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What Could Go Wrong With Your ITIL-based Service Improvement Programme?

By Dr. Don Page, ITSM Strategic Director, Marval Software

I cannot stress this enough: There is NO such thing as a failed ITIL implementation.

There is no such thing as a failed implementation, simply because ITIL is not just another implementation – and should not be treated as one. ITIL is about challenging and reconsidering established processes; and about the adoption and integration of good practices into the organisation’s daily operations and functions. It is about building a new approach for managing Service effectively; one that is directly linked to the business’s needs and its strategy around Customer Service.

Still, many organisations struggle with the adoption of an ITIL-based Service Improvement Programme, usually because they rushed into it without taking into consideration key parameters; such as their corporate culture or how adaptive their people are to change.

So, what could go wrong with it? Five common reasons for failure are:

1.     The IT department is not prepared to review and change existing working practices and processes, nor embrace a service and customer-centric approach. Your Service Improvement Programme is the integration and adoption of industry good practices, which will enable you to do things easier, better, faster, cheaper and with measurable and outcome-focused approach. It is the introduction of new ways to do old things. Let’s be honest: many teams would think of it as a hassle and be reluctant to change their ways.  

How to address it: Make sure you begin with those assets that benefit your team the most and provide instant results, such as improved first-time fix rates, collaboration tools or knowledge articles. Having seen an immediate positive difference to their job, people will be more open to future changes. Communicate your objectives clearly and keep everyone engaged every step of the way. Inspire them, by highlighting their pivotal role and the impact your team can make to the business. I am an advocate for staff having a clear focus on “well, what’s in it for me”, or as I often refer to it, “enlightened self-interest”.

2.     Not understanding the needs of the business. There’s no “one solution fits all” with your Service Improvement. Before starting working on your ITIL-based programme, you need to make sure that your organisation’s unique needs are clearly defined, recorded and communicated, both across the organisation and with your ITSM solution providers and partners. 

How to address it: Work closely with an experienced vendor with a proven track record of successful implementations, who has the expertise to recognise and address your business needs. Ideally, choose an expert in your vertical market sector. Rely on them to guide you during the design and the implementation phases.

3.     Being focused on technology and not the outcomes. Technology is a crucial part of your Service Improvement Programme, but it’s only the vehicle. The real goal is to achieve your critical objectives and outcomes, such as operational excellence, and provide your customers with a rich, personalised user experience. Too much focus on technology could undermine your focus on people and results.

How to address it: Keep a clear plan for your strategic goals and outcomes and stick to it. Define and describe how different areas and functions within the organisation will be affected. Emphasise on the impact on people, whether customers or your team.

4.     Poor customer service culture. An ITIL-based Programme is mainly about enhancing your customer service. But not every organisation is customer-focused. In reality, each organisation is different, and so is their culture. Unless a customer-centric culture is reinforced and empowered across the business, the success of the project is totally dependent on your organisation’s current culture.

How to address it: Be realistic about your objectives and aspirations. You can’t go from zero to a hundred from day one; you may need to split your target to smaller steps within specific timeframes. While Service often starts with the Service Desk, changing the organisation’s culture around the Customer experience can be a complex, long-term process that requires the involvement of many different departments and functions; and complete management’s support and leadership. Use the golden rule: “IT won’t work if you attempt to embrace change from the bottom up”.

5.     The business is not prepared to invest in a Service Improvement Programme; nor its people. In many cases, an ITIL-based Service Improvement Programme comes packed with cultural change; particularly within organisations where customer service hasn’t been a priority. Change can be a scary and upsetting thing for people. Unfortunately, the businesses that need it the most, are most likely to be less responsive and open to change.

How to address it: Engage all stakeholders early in the process and keep them informed and focused on the plan. Work together with your senior management to communicate the right messages and make sure everyone is in the process of accepting and embracing change. Produce service reports and comparable charts to present and document any progress and the business advantages. I see a lot of reports which don’t really add any real value or allow management to make informed decisions, you need to focus on Service aligned management information and dashboards which can highlight what a great job your team does and the value it provides. Insist upon the Return on your Investment.

There is no such thing as a failed ITIL implementation; just organisations that were not properly prepared to embark on this transformative journey. While entering this new phase, the CIOs have to employ their best assets and “weapons”: their people, a clear vision and strategy, and the right tool to make it all happen.

On a final note, it is key that the management team lead by example and support their team at all times. 

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