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Selling ITIL to Senior Management

You're a technology executive who's sold on the potential benefits of the IT Infrastructure Library. How do you persuade the rest of the organization to go along?
Jun 25, 2003

Bob Violino

You're a technology executive who's sold on the potential benefits of IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), the set of best practices standards for IT service management that covers functions including service support and delivery, software, and computer operations. Now how to get the rest of the organization to go along?

Selling ITIL to senior management and the company as a whole isn't difficult if you're well prepared, experts say. The first step is knowing that the organization is ready for it. Senior business executives must be aware of the need for and importance of high-quality services.

"The single biggest indicator is if there is a clear directive from the leadership team that best practices [are needed to achieve] the ultimate goal of improving business and IT alignment," says Gerry Geddes, director of strategic programs at Pink Elephant, a Burlington, Ont., firm that advices companies on how to derive business value from IT. "If you don't have the management team on board you must have at least someone on the senior executive team willing to convince the CIO or his direct report that this is an effective way to achieve desired business results."

Characteristics of companies that need ITIL include a lack of control over how services are being delivered and an inability to measure quality levels, says Valerie Arraj, solution architect at InteQ Corp. in Bedford, Mass., a provider of service management solutions and consulting.

"If you can't measure how well you're performing you know there's a need for ITIL," Arraj says.

Another sign is if "IT staff is spending lots of time fixing problems, rather than working on strategic projects," Arraj says.

To sell ITIL in the organization, proponents must communicate the benefits in terms everyone will understand. Many of the potential benefits-more efficient use of IT resources, elimination of redundant work, enhanced projects, greater reliability and availability of IT services-will apply to many facets of the business. ITIL leaders need to educate managers about how these benefits will apply to the organization, how they will be measured, and the downside of not using best practices in managing IT services.

"You have explain how ITIL will solve business problems and directly contribute to revenue and margins," says Geddes.

Educating upper management includes describing the strategic, tactical, and operational benefits of ITIL in broad business terms. Executives must be shown how ITlL can help the organization deliver IT products and services at an optimum rate and at justifiable costs.

"We suggest that senior executives look on the Internet for ITIL sources, read the white papers, and attend conferences where ITIL is discussed," Geddes says. "They should listen to people who've actually done it and benefited from it."

Include Skeptics in the Process

It's particularly important to include nay-sayers in the decision-making process, Geddes says.

"ITIL won't work unless everyone who's a director or department head is on board," he says. "The best way is to show them the benefits of ITIL. If you don't include them, they will have an opportunity to not contribute. They've got to see what's in it for them."

Once senior executives have bought in, ITIL leaders must develop a rollout plan and establish ways to measure success. This includes building project teams, setting milestones, assessing costs, and determining and implementing best practices.

Companies can employ various metrics to determine the effectiveness of ITIL. These include measuring levels of network uptime and availability, the ability to rapidly bring systems back after an outage, the time it takes to make repairs, the cost savings achieved, and the number of customer complaints.

Gene Kim, chief technology officer at Tripwire Inc., a Portland, Ore., provider of software that ensures the availability of network devices, says another measure is the number of unique configurations of deployment. An organization should have "an increasing level of configurations with an increasing ability to manage those configurations," Kim says.

Geddes recommends measures such as improvements in operational levels; process control measures such as cycle time; improvements in customer relationships; and financial metrics such as return on equity and revenue. He notes that for ITIL to be successful, however, it must have the blessing of the people who will implement it.

"At the end of the day, regardless of how good your processes and technologies are, this is all about people and cultural change," he says. ITIL can "change the way people work and encourage a culture of collaboration. This is very important for success."