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Targeted IT communications key to ITIL implementation success

Many companies are implementing ITIL without considering the importance of an IT communications plan. Get expert advice on ways to target your IT communications for ITIL success.

Why are people often the afterthought in an ITIL implementation, when they are the individuals who carry out the...

processes? One reason is that because the ITIL framework supports IT Service Management (ITSM), it's usually driven as an IT program. The IT department understands process and technology, but not as much people or the importance of IT communications.

Unfortunately, many organizations realize far too late that even if they have designed the best IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) processes in the world and helped automate them with the best technology, they still need people to drive them. If you don't have engaged and motivated people executing on the ITIL processes, there is little chance of realizing the full benefit envisioned at the beginning of an ITIL implementation and ITSM program.

To ensure that people are not forgotten in an ITIL implementation, an organization must look outside the technology and address the need for better IT communications.

ITIL communications plan

Many people ask when they should start the communications plan for an ITIL implementation. The answer is easy: You start the day after you get the business case approved. Many ITIL programs are doomed for failure because the communications plan is started a week before the technology is rolled out.

One of the key tenets of ITIL is awareness and keeping people informed of what is happening in IT Service Management. ITIL is as much about visibility and awareness as it is about process adoption.

An ITIL implementation needs commitment from the IT service consumer base -- a well-executed communications program can help gain that commitment and ensure ITIL processes are internalized among its constituents. Characteristics of a successful ITIL communications plan include:

  • Communication that shows executive buy-in at the start of an ITIL program. The initial message should come from the highest level to communicate executive support and commitment to the program.
  • A strategy that matches key delivery points in the ITIL implementation to a planned communication, with a consistent message that reinforces the milestone success and benefit to the people.
  • A variety of communications vehicles that can range from newsletters, video messages, voicemail, email, intranet postings and internal advertising and more.
  • Messages that target individuals based on their roles. The deeper you get into an ITIL implementation, the more granular your communications will become for specific roles.

A challenge in any ITIL communications plan is tailoring the communications to individuals. Through the years, many of us have learned the best way to communicate is to present the information in a format with which the recipient is most comfortable. But how do you know what that best way is? Effective communication requires an understanding of the personality traits of the individual. There are a few proven techniques that you can use to tailor communications and get the message effectively delivered and understood.

One such technique is the Herman Brain Dominance Instrument technique. This is done using a simple set of questions to help determine a person's dominance in four areas:

  • Analytical
  • Detailed
  • Holistic
  • Interpersonal

By understanding how people fit into these sectors and the dominance within them, you can quickly determine the best way to communicate. A number of organizations have employees who voluntarily display charts that show their profile on their workstations so people who come to talk to them understand how to best present information to them. For example, it is ineffective to position an idea to a person who is detailed-dominant in an emotional or interpersonal format.

Targeted IT communications

In an ITIL program it's interesting to see how different traits correlate to the area individuals work in and the ITIL maturity of the organization. Here is a breakdown by the ITIL version 3 core books:

  • Service Strategy individuals typically deal in the abstract world of management theory and the analytics of Service Portfolio Management. A mix of individuals who are holistic- and analytical-dominant typically deal with Service Strategy.
  • Service Design individuals are a mix of analytical, detailed and holistic dominant. There also will be cases of interpersonal dominance due to the negotiations required in establishing Service Levels.
  • Service Transition individuals are analytical and detailed. Interpersonal may come into play, as anyone working in Release and Change Management will deal with the human factor.
  • Service Operation individuals are diverse and represent all areas -- analytical, detailed, holistic and interpersonal.
  • Continual Service Improvement requires analytical people who constantly review and look for improvement opportunities.

With the variety of individuals involved in an ITIL implementation, it's clear that there must be significant effort put into developing an IT communications plan and its execution. A well-executed communications plan can greatly contribute to the success of an ITIL program.

Peter Doherty is a contributing author to the ITIL v3 Service Operations book. He attained a Managers Certificate in IT Service Management (Distinction) in 2004 and is a regularly requested speaker at international and national conferences. He is also a principal consultant at CA Inc., with 21 years' experience in the IT industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email: [email protected].

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