ITIL Dinner Conversation: “Please Pass the Whine”

You can’t force ITIL® and ITSM, you have to get buy-in for it to really work

I was at a dinner party a few weeks ago where someone asked me if my company “did ITIL®”. I said we helped companies with IT service management (ITSM) and that ITIL® was one of the many methods we used.

My fellow guest then went on to complain about how their company was organizing along ITIL® and that ITIL® was being forced down their throats and that anyone who didn’t get on board with ITIL® should look for another job.

ITIL was definitely a four-letter word to this person.

I politely listened while sipping my wine (and listening to my companion whine) and thinking to myself that this was a classic case study in organizational change management and an example of why so many ITSM initiatives fail. We eventually changed topics and went on to enjoy an ITIL® free dinner.

I was reminded of the conversation a few days later when I saw a “tweet” from David Ratcliffe of Pink Elephant on how IT organizations shouldn’t take on a whole new structure based on ITIL® process names. I couldn’t agree with him more. The topic of “organizing along ITIL®” came up once again while reviewing some findings from an assessment one of my consultants was conducting.

So why is it that so many people are drawn to organizing along ITIL®?

ITIL® is a best practice framework and by its very nature devoid of anything specific to your organization or to the service management tools you are using. It’s pretty high-level guidance short on implementation specifics.

I believe that people attempt to organize along ITIL® precisely because of that lack of organizational or implementation specifics. They know they have to take some sort of action so they do what organizations seem to do best — they re-organize!

Let’s take a look at my dinner companions ITIL®-fueled venting session. I can definitely see a few warning signs as to why their program may fail.

iStock_000001730605MediumYou can’t organize along process names.

Processes across many functions and span most departments. Take Change Management as an example. A single change can start with the business, be assessed by local management, approved by a business/technical CAB, implemented by a technician and validated by the business. So where should change management live? ITIL® is a tool that should be over laid onto your existing organization, not replace it

You can’t force ITIL® down someone’s throat, especially if it’s devoid of specific implementation guidance.

To make people accountable, you must give them very specific goals and objectives and guidance on how to achieve those goals. The more specific the better. That leaves less room for interpretation and more focus on execution

Organizational change should not be driven by threats.

All that will do is make people defensive and fearful, which is an impediment to ITSM. People are best motivated when you give them the tools to do the job and explain why it’s of value to them, the company and the end customer. Then get out of the way and let them do their jobs

There is one area where I believe an IT organization, especially a large one, should place some organizational focus. There needs to be a group that acts as the “glue” for an ITSM initiative. A group focused on assisting all the other departments and functions with the practice of service management. Call it a Service Management Office, an Action Team, a Program Office, the name doesn’t really matter.

Their function is to:

  • Set standards for process design and documentation;
  • Lead ITSM tool selection, standardization, and integration;
  • Defining functional specifications for tool implementation;
  • Developing metrics and reporting;
  • Leading continual service improvement efforts;
  • Assist the business with the development of processes and procedures;
  • and governing the processes and taking corrective action where required.

Every organization already has people performing all or part of these roles (most likely duplicating these roles). By bringing them together into a single service management team you stand a much better chance of making ITSM a well-entrenched practice within your company. That is where the real value lies.

David Mainville

David Mainville


David Mainville, CEO and co-founder of Navvia, is a passionate advocate of Service Management and a frequent presenter, blogger and well known member of the ITSM community. With over 35 years of experience, David has held progressively senior technical and management roles allowing him to "connect the dots" between the Business and IT. At Navvia, David leads the charge to bring innovative ITSM solutions to market focusing on Product Development, Marketing and Operations.


• Posted by David Mainville on Nov 07, 2012
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