How do I implement ITIL? And is that even the right question?

May 23, 2016

How do I implement ITIL?

A short while ago, I wrote a blog to answer a common question we get from our customers – “how do I become an ITIL consultant?”  In it, I make the case that there is actually no such role and the question itself isn’t the right question to ask.

There’s another common question we are often asked which has a similarly vague answer.  The question is “how do I implement ITIL?”.  If someone asks this on a forum like LinkedIn, they often receive a barrage of responses telling them that it’s impossible to implement ITIL, which doesn’t give them much practical help.

I’m going to outline my answer to this question here.  I hope you find it valuable, and I’d love to hear your view – either in the comments or via our contact form.

Claire Agutter

how do I implement ITIL?What’s wrong with this question?

When someone asks for help ‘implementing ITIL’, they are often told that ITIL can’t be implemented, which isn’t the answer they are looking for at all.

People working in IT service management are wary of this question for a number of different reasons, including:

  • They worry that the person asking the question is going to try and implement ITIL in its entirety, which is not recommended and can lead to a poor end result.  ITIL is meant to provide guidance for organisations to adapt to meet their needs, not be a checklist that is implemented all at once.  You can imagine the impact of implementing 20+ processes in a short space of time!
  • They worry the person asking the question is focused on ITIL itself, rather than the outcome or business value it creates.  ITIL is a means to end, for example we implement change management to protect the business from the disruption of failed changes and to make new features available more quickly.   When someone talks about implementing ITIL, it sounds like they value the tool more than the job it does.  As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Seasoned IT service management practitioners identify business improvements or issues and use a range of tools to take action, including ITIL, COBIT, BRM, DevOps and more.

10 steps to ITIL success

From my own perspective, this question also sometimes worries me because the person asking it is underestimating the scope of work that is needed.  ITIL’s scope includes people, processes, technology and partners, so there isn't a quick checklist that will make everything work.  No one can sell you a one-page checklist to implement ITIL – and be very wary of anyone who pretends they can.

Any organisation looking to adopt some elements of ITIL needs to remember that it’s an organisational change, and manage it accordingly.  You will find a lot more information about this in the Service Transition training course.  You could also look at purchasing the book Balanced Diversity: A Portfolio Approach to Organisational Change by ITSM Zone mentor Karen Ferris, or our 'Implementing IT Service Management' training course.  This course outlines a structured, timed approach to service management implementation, and is written by ITIL author Randy Steinberg.

So what is the right question?

I don’t like to see people who are new to the industry put off or bullied because they phrased a question incorrectly.  The service management community in general is very helpful, and you can learn from other people’s experience.  Our mentors here at ITSM Zone, for example, are available to help you get started after taking any of our training courses.

If you’ve been thinking about adopting ITIL, I would suggest as a minimum you:

  • Identify the problem or improvement you are trying to address
  • Identify what will need to change in order to realise your goal (gap analysis)
  • Plan for those changes, including the impact on stakeholders
  • Understand how you will measure the success or failure of your changes

The Continual Service Improvement course contains much more detail on making these types of change.

Let’s get Agile

Finally, it’s worth mentioning an emerging area of IT service management – Agile service management.  This looks at implementing processes in an agile, iterative and incremental way, allowing for feedback and reducing the risk of change overload.

If you’ve already got some ITIL knowledge, Agile service management can give you some tools to start delivering value by making effective changes.

The Certified Agile Service Manager course is a great starting point for anyone looking to implement or improve processes.

Good luck in your service management initiatives!

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