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ITIL Implementation Tips
By Rex Gibson

In just 20 years ITIL has come to guide the IT service management practices which underpin the performance of successful organisations worldwide. Not surprisingly those organisations which have not adopted ITIL are looking to do so – and those that have are looking to extend or enhance their ITIL processes. This article looks at what determines whether an ITIL project succeeds or fails.

The experiences of more than 10 organisations were presented at the 2008 itSMF Conference in Birmingham. The projects ranged from application of specific ITIL tools such as Service Catalogue through to trans European ITIL adoption by a major financial institution with the goal of achieving ISO/IEC 20000.

1. Start Right

First and foremost understand where you are now and develop a vision of where you want to be. Use customer surveys and ITIL maturity assessments to objectively define gaps. Develop a vision which is meaningful for your organisation and which can be clearly articulated and communicated. Refer to the “Continual Service Improvement” element of ITIL; this is precisely where the alignment of IT Services and Business Needs should take place.

2. Organisational Change

Recognise that adopting ITIL is as much about organisational change as it is about processes and technology. This is not surprising; IT services are increasingly at the heart of how organisations deliver to their external customers – and are also central to how organisations themselves operate. ITIL projects which are simply based on mechanistic adoption of new processes or software systems will have limited impact. Real success comes when ITIL touches hearts and minds – both within and beyond the IT community.

3. Engagement

Organisational change demands engagement. You have to look beyond the ITIL core reference manuals for creative ways to win support and commitment. Effective communication is essential. Engagement also applies to external providers. When analysing, communicating and driving change make sure that third party providers and advisors are also involved.

4. Share

A theme of successful ITIL adoption is an increased willingness to share. A structured approach to IT services means less duplication of services and roles. It means use of a common language. It means working to meet wider organisational goals.

5. Right People

Your project will fail if you do not have the right skills and right experience in the right place. All of the projects reviewed involved redeployment and training of those involved. One pushed IT personnel out amongst the operational teams to break down barriers and improve response. Most involved the appointment of owners for all key ITIL processes affected. All used ITIL training to ensure a common language and understanding of best practice.

6. Momentum

There is a natural cycle to most initiatives where early enthusiasm fades once the easier wins have been banked, more intractable tasks loom, and other competing projects appear. There is no easy answer. Do publicise successes unashamedly. Do ensure there is a senior management champion who can maintain project profile. Try to avoid breaks in the implementation programme.

7. Project Management

Project Management goes hand in hand with most of the rest of these tips and failure to take a structured approach to ITIL implementation is inexcusable.

The approach you adopt may be PRINCE2 or your own equivalent. The key point is that there is a clear definition of business case, responsibilities, resourcing, work plans, stage reviews, risk, and escalation procedures.

8. Business Relevant Results

Some of the projects examined put a strong reliance on ITIL maturity assessments. These can undoubtedly be helpful but only in conjunction with before and after measurement of criteria which have real impact on the business. These will include activity specific measures such as Service Desk rate of first time fix, and customer rating of satisfaction with IT.

9. Best is the Enemy of Better

For those new to ITIL there is a temptation to want to adopt every process in the book. In the real world, resources are limited and there will be a better return in some areas than in others. Those nearer the start of an ITIL journey are typically starting with Service Desk and processes such as Incident, Problem and Change Management. Also increasing in popularity is creation of a Service Catalogue as part of the task of “understanding what we’ve got”.

10. Business As Usual

Look beyond the project. In several of our ITIL implementation projects care was given early in the project as to how improved service provision would be carried forward into BAU. This is an unglamorous part of the work and one which is often ignored. Improved service levels and efficiencies start to decay once the energy associated with the project is withdrawn.

Focus on Training specialises in provision of Best Practice training within the Project Management and IT Service Management sectors. A comprehensive range of ITIL, ISO/IEC20000 and related courses from leading accredited training organisations can be booked at

Additional information on what causes ITIL projects to succeed or fail can be found at

Rex Gibson leads the IT Service Management team at Focus. He has successfully executed major business change and IT projects, and has managed international engineering companies with significant IT dependency. Rex can be contacted at

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