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Are People the Forgotten Part of ITIL?

When you start turning out leaders instead of managers, the improvements can be staggering, writes ITSMWatch columnist Peter Doherty of CA.
Jan 11, 2010

Peter Doherty

A cultural shift is taking place in IT departments―they are now being required to talk, measure, manage and deliver in terms of the business-service-consumed, not IT metrics. Customers are looking for a catalog of business services represented, in business terms, with choices relating to cost, service level, and quality of service commitments.

To accomplish this task, many IT organizations are turning to Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). However, turning to ITL without truly changing the organizational culture can lead to failure. They need to pay more attention to the “people” part of the people, process and technology elements found in ITIL guidelines.

If you don’t have engaged and motivated people executing your ITIL processes, or using the technology in support of those ITIL processes, then there is little chance of realizing the full benefit that you envisioned at the beginning of your ITIL initiative and ITSM program. To fix this situation, you must address three essential areas:

Communications, Learning & Leadership

If we use readily available techniques to increase our attention to these areas, we should see engagement increase―not only in the ITIL initiatives and the ITSM program―but across the IT organization. Many people ask me when to start a communications plan for an ITIL initiative. The answer is simple: if you want to be successful, you start it the day after you get the business case signed off on. One of the key tenets of ITIL is awareness, i.e., keeping people informed, so it pays to start right away.

The service management communications program needs to look at the key delivery points of the ITIL program and make sure that the messaging is consistent and reinforces the benefits to people. This will consist of general information and communications that is targeted to individuals based on their roles.

The communications can range from newsletters, tricks and information for doing things, roles and responsibilities, advertising training, specific benefits and projected metrics. Communicating operational metrics is a good way to keep advertising the benefits that ITIL is bringing to the organization, for example. The key message here is that communications need to have messages tailored to the individual. If you can achieve effective communication, you have a better chance of succeeding.

Techniques That Work

Some organizations think that publishing new processes on an intranet and offering a user guide are the only requirements for education. However, when people are not engaged, those programs will struggle for ROI. A service management learning program should look at the roles people will play and the skills (from a process and technology perspective) that are required to fulfill those roles. This is a similar concept to the ITIL v3 Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed (RACI) model for things like Change Management. Once we set up these matrices we can deliver very accurate, targeted levels of learning. We also want to develop internal ITIL champions to help spread the word.

There are a few tools and techniques that organizations can use to attend to the people part of ITIL and enhance the learning process:

Simulation Programs and Workshops -

  • Allow participants to design, execute and improve process and technology enablement in a controlled and safe environment.
  • Foster understanding of not only the “how” but also the “why” of each step of their service management processes.
  • Provide the opportunity for people to immerse themselves in ITIL and service management processes and look for continual improvements as they move from round to round of the workshop.

Webinars -

  • Allow for live broadcast of sessions including presentations and live technology feeds or recorded for later playback and review.
  • Provide an ability to tailor training for various service management roles and responsibilities.
  • Can be created and run from individual desktops to help people better understand the process.

ITIL-based use cases can be created to test whether a given tool is supporting the process as required. Keys for success include: demonstrating the key functions that most users will be required to perform and combining them with process modules to create a powerful learning tool for distribution prior to going live with an ITIL process. Ask users to take part in the user acceptance testing part of a program either formally by signing off on the Test Cases or informally by performing tasks in the test environment

Developing Leaders

A good ITSM leader makes sure the team understands the IT service management goals, the benefits in achieving those goals, and how the benefits affect everyone as a group and individually. One method typically used in business process improvement that works well for leading an ITIL implementation is Plan–Do–Check– Act.

Plan -

  • Develop shared goals and assign the activity around them by getting to know the team, who they are, and what drives them to succeed.
  • Create a formalized plan for communicating overall progress reports to their team and their business constituents.
  • Garner backing and buy-in from the CIO or other senior executives. Involve senior executives in project kick-off meetings to demonstrate leadership support.

Do -

  • Set the example and establish a culture where the senior executives follow the process like any other team member.

Check -

  • Establish a culture where the team can speak freely and challenge decisions and processes without repercussion.
  • Measure processes and compare results against expectations.

Act -

  • Make decisions and carry them out.

Once the team has planned, executed, examined and questioned and possible changes have been recommended, a leader must make the decision on whether or not to act upon the recommendations. This then starts the cycle over again.

Leaders also understand the importance of rewards and recognition beyond the formal review cycle and are sure to call out success in their team as it happens. The team executing the processes is in the best position to remove waste and inefficiencies. A leader will find ways to inspire the team to find these opportunities and will ensure team members are recognized and rewarded.

In review, the common theme here is that organizations develop a culture of actively coaching and mentoring their teams for IT service management success. If you put some effort into communications and learning, you will see great improvements in the motivation and engagement of your people and thus improvements in your process and technology.

Peter Doherty is an ITIL v3 contributing author and a principal consultant for CA. With 25 years IT experience in service management as well as enterprise network and systems management, Peter is a head CA service evangelist in the Asia Pacific region. His day-to-day responsibility for architecting, demonstration and proving of technical requirements for business solutions has given him firm grounding in the practical implementation of service management for both large enterprise and smaller businesses.

CA, best practices, ITIL, RACI, ITSM

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