

In the workshop, we spoke about the nature of organizational systems, in particular the degree to which behaviour can be predicted. David Snowden’s Cynefin framework was used to illustrate four kinds of systems (obvious, complicated, complex and chaotic) and the relationship between cause and effect in each system. This led to a discussion about DevOps, with the conclusion that it is most beneficial in complex, non-deterministic systems. We also discussed the relationship between Agile and DevOps, concluding that there is partial overlap between the two approaches, and that together, they cover most of the whole value chain.

Applying BiSL guidance

Various questions were addressed:

  • Which layer and cluster is good as a starting point?
  • How to introduce BiSL processes to business people?
  • How to drive IT people to get in the same boat?
  • How to make a plan of process change?
  • How to involve business people to do process renovation?
  • How to evaluate the effect of new process and make action plan?

Benefits of using BiSL

In a survey that was conducted amongst organizations that have won the ASL BiSL Award for good application of BiSL, a variety of benefits were reported. These include pure business benefits, such as fewer disruptions to service delivery to customers; IT-related business benefits, such as better governance and (financial) management of information and IT; and also benefits for the IT department, such as fewer escalations.

BiSL Next

The final topic in the workshop was a preview of the new version of BiSL, BiSL Next. Where the previous version of BiSL provides detailed guidance on the activities that are necessary to manage business information effectively, BiSL Next focuses more on the ‘why’ and gives high-level guidance. In due course, more detailed guidance will be produced. Given the Japanese preference for pragmatic and concrete guidance rather than high-level principles, the SIG members are looking forward to this addition. The new publication explores governance and strategy more than the previous version, and is written in a more outside-in and narrative style rather than being a factual summation of instrumental guidance. It has been written with the challenges of digital enterprise in mind.

BiSL’s value proposition for ITSM practitioners

The discussion continued after the formal close of the workshop. One of the topics was how to sell BiSL from a commercial ITSM training perspective – in other words, how to communicate the value of BiSL for ITSM practitioners who may already have an ITIL background.

The value proposition is that BiSL can help you become a business-oriented practitioner – this improves your value and employability.

Increasingly, we work in a multidisciplinary environment and you are expected to have a good understanding of what the other disciplines entail. This is often called a T-shaped knowledge profile: in-depth (vertical) knowledge of the core area, and broad (horizontal) knowledge of adjacent domains. When working with your business partners, it is helpful to have an understanding of their IT-related responsibilities. BiSL provides this insight. With this insight, you can not only help your business partner with his or her tasks but you can also help them becomes better ‘dancing partners’.

The value of BiSL in relationship to ITIL has been recognized by AXELOS – BiSL is a formal ITIL Complementary Qualification and white paper and webinar on the ITIL-BiSL relationship are available. Other bodies of knowledge have also recognized BiSL’s added value and white papers and webinars are available about the relationship with BABOK (IIBA), BRMBOK (BRMI), COBIT (ISACA), and AgilePM (Agile Business Consortium).

BiSL is most attractive for customer-facing senior ITSM professionals (e.g. Service Managers, BRMs) who want a better understanding of the activities on the ‘other side of the fence’ in order to collaborate more effectively with their business counterparts

BiSL workshop participants


Nov 29-30, 2016: BiSL at the itSMF Japan annual conference in Tokyo

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