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How to get IT to Accept ITIL

Effective ITIL adoption requires the application of service management best practices and a focus on cultural transformation, writes ITSMWatch columnist guest Kristy Smith of Forsythe.
Aug 6, 2010

Kristy Smith

To ensure success and encourage your organization to buy-in to the change, incorporate John Kotter's Eight Stages of Cultural Transformation into a communication plan tailored to suit your organization.

Applying ITIL can dramatically alter IT's way of working, especially for individuals who thrive on saving the day when business users call them directly. ITIL's service orientation enables business outcomes vs. technical capability. For this reason, it is important to leverage IT's existing customer-service focus.

Delivery-focused IT organizations drive down costs whereas service-focused IT organizations strive to enable true business value. From the beginning, it helps to understand IT service management (ITSM) so that IT leadership can establish a sense of urgency and a vision, along with an expectation of their desired IT end-state. The ITSM framework as shown in Fig. 1 depicts a more holistic approach to implementing ITIL processes thus allowing the provision of services to the customer as a primary focus. Tools and technology enable the people of IT to follow ITIL processes, which provide the foundation for delivering services.

People are a foundational aspect of ITSM and, if overlooked, the success of ITIL will be in jeopardy. Many may dismiss culture change as unnecessary when implementing ITIL. They run the risk that IT will inadvertently take an "IT silo management" approach -- focusing on how to drive silos better -- instead of taking an IT service management approach that focuses on enabling business outcomes. The desired culture change focuses on transforming IT from a hero mentality into a champion mentality, encouraging technical silos to begin working together to deliver service.

Creating transformation

To ensure success and encourage your organization to buy-in to the change, incorporate John Kotter's Eight Stages of Cultural Transformation into a communication plan tailored to suit your organization.

Cultural transformation is required to anchor new behaviors in the underlying foundation of corporate culture. Kotter discusses an eight-stage process for creating major change. Those stages are:

Establishing a sense of urgency; Creating the guiding coalition; Developing a vision and strategy; Communicating the change vision; Empowering broad-based action; Generating short-term wins; Consolidating gains and producing more change; and Anchoring new approaches in the culture.

Often the pressure of producing results quickly leads to the desire to skip steps or to execute them out of order. To create real change, it is important that all eight of these steps are followed in order. A well designed process implementation coupled with cultural transformation will help ensure your processes are actionable, consistently applied and continually improved.

During the first stage, Establishing a Sense of Urgency, a compelling need for change is communicated. This can be accomplished by having the IT executives compose an email to be sent to all IT staff communicating the reasons for aligning to ITIL, highlighting major objectives, and underscoring top level commitment. Each individual leader must emphasize the need for ITIL as well as the future vision during separate meetings with their teams.

It is essential to establish a good foundation of leadership support before proceeding to introduce process and procedural change into an organization. Securing strong senior leadership support will curtail the desire of individuals to work against the impending change. In addition, culture change cannot be implemented from the bottom up without appropriate support. When it is, the organization is more likely to experience "dead salmon" syndrome: investing incredible energy to swim upstream only to die at the destination. Don’t fall into this trap. Obtain appropriate leadership support before going down the road of ITIL adoption or your change initiative will fail.

In the second stage, Creating the Guiding Coalition, communicate who is leading the charge and what you can expect from them by establishing the ITSM steering committee and instituting a regular meeting schedule. Senior leadership must actively participate as well as lead and guide the steering committee.

A key responsibility of this guiding coalition is to define the ITSM vision and strategy for your organization (Stage 3: Developing a Vision and Strategy). This responsibility extends to making sure that plans and measurements are in place to ensure proper execution of the strategy as well as to validate the realization of expected value.

Stage eight, Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture grounds the changes in the culture and makes them stick. This final stage couples nicely with ITIL's continual service improvement phase of the Service Lifecycle book. For example, a way to anchor a new approach is to employ a measurement strategy to promote continual improvement. This further ingrains ITIL into the culture and solidifies the commitment of participants. After all, it is unreasonable to expect that the new ITIL processes will be followed without proper inspection for conformance and performance. Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.

A measurement strategy in which rationalized metrics, reports and auditing are utilized to govern process compliance, quality and performance is crucial to making ITIL actionable and to ensuring continual process improvement. Determine and baseline a set of critical success factors (CSF) with supporting key performance indicators (KPI) and operating metrics (OM), and determine a reporting strategy and schedule. These will be utilized by the steering committee, process owners and managers to succinctly measure process adoption, conformance, quality and performance.

The communication plan

The cornerstone of cultural change is a multi-faceted communication plan (Stage 4: Communicating the Change Vision). It starts with a solid template that can be tweaked to support the specific cultural characteristics of your IT organization. Building your communication plan on Kotter's eight stages helps IT management lead cultural change by empowering and engaging its members with the ITIL adoption (Stage 5: Empowering Broad-based Action). Your plan will also ensure that all IT, business stakeholders and users are informed of the status and direction of the ITIL initiative.

change management, ITIL, ITSM, Forsythe, corporate culture

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