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Developing Actionable ITIL Processes

Mar 5, 2009

Mike Tainter,Kristy Smith


Fostering Actionable Processes

Ensuring that ITIL processes are actionable is a challenge that goes beyond process development and documentation. The organization must recognize that a cultural transformation is required to foster acceptance of ITIL and to anchor new behaviors. In addition, a measurement strategy must be employed to track results of the ITIL implementation, to determine levels of adoption, and to promote continual improvement.

An ITIL initiative, like any change initiative, can potentially fall victim to the "dead salmon" syndrome: salmon swim upstream against the flow, lay their eggs and, ultimately, end up dead in the water. An ITIL initiative that is constantly swimming upstream against the cultural flow will likely meet a similar fate.

In his book Leading Change, John Kotter discusses an "eight stage process of creating major change" to effectively lead an organization through cultural transformation. The eight stages are:

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency
  2. Creating the guiding coalition

  3. Developing a vision and strategy

  4. Communicating the change vision

  5. Empowering broad-based action

  6. Generating short-term wins

  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change

  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

According to Kotter, stages 1 through 4 of the transformation process help break the status quo. Stages 5 to 7 introduce new practices. And stage 8 grounds the changes in the culture to help them stick.

The pressure to produce quick results often leads to a desire to skip stages or to execute them out of order. Don't be a dead salmon. It is important that all eight stages are followed sequentially. To curtail the desire of individuals to work against the impending change, and to actually nurture enthusiastic support, follow best practices for creating successful change before going down the road of ITIL implementation. Establish a steering committee, form a good foundation of management support, and communicate the vision before proceeding to introduce process and procedural change to the organization.

Change Through Measurement

An essential part of any ITIL implementation is to monitor technical and business results—such as process performance, quality, customer satisfaction, and levels of compliance—utilizing rationalized metrics, reports and auditing. Determine and baseline a set of critical success factors (CSF) with supporting key performance indicators (KPI) and operating metrics (OM). Determine a reporting strategy and schedule. These will be utilized by the steering committee, process owners and managers to measure process conformance, quality and performance.

Keep in mind that it is not reasonable to expect that process will be followed without proper inspection for conformance and performance. You can't expect what you don’t inspect.

Just as important is to measure cultural adoption of ITIL by surveying and interviewing IT staff to learn their attitudes. Are they realizing practical benefits as a result of the ITIL initiative, and does it seem worth the effort so far? Do they have an idea to contribute, or do they want clarification of an issue? This is crucial to making processes actionable and to ensure continual process improvement.

Mike Tainter, Forsythe’s ITSM practice director, has been managing technology and large-scale IT projects for more than 20 years, including IT service management, ITIL,operations management, process design, IT operations support system development, and IT logistical requirements. Tainter holds the Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management and the Manager's Certificate in IT Service Management.

Kristy Smith, ITSM associate consultant at Forsythe, has an extensive background in accounting as well as more than 10 years of IT experience including experience managing IT service management and ITIL implementations and developing ITSM methodologies. Smith holds the Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management.