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Creating an Actionable ITSM Roadmap

It all starts with the 'Where', writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Robert Simmons of Forsythe.
May 13, 2008

Bob Simmons

The most common questions relating to implementation of ITIL-based IT service management initiatives tend to be: “Where do we start?" "Where would we like to be?" "How do we get there?" and "How do we know when we've arrived?” This is understandable, especially considering that the ITIL v3 library now contains 20+ processes spanning the five phases of the service lifecycle.

Organizations can quickly become overwhelmed by the task of coming to an understanding of ITIL concepts and how to implement them, let alone having the best and most efficient approach toward planning and managing a successful IT Service Management program. All too often, well-intended ITIL initiatives fall short of expectations due to skipping over initial assessment of the current organization's services, processes, people and tools. Basically, someone forgot to ask the all-important question, "Where are we now?" Only through such an assessment can critical gaps be identified and a roadmap can be developed to address those gaps in a logical and tactical manner.

Where are we now?

This is where every ITIL endeavor should begin. After all, when you plan a road trip with a particular destination in mind, not knowing your current location presents a bit of a challenge. So, the first step is to choose those areas upon which you wish to improve and then perform a thorough assessment of your current organization's capabilities within those areas.

At a minimum, the assessment should evaluate your Incident, Problem, Change, Release and Configuration Management processes as these are the most critical service transition and service operation disciplines. Ideally, the assessment should also evaluate Service Level, Availability, Capacity, IT Service Continuity and Financial Management processes to have a more complete picture of the organization's overall level of maturity.

In order to perform the assessment internally, you will need the resources and skill-sets for conducting a thorough assessment. Look for people that are impartial and ensure they use a proven assessment methodology. Assessment and development of the roadmap will typically take six-to-eight weeks depending on the size of the organization, the scope of the evaluation and the practical experience of the resources conducting the assessment.

Numerous interviews with key IT personnel, as well as a review of all pertinent documentation and toolsets are vital in order to gather and assimilate key findings. The evaluation should include a set of predetermined questions aimed at assessing specific aspects of the organization’s services, processes, people and tools. A maturity scale such as CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) can be employed to help answer and rate the questions objectively.

The final results, including both the averaged assessment area ratings and the key findings, will begin to identify where gaps between current practice and best practice exist. Prior to implementing ITIL or similar disciplines, most organizations will rank anywhere from CMMI maturity level 0 (Incomplete) to maturity level 2 (Managed). Incident and Change Management tend to be the most mature. It is not uncommon for Configuration Management and Service Level Management to be non-existent.

Where do we start?

Based upon the gaps highlighted by the assessment, dive deeper into those areas causing the most pain in terms of quality, efficiency, cost and customer satisfaction. In many cases, there will be cultural, procedural and/or technological implications that, if not considered, can impede any effort to mitigate gaps. With all of the supporting detail, thoroughly document the gaps as well as what the impacts to the organization and business will be if the gaps are not addressed. Determine the criticality of each gap to help prioritize which ones should be addressed first.

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