Implementing ITIL - lessons learnt

Numerous IT Service Management (ITSM) contracts and projects over the past few years have delivered many insights to consultant Derek Baskerville. He says there are a number of very important factors that need to be taken into account so that an ITSM implementation achieves successful outcomes. It's not easy and requires a lot of hard work. Here are a few pointers:

Management commitment and support

An important ingredient in the successful implementation of best practice IT service management is strong management commitment and support. While it is possible to achieve a number of isolated quick wins, the guarantee of success is much higher if your implementation of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is part of a broader Customer improvement service program that is driven and supported by senior management. In a number of engagements CIOs say their vision was to implement best practices for business alignment, good governance and to enable continuous improvement. However, they failed to effectively communicate that vision to most of the IT department and provide the necessary follow-up support required to ensure success.

Instead, it was left to me as the consultant to constantly educate and motivate IT staff on what ITIL was and what it could deliver rather than to come from management as a strong message about the business benefits and value it was seeking to achieve. IT staff were so busy doing just the day-to-day IT support and the lack of executive support led to much frustration and delays in the overall project. Getting staff to commit to meetings or the related ITIL project was extremely difficult.

Therefore, any organization contemplating the implementation of IT Service Management best practice needs to be aware of the level of support and commitment required from management to ensure that staff share their vision and are motivated by fully understanding where they fit in and how they can effectively contribute to a common vision that is designed to deliver better services and value to the business. Management cannot expect projects to succeed simply by supplying the funds and then sitting back and hoping it will all just happen.

Fully understand the organization before process implementation

Introducing ITIL-based processes requires the creation of new functions and roles which could impact the current service management structure. Different people are required to perform different duties at different times and this is one of the most challenging, but underestimated factors of implementing ITIL. This new organizational structure is also a potential source of much discomfort for people, particularly if communication and transition planning is handled badly. Time and effort needs to be taken to help people clearly understand the business benefits, and how they relate to individual tasks and that staff can expect to receive the support and guidance required to achieve a successful outcome.

Before completing process design, it is important to understand the roles and functions required to support the processes. Specific consideration needs to be given to the split between third-party service providers and internal resources. Internal changes in structure and roles will most likely lead directly to a complete re-think on the roles and responsibilities of suppliers which, in turn, could lead to contractual re-negotiations. Depending on the internal resource levels, there could be an opportunity to either out-task more responsibility to suppliers or to reduce contract costs and take on more responsibility in-house.

Continuous communication is required at all levels

Implementing ITIL impacts employees across the entire organization. Therefore, it is critical to understand the impact at each level within the organization and the value each brings to the program.

Engaging the customer, communications and training are the keys to success.

Communication shouldn't just stop at the management level. As many people as possible should receive appropriate briefings - especially analysts and coordinators who do the 'real' work everyday.

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