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How to Ensure a Successful ITIL Implementation - Part II

Participation. Agreement. Metrics. Checks and Balances.
Aug 25, 2006

Drew Robb

In the first article, we discussed ITIL success factors such as how IT and senior executives can best work together, how IT can more clearly understand and align with business strategy, and how business executives can be made to support the ITIL plan.

In Part II, we investigate how to increase participation, what it takes to gain agreement on the many factors involved in project success, the most optimum arrangement of resources, and the best checks and balances to build in.

Fred Broussard, an analyst with IDC stresses the importance of communication in getting everyone to participate. He related a couple of anecdotes to highlight this point. One concerned a federal agency involved in a major software update that required testing and development on a live system. Instead of keeping it a secret, users were told about the testing and to let IT know of any problems.

“They really appreciated it, and they trusted us more as a result,” said Broussard. “The alternative – building a development site on a separate IBM mainframe – would have been very expensive.”

On the negative side of the ledger, Broussard tells of a midsized organization’s CRM rollout. IT decided to focus on satisfying the needs of sales staff and then later expand the system to include customer support staff.

IT, however, failed to appreciate that a major portion of customer contact came via email and the CRM system didn’t function well with email. Yet all that was needed was a simple one-button click to have an email stored as a record in the CRM system.

“IT didn’t really talk to the customer support people and ended up with a decent tool for sales that customer support doesn’t have much use for,” said Broussard.

The takeaway? Everyone involved has to be consulted and also attend meetings so they know what is planned and what others are thinking. This, said Broussard, is the best way to establish commitment.

Deadlines & Commitments

While communication is the starting point and the carrier wave of project success, it has to be augmented by a multitude of other factors.

“Fully implementing the ten, core service delivery and service support processes that ITIL describes is a journey that will take several years in most cases,” said Ed Holub, an analyst with Gartner. “Therefore, it is important to prioritize what will add the most value and also address current pain points.”

The majority of clients, he said, pick a few processes to start working on, with change, incident, and problem management being the most common. Companies that limit their ITIL rollouts in this way and treat it as a formal project or even a program consisting of multiple projects tend to be more successful in adhering to timelines, budgets, etc.

Those who fail, often bite off too much change at once bogging down their efforts. The error is then compounded due to the resulting loss of executive support and a greater level of skepticism from the front-line IT technical staff.

Getting In & Getting Out

Many companies take they think is the easy route by assigning a part-timer staff to their ITIL projects. While this makes it simpler to get started, it makes it harder to adhere to deadlines and it can be a long while before observable benefits are apparent. Full-time resources, ideally, are the way to go.

“Selecting people from various infrastructure and operations teams to work full time on ITIL efforts is the less common approach, but generally delivers higher quality results in a shorter timeframe,” said Holub.

Personnel selection, though, can be a major point of contention. Resources you thought were available suddenly are sent elsewhere.

“To avoid potential conflicts during implementation, resources should be identified as part of the business plan and agreed upon by all,” said Ron Potter, manager of best practices at TeamQuest Corp. of Clear Lake, Iowa. “Any changes need to be driven through the change process by the project manager and agreed upon by all parties concerned.”

He cautioned, however, that day-to-day business processes need to be maintained. Thus flexibility must be built into the plan to account for a reasonable number of unforeseen events.

Brian Johnson, ITIL practice manager at CA, said even the best laid plans can be sidetracked especially if resources are cut or redeployed, or priorities change. Thus an exit strategy must be built in during the planning stages.

“Planning should include some identifiable targets to scrub the project if things go wrong,” said Johnson. “The best defense is a well constructed project plan with regular updates and an exit strategy (with the projected impact on the business) should resources suddenly dry up.”

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