ITIL: A Four-Letter Word?

By Dick Stark

ITIL is what happens when good ideas get absorbed by a bureaucracy and institutionalized and homogenized to a point where they are almost useless. Why is ITIL so obtuse that someone has to ask, “Is rebooting a production server considered a change?”  I saw on another board, ITIL as a formal entity runs a very significant risk of becoming yet another 4-letter word in the IT industry–tried it, it failed, we moved on. The ideas behind ITIL are still meritorious, however, just as the ideas behind the CMMI still have huge value.  IT needs to provide value and service to the company beyond simply helping them stay in business. The problem is, any improvement process like ITIL needs champions, sharp people, freedom to act, and long-term vision, all seriously lacking in modern business.

            -An anonymous email I received this past week.

Is ITIL a four-letter word?  While it is true that we have seen a drop in demand for ITIL foundation level training and ITIL based assessments, that is more of a function of tighter IT budgets and a commoditization of ITIL training.  For example, it is possible to find on-line ITIL training materials, and with some self-study, pass the ITIL exam in just a day or two. I believe that ITIL is only a four–letter word if allowed and that despite a slight slowdown, ITIL is as important as ever in returning value back to IT organizations. Here are several suggestions for moving forward with ITIL.

Implement ITIL along with an initial (or upgraded) software ITSM toolset such as Remedy or Remedyforce. Remember, ITIL is a framework, not a step by step instruction manual.  Included with most software toolsets are flowcharts, mapping ITIL modules such as Incident and Change Management to specific work instructions. While this may not cover specific details such as the time and date of your Change Advisory Board (CAB) Meetings, you can fill in these details in your own policy and procedure manual.

ITIL Foundation training does make a difference. While not all IT organizations have highly motivated people that will all self-ITIL certify, ITIL training does give everyone in the organization common nomenclature.  Most importantly, ITIL training provides employees the impetus and value behind good ITIL practices.  Based on RightStar’s ten years of experience with ITIL, we far prefer working with an ITIL savvy organization over one that is not.

Keep it simple. Michael Cizek, Gartner Research Director says that 90% of mid-market firms are at the Gartner ITSM maturity levels 1 and 2 only. This means that a fully integrated problem, incident, change, and configuration management ITIL roll-out would be overkill for the typical mid-market company.  Start with Incident and Change and go from there.

Management buy-in is essential for success. I agree with the anonymous emailer, “ITIL tends to be top-down due to scope, cost and staff allocations. Guerrilla, ground-up implementations of the core ideas can be successful. The hard part is getting the two efforts in place and meeting at the same point. That is where our efforts need to be addressed, because it is at that point that value to company becomes real.”

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About dick1stark

I am the President, CEO, and founder of RightStar Systems, a leading IT consultancy and BMC Software Solution Provider and Atlassian Expert Partner. My passion is customer success—whether it’s reducing the cost of service management, improving overall efficiency, or increasing end-user or employee satisfaction. Since founding RightStar in 2003, RightStar has made the INC 5000 list four times. In 2011, RightStar was awarded the prestigious National Capital Business Ethics Award (NCBEA) by the Society of Financial Service Professionals based upon RightStar’s foundation of honesty, ethics, and integrity. And in 2014, RightStar was selected by Forrester Research as one of 13 North American companies profiled in its ITSM Consultancy Wave Report. Finally, in 2016, BMC selected RightStar as its 2015 Supplier of the Year for its consulting partnership and excellence in service delivery. Dick is a graduate of Stanford University and a Project Management Professional (PMP).
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One Response to ITIL: A Four-Letter Word?

  1. Sherry Bevan says:

    I think what is positive about ITIL is that it IS a framework, not a step-by-step instruction manual, as you highlight. Such a valuable point that does get missed by some. For many of the law firms that I work with, full-blown ITIL rollout is very much overkill. However reviewing your processes and seeing where you can adopt and adapt best practice is always a good thing. The shared language and terminology is useful in an IT team. However don’t ITIL for ITIL’s sake – do it for the benefit of the business and the service to your users.

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