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Starting with Change

On the ITIL journey to IT service excellence, many are taking the alternate route, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Brian Johnson of CA.
Apr 4, 2007

Brian Johnson

An ITIL journey toward IT service excellence often starts as an assessment exercise that identifies multiple ITIL processes as starting points. Yet any organization attempting to implement all the ITIL processes concurrently will quickly find that such an approach is impractical.

Organizations that have chosen to improve IT service management using ITIL guidance typically embark on their ITIL journey with just one or two processes.

Traditionally, many IT departments have chosen to start with Incident Management because its focus is to quickly restore IT services when they go down or incidents occur. But recently there has been a shift in where organizations start their ITIL implementation. Many organizations are beginning with Change Management as a means to show greater business value and justify their ITIL investment.

Incident Management processes are reactive in nature and deliver quick workarounds or fixes to reduce the business impact of incidents through timely resolution and improve productivity and user satisfaction. Organizations are realizing, however, the value Incident Management processes deliver is not enough to justify an organization’s investment in ITIL.

While Incident Management is a requirement and a must-have for IT service excellence, as an ITIL-proving point it may not deliver the IT value and business alignment many organizations need to see today.

Starting with Change Management

As more companies strive to align IT with the business goals and objectives and show quantifiable business value, change management has surfaced as the ITIL guidance that will help proactively manage change, prevent incidents and ensure continuous business operations.

Change management shows that IT recognizes the importance of a proactive and offensive posture when it comes to supporting the business goals and objectives.

Most IT incidents affecting business operations are often related to a change. If change cannot be reliably managed, the IT department is continually reacting with those quick-fixes instead of proactively managing IT to the business goals.

If incidents related to changes are not brought under control, IT and the business itself can spiral out of control. IT becomes locked in a never-ending, reactive cycle where the number of incidents increases and reacting to them leads to more incidents.

ITIL Change Management aims to break that cycle by acting as the control between flexibility (facilitating changes) and stability (controlling long-term problems). Change Management helps reduce the number of incidents and IT becomes predisposed towards driving innovation and improvements.

In addition to the desire to show the value of ITIL and the alignment of IT with business goals and objectives, technology advances and the evolution of the configuration management database (CMDB) have driven the move to Change Management.

The CMDB provides flexibility in the way IT manages change. Configuration Management can move beyond basic IT asset inventories to automated identification and definition of configuration items, relationships and dependencies. This provides the necessary level of insight for impact assessments and it helps prevent and manage unauthorized changes.

While there is no definitive or “correct” starting point for ITIL, CA has seen more organizations starting with Change Management as they take a more business level view of IT and leverage technology improvements in the market today.

Organizations can certainly succeed with ITIL by starting at any other process, but if an organization wants to show strong ITIL value and proactively engage in ways to keep IT incidents at a minimum and support business goals and objectives.

Brian Johnson is one of the original authors of the first ITIL books and an ITIL worldwide practice manager for CA. He has authored more than 15 books on ITIL or related topics and is the founder of itSMF, a professional organization focused on IT service management and ITIL.

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