Over 70 per cent of firms that have implemented ITIL report achieving positive results from the project, according to a survey conducted by Forrester Research.
Industry experts agree, however, that despite the positive outcomes, ITIL implementations could still face failure if undertaken without proper planning.
IDC research manager Stephen Elliot says a strong leadership team is vital to the success of any ITIL project implementation, driving the notion and benefits of change across the organization.
“Most people are willing to [undertake the change] but there must be strong leadership (because) people need a lot more incentive to realize that their job may be changing and the process that they are a part of may be changing,” says Elliot.
Andy Mitchell, senior service management consultant at Toronto-based Quint Wellington Redwood, a global consulting and education firm, has identified six pitfalls to avoid when implementing ITIL processes:
1. Failing to secure senior management buy-in. Mitchell says there is a direct relationship between the chance of success of an ITIL adoption project and the level of buy-in among senior executives. “The help desk manager may be the biggest advocate of the ITIL implementation, but he shouldn’t be sponsoring the project,” says Mitchell. A senior executive sponsor provides the authority to make the necessary process and organizational changes associated with the ITIL adoption.
2. Underestimating the cultural impact of adopting ITIL. Most IT organizations consist of a combination of applications, infrastructure and departments “that have grown up around managing technologies instead of business processes,” says Mitchell. Designing a service improvement program means changing long-established reporting structures, job descriptions, performance metrics and rewards programs, he says.
3. Failing to establish a balanced approach among processes, people and products. These three factors must be looked at in tandem when designing service improvement, says Mitchell. “Purchasing new products and tools doesn’t automatically change the way people work,” he adds.
4. Setting unrealistic expectations. One reality Mitchell emphasizes is that ITIL adoption is a long-term strategy and that it could take up to five years to realize its full potential. The more successful strategy would be focusing on organizational “points of pain” and fighting one battle at a time, he says. “ITIL adoption is a major paradigm shift that cannot happen overnight.”
5. Rigidly adhering to IT controls. Implementing process changes can be aided by relaxing the control aspect, suggests Mitchell. IT managers need to ensure that fundamental controls don’t hinder or slow down the introduction of a complex change management environment. “If IT processes are increasing in complexity, then the fundamental process design must be re-examined,” Mitchell points out.
6. Believing that ITIL will solve everything. The processes embodied in ITIL are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Mitchell, and are not the cure to all of an IT organization’s ills. The value of ITIL is its ability to complement other IT controls, best practices and frameworks, says Mitchell.