Ten Tips for Successfully Implementing ITIL - A Critique by Dr. ITiL

We read loads of articles every week claiming to know the "secrets" of ITIL implementation, offering half-baked ideas and money-for-old-rope approaches.

To be honest most of them are rubbish - but Isabel Wells (writing for CIO update) seems to have touched a few of our buttons.

So, we decided to give her top 10 implementation tips a good walk through and based on our collective experience, provide some feedback to each point, as follows.

[to read the original article in full, click here ]

Top 10 Tips for ITIL Implementation - Plus critique by Dr. ITiL

1. Approach ITIL implementation as part of the IT-wide strategy, and use it to guide all other strategic initiatives.

-ITIL process implementation has significant IT-wide impacts; it is not an isolated initiative.
-To avoid both resource and programming constraints, implementation must be aligned with other global and regional programs, IT initiatives and sourcing or supplier initiatives.
* TRUE, as with any large Programme.

-A portfolio management approach should be taken to understand the alignment and priorities of all initiatives in addition to the overall benefits to the organization.
* TRUE, though this is standard with any large Programme.

2. Consider the post-ITIL organization before completing the process design.

-Introducing ITIL-based processes generates requirements for new functions and roles, which could impact the current service management structure. *Absolutely. Different people are required to perform different duties, at different times. This is certainly one of the most challenging – but often NOT thought through areas of implementing ITIL. The new organizational structure is also a potential source of much discomfort for people, if communication and transformation planning is badly handled. People need to know where they are going, the benefits to be sold to them personally, and they need support and guidance with making an effective transition. *Warning: Sizing Service Teams is notoriously difficult. Can anyone point to “sizing models” that offer excellent guidance? I have never seen any. Usually sizing service teams is based around part considered workload analysis and ‘best estimates’. Hardly scientific!!

-Prior to completing process design, understand the roles and functions required to support the processes; giving specific consideration to the supplier/internal resource split.
*Good thought. The internal changes in structure and roles, should also lead directly to a complete re-think on the roles and responsibilities of Suppliers. This could, in turn, lead to contractual re-negotiations. Depending on resource levels internally, there could be an opportunity to either out-task more responsibility to Suppliers, or to reduce contract costs and take more responsibility on in-house.

-Consideration must also be given to the governance structure needed to guide and support the new IT organization. Establishing a transformation program ensures that the structure from which to hang ITIL is secured and operational prior to process implementation.
*Totally agree. Excellent governance (say, with a transformation board) to regularly monitor progress and assist programme managers by resolving their issues and mitigating risks can make ‘all the difference’.

3. Engage, engage, engage. Continuous communication is required at all levels of the organization.

-Implementing ITIL impacts the full spectrum of the organization’s employees. Because of this, it is critical to understand the impact at each level within the organization and the value each brings to the program.
*Understanding – at all levels – is only the first stage though; the second point is where the action happens…see communications below…

-Subsequently, engagement, communications and training are absolutely key to success; from the initial engagement of senior stakeholders to the manager-level ITIL training of new global process owners.
*Engagement and communications shouldn’t just stop at the manager level though. EVERYONE should receive appropriate briefings, especially analysts and coordinators who do the ‘real’ work everyday!

4. Set realistic expectations about benefits realization and establish a baseline from which to monitor improvements.

-Change within any organization takes time to be accepted and implementing ITIL is no different. Implementation of ITIL focuses on improving customer service and as the processes mature the subsequent ROI will be recognized.
*Fine in theory, however how many of us actually went back and proved that the ROI was delivered within a suitable timeframe? It’s recommended that ROI be measured (a) before process implementation, (ii) a few weeks after, then (iii) as the process moves up the Capability Maturity Model. Note individual (or pairs) or ITIL proceses should be measured as opposed to the whole entire effort. ITIL is best implemented in a series of well executed, smaller projects.

-To determine the end result, focus the strategy and focus communications on improving service quality and establishing an early baseline of key performance indicators (KPIs) from which to monitor improvements. The chosen KPIs and their associated benefits should be business-focused and clearly understood so that effort is not wasted on measuring and interpreting superfluous data. *Good Advice.

5. Engage existing suppliers early.

-Existing suppliers and any subsequent SLA’s will be affected by the implementation of ITIL. The strategy for handling third-party engagement and establishing a robust communications plan must be clearly defined, with priorities focused on the desired supplier landscape. *Agreed.

-Early engagement with procurement and legal departments will help to support and address the ripple effect that occurs right through to existing contracts and SLAs upon implementing the new processes. An end-to-end SLA will also be ultimately required to support the operation of the new processes.
*It’s not strictly true that SLA’s and contracts need to be changed just because you’re implementing ITIL – although if you’re implementing it successfully – then you will probably want to realise cost savings and change specific SLA targets / KPI’s. But it’s not mandatory to have to change contracts – it’s more about re-enforcing what you are aiming to achieve with your ITIL implementation.

6. Process

Identify and deliver the quick wins.

-It's "old" advice, but it remains fundamentally important to ensure that the organization achieves, communicates (and celebrates) early successes.
*Absolutely! Deliverer a series of rapid, successive, well-executed quick wins right the way through your ITIL implementation programme. You need to keep everyone’s interest and keep generating positive news about the programme. For every process you implement there should be critical success factors defined in advance. Also, think through how the new processes and underpinning working practices can actually benefit the people within the teams. Finally, let’s not forget the CIO and CEO. What cost savings have you made recently?!

-Such an approach buys time for the process implementation and will help to gain the much-needed stakeholder engagement across the organization. Experience suggests that failure to achieve these successes will typically double the resistance to the change and halve the support within six months.
* I’d say within six weeks of your first implementation – let alone six months. ITIL processes have a strong track record of implementation success, along with some ‘sexy’ features for the end-users of ITIL based tools. So, it’s not that hard to get success stories flowing on a regular basis.

7. Maximum benefit can only be achieved if the impact each process has on another is understood.

-The ITIL framework is comprised of ten service management processes and one service management function. Every ITIL process supports, interfaces and integrates with at least one other process.
*No, Between Service Support and Service Delivery – there are 10 core processes defined, the complete ITIL has many many more. Important to realise that ITIL is wider than Service Support and Service Delivery. The inter-relationships between processes is far more complex than a “integrates with at least one other” – e.g. Change Management impacts and is impacted by every other support process. A full reasoning is beyond the scope of this article.

-For effective development and deployment the relationship, impact and interdependencies across the ITIL framework must be clearly defined and understood. The close integration and understanding of the processes allows for the continual flow of up-to-date, critical and accurate information that in turn enables management to drill down and identify target areas for service improvement.
*Whilst factually correct, the inter-dependencies are already defined for you in the OGC’s excellent series of Best Practice books. You need to understand them and appreciate them, but not let them rule your operation. Nothing is cast in stone. What works for you – works for you.

8. Prioritize process selection based on current maturity; don’t bite off more than you can chew!

-It is important to take a holistic view to ITIL implementation, however it is not imperative to implement all processes concurrently in order to realize operational improvements and a significant ROI. *In fact – don’t even bother trying to implement all processes concurrently. It will cost 5 times more and take twice as long in the medium term – and most likely FAIL! The best way is a structured approach where you implement the ‘core’ of each process either singularly or in matching pairs (e.g. Incident and Problem, or Configuration and Change). One the ‘core’ of ‘essence’ of each process is implemented, you can then re-visit each one and enhance to the next level. People take time to adapt to new tools, new ways of working, new meetings to attend and new ways of delivering service. It is far better to implement what your organization needs to resolve a business / IT Service challenge. You have to allow people time to adapt and step-up to the new operating level. If you change too much too quickly – even if it does match ITIL best practice – the people side will still let you down.

-Implementation of individual processes or the prescribed combination of processes can deliver the desired operational improvements. Processes should be selected based on the benefits sought by the organization and the ones that drive the most business value.
* I mentioned the first part above, however with ITIL there are some underpinning processes that, at first, will realise little business value. For example configuration management and the CMDB. These are enabling processes that will “turbo-charge” the quality, speed and accuracy of your Incident, Problem, Availability… in fact… all of your new ITIL processes. But delivered at first – they offer little on their own. This is the paradox with ITIL.

9. Use success as a springboard for further improvement.

-Implementing ITIL is a strategic commitment and will take many months to fully implement. During this time many different parts of the IT organization will be required to change. *Agreed.
-In this sort of environment it is important to also implement a program of continuous improvement (e.g. a "plan, do, check, react" cycle). First this will ensure that improvement is actually delivered as expected and, second, it will help to build further improvement rather than assuming the job is done and risk slipping back in to old behaviors.
*Once you embark on your ITIL journey – you have put yourself on the continuous improvement treadmill. But this treadmill has not got a big red ‘stop’ button. It trundles along at a pace dictated by the business, or your internal strategy. You really have no choice but to continue to improve, change, mould, tweak your processes (people, capabilities, tools etc). Stand still and the treadmill throws you off. Putting all this positively – you have the right path to ALWAYS advance and continuously improve your environment!

10. Technology

Combine process and tool activities from day one as part of a single solution approach.

-Implementing a service management tool will support the streamlined processes, automate tasks and manage and distribute information. Knowledge management, e.g., the re-use and integration of information, is a critical component of the service management tool.
*Mmmm, difficult area this one. The tool should certainly support the working practices, process flows and standards and policies you have in place – NOT – the other way around. However, integrating the knowledge management aspect of tools is notoriously lengthy, costly and difficult for Service people to continue to evolve. Not impossible – just difficult. Again, done properly and your support costs can fall dramatically, as level 1 support staff can now perform many of the tasks that only (the more expensive) level 4 could do previously.

-Integrating data control processes with the tool will ensure that information is current and continues to add value to the service management processes.
*You’re only as good as the accuracy and timeliness of the data that populates your tools. Rely on tools? You need to rely on the feeds and to those tools and the original sources of data.

-Implementing ITIL is not just about evaluating and revising processes, it is about change: changing the way people work and are rewarded; changing technology platforms; and changing behaviors across an entire organization. *You don’t necessarily need to change technology platforms to implement ITIL. You do need to change the way people work and behaviors.

So, that's it. Some points we totally agreed with, some of Isabel's comments and thoughts were very interesting, but also in our view some statements made ITIL look like a heck of a lot bigger and more complex that perhaps it 'has to be'.

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