Five Challenges To ITIL Best Practices Adoption
ITIL is gaining momentum in the United States as the standard for best practices in IT Service Management. However, organizations looking to implement the IT Infrastructure Library often encounter a few road blocks as they transition from their old methodologies and standards. This white paper reviews five challenges often encountered by organizations adopting ITIL.
The best practices described by Version Three of the IT Infrastructure LibraryT (ITIL®) represent a de facto standard for IT Service Management and have become very popular in technology organizations over the last several years. The primary benefits promised by following ITIL best practices include better alignment of IT and the business, more consistent delivery of IT in support of business objectives, and reduced cost and errors. What ITIL proposes is, in fact, beautifully simple.
Although at its core it is very basic, ITIL does not come without complexity in many areas. Organizations face numerous challenges when adopting ITIL best practices that can lead to increased complexity. Failure to control this complexity leads to increased cost and longer implementation time lines. Some of these challenges include:
Lack of executive commitment
Choosing an ineffective starting point
This paper will explore each of these challenges, provide real-world examples of each, and present realistic methods for overcoming these challenges.
Challenge One - Lack of Executive Commitment
Lack of executive commitment is often cited as a leading cause of project failure. In terms of adopting ITIL best practices, executive commitment is important because without it, nothing tends to happen.
Executive commitment comes in many forms. Most often we think about executive commitment in terms of resources that are allocated to an activity, such as time and money. In terms of adoption of ITIL best practices, especially on a large scale, effective executive commitment takes on a different meaning.
ITIL adoptions tend to require sweeping cultural changes to an organization. Because of this, successful ITIL adoptions tend to involve executives who understand this and are committed to making the ITIL implementation happen, beyond simply allocating time and money. As with many things, simply throwing time and money at an ITIL adoption will not ensure success.
The most effective ITIL adoptions tend to be led by executives who understand that it takes more than time and money; rather, effective ITIL adoptions tend to heavily stress the need to communicate several important things throughout all levels of the organization. These are:
What is ITIL?
Why are we doing it?
What benefit do we expect?
How will this help the business?
These questions are simple and easy to answer. Executives who answer these questions repeatedly and at all levels of the organization tend to benefit from ITIL adoptions and are more likely to achieve their stated goals.
There are several techniques to ensure executive commitment is demonstrated and maintained.
First, ITIL adoptions should be properly staffed and funded. Without people in place who are talented, skilled, creative, and effective, very little will be achieved. Without some amount of initial funding, it is difficult to initially get ITIL adoptions of the ground.
Second, executives must consider the four questions above and what they mean to the organization. Executives should not necessarily give a textbook answer to the question, "What is ITIL?" Rather, the answer to that question should reveal what ITIL is in terms of the target organization. Executives should also be honest about why they are doing ITIL. The benefits that are expected should be thought about and described realistically. For example, is the organization trying to reduce the amount of business disruption caused by change? If so, the disruption caused by change should be realistically measured and stated, and goals should be set in terms of achievable targets. Finally, executives must consider how what they are doing will ultimately help the business to achieve its objectives.
Third, all this must be effectively communicated throughout all levels of the organization, using multiple methods of communication. For example, an organization might choose to communicate about its ITIL adoption activities through an e-mail campaign, as well as a regular set of meetings highlighting specific, important topics. Organizations that are successful at an ITIL adoption tend to communicate what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how it will help. There are several techniques that can be used here, and generally, successful organizations will find that they must employ various techniques to ensure effective communication. Some of the techniques available include regular meetings to discuss goals and progress, effective "advertisement" of the project and its goals, and even specific, one-on-one sessions to clarify ITIL adoption goals and benefits. The key thing to remember here is that all levels of the organization communicate in different ways, and it is up to the executives to find out the most effective and efficient mode of communicate for any particular target audience.