5 Steps to Successful ITIL Adoption

Despite its rapid adoption in recent years, ITIL is fraught with adoption challenges that could be prevented, or at least minimized. The trick is to ensure that sufficient planning leads to optimal adoption. Forrester recommends getting started with these five steps.

By Stephen Mann
Wed, February 15, 2012

CIO — ITIL, the IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework, has come on in leaps and bounds since it was first introduced due to theUK government's disillusionment with the way that governmental IT was delivered in the latter half of the 1980s. Now the de facto standard for ITSM, there is no doubt that ITIL can benefit IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations. In a recent survey of 491 members of the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) USA, Forrester found that ITIL beneficially improved service productivity (85%), quality (83%), business reputation (65%), and occasionally cost savings (41%).

With that said, Forrester urges I&O executives and their teams to proceed with caution. Despite its rapid adoption in recent years, ITIL is fraught with adoption challenges that could be prevented, or at least minimized. 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 1: Understand what ITIL is all about, especially the importance of people

First and foremost, clearly articulate the business value of ITIL by identifying key business priorities and pain points, and then position ITIL as a means to enabling and solving them. From there, find an executive sponsor and form a core ITSM team to justify, fund, communicate, and ultimately drive ITIL adoption.

Beyond executive sponsorship, "people" are critical to ITIL's success. But too often, Forrester finds that I&O executives invest more time and energy improving processes or selecting technologies compared to assessing, developing, and hiring the right people. A common issue is employing staff based on ITIL qualifications rather than experience, work ethic, and common sense. However, the reality is that the ITIL Foundation Certificate is not a particularly difficult exam to pass, so don't view people with it as a passport to ITIL adoption success. More important than the qualifications in many respects is having people with relevant experience, the right soft skills set, and a mindset geared for service and customer centricity.

Step 2: Be realistic about existing ITSM process maturity and improve it gradually

Whether you call it ITIL or not, you are likely "doing" a lot of ITIL already, given that common starting points are incident and change management, or change and configuration management. But don't overstate your level of maturity. For example, some may say they're doing problem management and decide to move on when in reality their process is completely reactive and not proactive. Likewise, Forrester often finds confusion between priority and maturity. The most severe consequence of this is that identified business priorities and pain points that could be solved by ITIL process improvement don't get addressed first. As a result, the time to value from your ITIL efforts are only extended and likely not appreciated.

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