Two Critical Success Factors in an ITIL Implementation

Any IT manager who wants to pursue the IT Service Management journey by implementing the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) needs to understand two very important factors well in advance.

• The first factor is to have dedicated, trained and committed process owners.

If you want to have a successful Incident Management process which is under continuous improvement, you will need somebody who is ultimately responsible for it’s success and who can dedicate the time and focus to drive it and to make sure it actually happens.

A lot of organizations makes one of the following mistakes:-

- The process owner is non-existent which means there is nobody dedicated to drive a particular process.

- There is a process owner, but he or she is bogged down in day to day reactive activities or other "more important" business-driven projects and thus have no time for unnecessary "red tape" like ITIL.

- There is more than one process owner for a particular process (a classic mistake).

The idea of ITIL is to have a single consistent process throughout the organization and having two head cooks in this "process kitchen" is sure to mess up the cake.

Who will ultimately be responsible if there is more than one owner? Major companies who have successfully implemented ITIL have only one process owner throughout the company, even if there are numerous divisions spread across the globe. This ensures that the process is consistent throughout all divisions and helps the break down barriers between departments and divisions.

The primary problem here, is that companies do not want to spend the money on dedicate resources for process owners. Obviously a process owner can have a split role, doing other work as well, especially in smaller companies. As long as that other role is not of a reactive firefighting nature.

One person can also be made responsible for more than one process. Although these processes should be of similar focus.

The Change, Configuration and Release roles can be shared by one person in small companies for example. I believe in a large corporate these roles should be fulfilled by dedicated people, and companies who does not fill these roles are not serious enough about ITIL and is most probably lacking the management commitment.

Which brings us to the second, but probably the most important critical success factor, namely management commitment?

If you are responsible for an ITIL implementation, make sure you have commitment from the top; otherwise ITIL might just become another failed IT project throwing time and money down the drain.

And management commitment does not mean, "the manager says his committed". The manager must walk and talk ITIL and continuously show his commitment. In practical terms this means empowering staff through professional training, tools etc., appointing the right people in the right roles and managing by means of ITIL, e.g. demanding the right reports and taking action...

Kotter's 8 steps to organizational change is actually a good guideline for top management to follow.

Management commitment is probably the most important success factor for ITIL, but in my experience, probably also the most difficult to find. That is why a lot of ITIL implementations just become a black hole sucking up money.

I think there are a lot of IT managers that is under this misconception, that ITIL is a silver bullet to fix all their problems. Just install ITIL (almost like installing a new technology) and everything will be OK. What they do not understand is that ITIL is a major organizational change, including a culture change. We used to focus only on technology, but now we have to focus on the customer.

Another reason for low management commitment is also that ITIL is usually an internal IT department endeavor and not a direct requirement from the business. ITIL is a methodology for improving IT and not as such the business.

To overcome this, an ITIL project should become a business requirement and commitment is needed from all the way to the top, from the CEO.

Article by:- Arno Esterhuizen

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