ITIL, the IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework, is now in many ways bigger than its “master” — IT service management. From its origins in the UK government, its use has grown rapidly in the last decade and ITIL continues to dominate corporate thinking in IT operations, IT support, and IT service delivery best practice.

There are many potential benefits from ITIL adoption, particularly around productivity, service quality, business reputation, and cost savings. However, ITIL is fraught with adoption challenges that could be prevented or at least minimized through better planning and execution.

The key ITIL adoption challenges and pitfalls (at a very, very high level)

  • Focusing too much on the reactive elements of ITIL and ITSM (for some, however, this might be enough).
  • Overstating ITIL and ITSM adoption levels – “We do ITIL.”
  • Overstating ITIL and ITSM maturity – where IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations often think that they are more advanced than they actually are – “We have a super-duper service catalog.”
  • Not focusing on the customer and business outcomes.
  • Lacking momentum post technology implementation project.
  • Noticeable dissatisfaction with traditional service desk tools.

With people-related challenges to be found in most if not all of the above.

Want more detail on the challenges?

These are explored in greater detail in the Forrester report from which this high-level extract is taken:

If you don’t have access to Forrester’s online content (it's behind the pay wall), more information on the above (albeit in a more disjointed fashion) can be found in previous Forrester blogs:

So what are the 5 steps to help with successful ITIL adoption?

Despite these challenges, I&O executives and their teams can significantly improve the probability of success when adopting ITIL and reduce the pain of what is ultimately a considerable organizational and cultural change. The trick is to ensure that sufficient planning leads to optimal adoption, not just in the short term, for example, selecting and implementing a service desk tool, but also in the longer-term through an ITSM maturity vision, phased adoption, and support for continued improvement.

Whether you’re embarking on a greenfield ITIL adoption or wanting to improve the IT support and IT service delivery of your existing ITSM operations, Forrester recommends that I&O executives and their teams get started by following these five steps:

  • Step No. 1: Understand what ITIL is all about, especially the importance of people.
  • Step No. 2: Be realistic about existing ITSM process maturity and improve them gradually.
  • Step No. 3: Evaluate technology only after you’ve addressed goals, people, and processes.
  • Step No. 4: Get the initial planning right, but also plan beyond the “technology project.”
  • Step No. 5: Regularly communicate ITIL’s value and involve the IT and non-IT stakeholder.

Finally, also consider how ITIL and enabling technologies can be used outside of IT. Think about how the processes and technology can be leveraged by other business functions such as facilities management, complaint management, or people management. Think about it early even if you don’t plan to do anything about it for a while.

The Forrester report from which the above text has been extracted and edited down, is aimed at helping I&O professionals plan for ITIL adoption success by understanding what commonly goes wrong and by employing recognized good practices to mitigate these risks.

Finally, … Yes, this is a thinly-disguised but infrequent plug for the work that pays my wages. I would, however, still love to hear your thoughts, comments, and ideas.

Update: the 5 steps are now covered in more detail in a article.



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