Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Top 5 Reasons ITIL Implementations Don't Go "By The Book"

We always hear that even though Organizations study the texts diligently, they often come to the realization that ITIL and most of the other good practices that ITIL requires are just books. They read these books, take classes, earn certifications, and with the faith of a new convert, they seek to achieve IT Operational Excellence.

But during their journey things do not go as expected. Obtaining upper management buy-in is always a challenge, effecting organizational change is hard, and coordinating such a massive undertaking seems overwhelming. Welcome to the real world.

Presented below are my top five real-world challenges to implementing ITIL and ways by which you can overcome these roadblocks.

5. Different parts of the IT organization have vastly different priorities

Once an organization has become excited about implementing IT service improvements, we almost always see tension arise between those with strategic and tactical responsibilities. The strategic thinkers typically want to focus on service catalogs and financial management; while the tactical teams knows that the focus must be placed on day-to-day operations like change control and incident management. If you choose a solely tactical approach, you’ll alienate the strategists. A strictly strategic effort, and your tactical team may see ITIL as just another thing being pushed on them that doesn’t improve their day-to-day operations. Say bye-bye to organizational change.

To drive success, it is vital that good energy be focused on process improvement — not on second guessing other parts of the organization. The best way to do this is to give as many parts of the organization their piece of the pie. Let the tactical team tackle change management improvement and task the strategists with developing some meaningful key performance indicators to feed into other processes.

In other words, be prepared to support multiple improvement activities concurrently so you can foster healthy competition (whose process was implemented them fastest) rather than begrudging acceptance.

4. The job gets in the way
The most common reason our ITIL projects stall is that day-to-day business gets in the way. We see this happen even when there is project support from all levels of IT management. In the “keep it up and running” vs. “operational improvement” clash, the real-world activities of the business always win — much in the same way problem management is not done because incident management always trumps. In this case, of course, the underlying problem with the IT infrastructure is not the technology, but the processes themselves.

This is neither unexpected nor unreasonable; the business needs to run, so releasing the latest business service must take precedence over attempts to improve IT. So, how do you get process improvement started and keep it rolling? Focus early and often on a CSIP – the continuous service improvement program.

A CSIP approach recognizes that few, if any, organizations are going to have the time or resources to conduct a complete, one-shot overhaul of their IT services. The CSIP is a means of establishing and organizing a series of agreed-upon process improvements (both tactical and strategic), including prioritization, timeframes, and resources. The smaller and more focused the items, the better organizations will be able to steal time away from daily tasks and focus on accomplishing IT improvements. We generate the CSIP as the first project deliverable and require it to be reviewed at least monthly.

3. You already own
Your initial focus should be on designing processes that meet your organization’s needs and then implementing the tool to meet the majority of the process requirements.

2. You don’t know your status quo
The first question isn’t “where do you want to go,” it is “where are you now.” Think of it like a road trip. Unless you know things such as your starting location, your goals for the trip, and the trip timeline, it will be difficult to plan an effective itinerary.

The Planning to Implement IT Service Management book has an entire chapter titled Where Are We Now?, yet many skip that important question and try to design new process in a vacuum. There is a general sense of “we know what we do now, we do it every day.” It is important, however, to move beyond a general sense to a more concrete understanding.

Before embarking on a CSIP, take the time to understand important questions such as:
  • What are your drivers (business, technology)?
  • Who are your IT stakeholders, what are their needs, and are their needs presently being met?
  • What will the impact be — on both the IT org and the business at large — if you make no change?
  • What processes are now in place?
  • What skill sets do you have in place?
  • What technology do you have in place?

By taking the time to understand the status quo, you’ll have better insight into the scale and complexity of your improvement program.

1. Organizational change is too hard

Unless you tackle the people component, your CSIP is very likely doomed. Many organizations want to gloss over this very important piece, either because they don’t understand its significance or it is just too overwhelming.

Guess what? Organizational change is hard, and, as is the case with the process and technology pieces of ITIL implementations, it will vary greatly based on your size, structure, and culture. Are there then some common threads that will enable you to get the necessary buy-in to succeed with organizational change? We find the organizations most effective in their efforts to have a multi-pronged approach:

  • Training for your IT staff and IT management. Give yourselves a common vocabulary and a common understanding of IT service management best practices. If you don’t have the time and budget to put everyone through Foundations-level ITIL training, consider bringing in a trainer to conduct half- or full-day seminars about the service delivery and support processes.
  • Simulations for you customers and management (both IT and non-IT). There are number of simulations available that help illustrate the challenges faced by the IT department and the value of process improvement in enhancing service delivery. These simulations typically increase the willingness and commitment of non-IT staff in improving your processes, and show IT participants that improvement is possible.
  • Workshops with stakeholders to facilitate planning efforts. Involve your staff, customers, and other stakeholders in your process development. This will require a degree of time commitment in terms of scheduling the workshops, and it is highly advised to bring in an outside consultant to facilitate the workshop and keep things moving forward.

6 Books for Any IT Service Management Shelf

You already know how competitive IT service management can be.
  1. VMware Cookbook by Ryan Troy and Matthew Helmke, 2009
    Perfect for VMware administrators, this book includes real-world examples of some of the most common VMware issues encountered on the job and also provides code for your documentation. It gives coding insight and direction in an easy-to-read format that includes tips, tricks, walkthroughs and more. Bottom line: this book can help you get the job done.
  2. Help Desk Manager’s Crash Course by Phil Gerbyshak and Jeffrey M. Brooks, 2009
    This easy read provides step-by-step guidance to new help desk managers and serves as an invaluable reference for seasoned veterans. From hiring and performance appraisals to motivation and understanding what makes for an effective team, this book should be on every IT service manager’s desk. Bottom line: your customers will thank you for being cognizant of what matters most to them and your business.
  3. Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution: How Cloud Computing Is Transforming Business and Why You Can’t Afford to Be Left Behind by Charles Babcock, 2010
    Whether you’re an IT or business professional, you’ll see why the book calls cloud computing the biggest game-changer since the creation of the Internet itself. The author, who is also an editor-at-large for InformationWeek, describes the confluence of technologies referred to as the cloud and how it will not only affect service management, but also business in general.
  4. Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization by Leonardo Inghilleri, Micah Solomon and Horst Schulze, 2010
    A must-read for service managers, the book reveals real-world, behind-the-scenes examples of exceptional service that practically guarantees customer loyalty and share of wallet. CEO Refresher.com called it one of the Best Business Book of The Year. It has a number of other awards under its belt for its clever insight into the mind of the customer and the people interacting with them.
  5. Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value by Richard Hunter and George Westerman, 2009
    Written for CIOs with insights from leading CIOs, this is a must-read book if you want to transform the way your organization thinks of IT. More importantly, you’ll see real-world examples of how you can transform your organization’s IT mindset from cost center to valued resource.
  6. Foundation of Green IT: Consolidation, Virtualization, Efficiency, and ROI in the Data Center by Marty Poniatowski, 2009
    If you’re an IT professional who’s juggling data center efficiencies and carbon footprint reductions, this book is for you. It includes real-world examples and ROI from current and emerging technologies that can help you reduce energy consumption and operate more efficiently.

IT Service Desk Calls You Can Eliminate

Beyond the fact that it’s frustrating to handle repeat service calls that didn’t really require the IT service desk in the first place, it’s also costly. It takes valuable resources away from business critical help desk support issues. Here are three common IT service desk calls and what you can do to eliminate them.
  1. The “I forgot my password” call
    Ok, so the easiest, most effective way to handle the password reset call is with a self service option. But what happens when users prefer to call the IT service desk? That’s where a little marketing savvy goes a long way. Several companies have added interactive voice response technology that guides users through the password reset process. So while the user waits for the next available service desk technician, he or she is reminded that there’s a fast, easy way to reset his or her password. Or if your self service IT help desk portal has a top five or ten list, make sure the password reset issue is in the top three. It’s also good IT service desk practice to provide guidance on how to set up a password to make it easy for the user to remember, but hard for someone to hack.
  2. The “I don’t understand why the network is running soooooo slooooow” service desk call
    Many IT service desk calls don't really need the expertise of the IT service desk. With automation and self-help portals, IT service desk teams can eliminate three of the most common IT service desk calls.
    This call is often the result of a condition the IT service desk is already aware of such as a downed server or other outage. The best way to eliminate this type of service call is to use a multi-channel approach to notifying users. For example, add a pre-recorded message to the service desk phone line to notify users of the issue and let them know that you’re working on it. At the same time, the IT service desk can also send an email blast to users as well as post a notice of the outage on the self-service portal. This type of call, when there is no known outage or issue, can be indicative of a major problem. With monitoring software that’s integrated with the IT service desk, technicians can pinpoint a problem and act on it before the service desk queue becomes flooded with calls about the same issue.
  3. The popular “How do I <fill in the blank>
    Although this may seem like a cry for help, and often it is, it’s really indicative of a larger software training issue. How do I export my contacts? How can I add a widget to my SharePoint site? Why doesn’t my computer recognize this device? This is where the IT service desk and incident management software can add value to the company. With properly recorded tickets, the IT service desk can identify common end user issues and make their answers available in the knowledge base and for more challenging issues suggest a training course – or even offer to conduct the course over a few lunch-hour sessions. This is particularly helpful in reducing IT service desk calls following a major upgrade or installation of a new enterprise application. Better yet, if you know a new application is rolling out, start the training early to minimize service desk calls. Many organizations are using enterprise versions of a Twitter-like application where the service desk can “market” its training program or offer how-to tips. The same activity stream can also be monitored by a member of the service desk staff to look for trending topics or hashtags that indicate common issues that the service team can address en masse.
    We know it sounds cliché, but for many IT service desk calls “an ounce of prevention, really is worth a pound of cure.” Start with effective service desk software.