Tips for introducing ITIL: improving IT service delivery and effectiveness

ITIL is a recognised framework for improving the availability and reliability of IT services. However, despite big investments, many organisations fail to see any tangible benefits from it. Avoid an ITIL disaster with these tips from our expert, ITIL consultant Charles Fraser.

Many organisations looking to improve the quality of their IT services, and their overall effectiveness as an IT service provider, turn to the information technology infrastructure library (ITIL) framework.

ITIL is a recognised framework for planning, delivering and supporting IT services to the business. In a nutshell, it recognises that IT services need to align to the needs of the business and underpin core business processes.

However, many organisations introducing ITIL don’t achieve the benefits they are expecting. This is often because of poor implementation: organisations that misunderstand the purpose of ITIL, fail to adapt it to their needs, or fail to put proper change management in place.

To ensure your ITIL implementation reaps tangible results, here are some practical tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls and get the most from ITIL.

1. ITIL is the means to an end, not an end in itself

One of the common mistakes that organisations can make is to view ITIL as something to be achieved or implemented in and of itself. However, ITIL is actually a way to help you achieve other goals.

Rather than aiming to implement ITIL, instead focus on using it to help achieve wider goals, such as improving the quality of your service provision.

To use ITIL effectively, start by clearly defining what you are trying to accomplish. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • What aspect of your IT service are you trying to improve?

2. Don’t forget about the people

Most ITIL initiatives focus on revising processes or implementing new toolsets. Often the only consideration given to the people side of things is a little bit of basic ITIL training.

However, any effective use of ITIL is likely to be associated with some form of organisational change within the IT department. Revised work practices will be introduced and your employees will be asked to change the way they work – all of which needs to be carefully managed.

“Ensure that organisational change, including overcoming resistance to change, is recognised as an issue and effectively managed.”

As such, the need to formally manage these organisational changes is critical to the success of any ITIL initiative, but it is not often considered.

If you want your ITIL initiative to succeed, ensure that organisational change, including overcoming resistance to change, is recognised as an issue and effectively managed.

3. Ensure effective governance

All ITIL initiatives should be about improvement. The scale, nature and justification for the intended improvement should be clearly stated at the outset of any initiative. It’s vital that progress against these goals is measured.

To do this, each ITIL initiative needs some form of governance where progress is monitored and corrective actions identified. You should anticipate that, as progress is made, your original goals may change. As business and service needs evolve over time, the required scale and nature of the intended improvements might need modifying. Taking this into consideration is an integral part of the governance activity.

Instead of rigid or fixed goals, create a service improvement road map with a cyclical or three-month phased approach to improvement. For each phase, the specific objectives, benefits and resources required will be identified.

At regular periods the team responsible for governance will need to meet and review the progress, appropriateness, and value of the stated goals – revising them as necessary to ensure ongoing relevance.

4. Adopt and adapt

ITIL was never intended to be prescriptive. Nor was it ever intended that you should use all the parts (the processes) of it. It is essentially a framework that provides advice, guidance and recommendations – it does not dictate.

Adopt. For the best results, only adopt the parts of ITIL that will be of value to you. Don’t fall into the trap of using every part of ITIL or of simply picking arbitrary processes from some sort of wish list. Adopt the parts that will be of value to help you achieve your goals.

For example, if you wanted to reduce the number of service outages then you might adopt the ITIL Problem Management process. If you wanted to reduce the time it takes to resolve outages then ITIL Incident Management might be of benefit.

“For the best results, only adopt the parts of ITIL that will be of value to you.”

Adapt. A major strength of ITIL is that it is inclusive, and applies to all types and sizes of IT organisation. However in order for ITIL to be effective in any single organisation you need to take what it offers and then adapt this to your particular situation.

Many IT organisations fail to do this. They view ITIL as prescriptive and as a result things often get worse instead of better. Don’t be afraid to adapt what ITIL offers for your particular organisation. After all, you – and not ITIL – are the expert on your organisation.

It’s clear that using ITIL can help transform the performance of any IT service provider. To get the most benefit from the system, focus on your objectives, remember to implement change management and always adopt only the parts of ITIL that you need – adapting them to your organisation.

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