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6 Success Factors for ITSM Governance Structures

ITSM/ITIL takes more than just an install or two to be successful, writes ITSMWatch columnist Edward Rivard of Forsythe.
Feb 12, 2011

Ed Rivard

Many information technology (IT) organizations approach their IT service management (ITSM) and ITIL initiatives from a process or tool perspective; often expecting the organization to simply adopt and adapt to the new process or tool, or "hoping" everyone will buy in when they "see the value."

As a result, many organizations struggle with process adoption and adaptation, limiting the value of ITSM/ITIL and possibly leading to a premature death. The answer to ensuring you gain the greatest value of your ITSM/ITIL initiatives involves ensuring you plan and design for the type and level of governance appropriate for the organization and the initiative(s).

ITSM/ITIL implementations that consider six key organizational and people factors when designing a governance framework significantly improve the likelihood of ITSM/ITIL success. These six factors include:

  1. 1. Culture
  2. 2. Communications, Training and Education
  3. 3. Executive Support and Buy-in
  4. 4. Governance Structure
  5. 5. Roles and Responsibilities
  6. 6. Measurement and Reporting

1. Culture

Every organization's culture is different. Many books have been written on corporate culture. For the purpose of this article, I suggest considering two key culture factors when approaching ITSM/ITIL initiatives. One cultural factor to consider is the volume and nature of changes already in play, as well as pending, in your organization.

Research has proven that, like individuals, organizations are successful in assimilating a certain volume of change. Too much change can contribute to chaos and low morale, contributing to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness. By coordinating your proposed changes with the other changes, you will increase the likelihood of your success.

A second culture factor to consider is your organization's existing leadership characteristics. For example, an autocratic, do-it-my-way-or-else leadership style will obviously have different implications on an ITSM/ITIL program than an “entrepreneurial-creative style.”

While no one leadership style is appropriate for every organization, an entrepreneurial-creative style will support greater success in tackling certain challenges that arise when attempting to deliver a uniform ITSM/ITIL implementation. Understanding your organization's general leadership characteristics and tuning your governance framework in accordance with these characteristics will go a long way towards ensuring your program's success. For example, the voting structure for an autocratic environment will be much simpler than the voting structure for a democratic, consensus-building leadership environment.

2. Communications, training & education

Many organizations will provide how-to training as it relates to their ITSM/ITIL processes. However, to accelerate adoption and adaptation of ITSM/ITIL processes and tools, communication and training need to be comprehensive, frequent, and provided via various forms.

To begin with, especially if the ITSM/ITIL initiative is new or requires radical change, your early communications need to build a sense of urgency. It is essential that the individuals in your organization understand the value proposition of the initiative and the potential perils if the initiative fails. In addition, to the extent possible, make these communications personal; address the audience perspective of "What's in it for me?"

In addition to how-to training, consider educating your team members on the bigger picture. For example, demonstrate how the incident information captured in your service desk tool:

  1. 1. Enables efficient routing to the proper support team;
  2. 2. Is driven by or related to your SLAs associated with the disrupted services;
  3. 3. Provides the foundation for your problem management capabilities, enabling you to determine root cause; and
  4. 4. Is measured and reported in order to be used for continual improvement.

The better individuals understand the big picture, and the more they are shown appreciation and valued for their individual contribution, the quicker adoption and adaptation to the new processes/tools will be.

Another key communication factor to consider is establishing a feedback loop. Enabling individuals to provide your team and leaders with feedback on what is working and what's not working goes a long way to establishing buy-in. However, keep in mind that you need to make sure you acknowledge and respond to the feedback you receive; failure to do so will be more damaging than not having a feedback loop.

By planning and designing your communications approach up front, you'll significantly reduce potential backlash on the project while positioning your organizational for rapid assimilation of the new way of doing things.

3. Executive support and buy-in

You've heard many times about the importance of executive buy-in. Attempting ITSM/ITIL process implementation without executive level support, that is, by working from the bottom-up, is similar to salmon spawning. When salmon spawn, they swim upstream and die due to exhaustion.

Similarly, when working from the bottom-up, you invest a lot of effort competing for resources and working hard to sell the value of your initiative(s) upstream, hoping the new disciplines will take root and survive, and eventually evolve into repeatable capabilities. Often this approach is exhausting and ineffective.

If you're fortunate, your initiative was spawned by an executive directive, establishing a clear line of executive support. If not, how can you obtain it? One way, is to perform a stakeholder analysis for the executive stakeholders, those individuals who will benefit and whose support is needed for success. In general, a simple stakeholder analysis consists of:

  1. 1. Identifying each stakeholder's current state of understanding and support of the proposed initiative.
  2. 2. Determining the desired level of support necessary for success.
  3. 3. Assessing the gap between desired state and current state.
  4. 4. Establishing a plan for moving the individual's opinion and understanding to the desired state.

In a utopian view, you would be able to move everyone to a desired state. However, at this stage -- planning your initiative -- you're looking for one executive champion. By completing and executing a stakeholder analysis, you can improve the awareness and understanding of the other stakeholders in the process of securing your champion, lessening the resistance level of these key players.

In the next installment of this article, we'll look at governance structure; roles and responsibilities; and measuring and reporting.

Ed Rivard is a managing IT service management consultant at Forsythe, a technology consulting, IT infrastructure technology and integration, and leasing solutions provider. He can be reached at erivard@forysthe.com.

IT governance, IT strategy, Forsythe, IT steering committee, ITIL/ITSM

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