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Culture management critical to ITSM and ITIL implementation

The goal of any ITSM program is not purchasing the tool or implementing the processes. Instead, it's about creating an organizational culture that will positively embrace these new best practices.

Succeeding with an ITSM or ITIL implementation often means changing processes and the way people do, and think about, their jobs -- in short, changing the organizational culture. And culture management, like any type of change management, has several big obstacles.

The three biggest obstacles CIOs face when addressing organizational culture issues are executive support, old school mentality and understanding that IT Service Management and the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) are not projects, but journeys, according to ITSM practitioners and consultants.

ITSM obstacle No. 1: Lack of executive support

A lack of executive support is the biggest obstacle, according to experts. Without it, users won't buy in to the programs.

"If you don't have executive support, run away," said Jack Probst, executive consultant at Pink Elephant, an ITSM consulting company. "Getting ITIL up and running is not a grass-roots effort."

Successful executive support raises awareness for the efforts and validates their importance to the organization. That was the case at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Arizona, where IT Division Chief Al Lucas got the second-in-command executive and the steering committee to buy into ITIL when he first implemented it eight years ago.

Lucas and his team secured the support of business executives to lead the strategy and let his IT team develop what was needed to support it. He took on the role of ITIL evangelist/champion not only in Maricopa County, but across the state as well. "I'm trying to get the state to look at ITIL the same way they looked at PMI," he said, referring to the state's investment in certification from Project Management Institute Inc.

With the help of ITSMF International, Lucas set up a statewide ITSM seminar to get companies -- both private and public -- re-energized over ITSM and ITIL. This has helped bring awareness of ITIL to more organizations, as well as his own. "Overall, it's been a great success," said Lucas.

Those who don't have executive support before starting an ITSM or ITIL implementation can tee off with processes in a sphere where they have authority and buy-in already, said Troy DuMoulin, an associate vice president at Pink Elephant.

"Be successful with quick implementations, and then you can start to shine," he said. "At some point, someone at the top will begin seeing that something new is going on, and they'll start giving that group or individual the opportunity to sell up." That can then lead to executive support and opportunities to sell across and down the organization.

Another tactic is to bring in experts to present an external view to the executive team on the importance of these process standards. An external view often helps executives realize that the status quo is no longer acceptable in the industry, said DuMoulin.

"ITSM methodologies can only become more formalized and more important when the executive team realizes the risk of not having it," he said.

ITSM obstacle No. 2: Old school vs. new school (or: The Naysayers)

Changing the way people do work is very personal. People have been doing a certain job a certain way for a long time -- and have often been rewarded for their successes. Then along comes a team saying there's a way to do it much better. You can see why you'd get pushback.

"You need to celebrate quick wins and tell the stories of success," said Probst. "Make it personal and don't talk dollars and cents."

Many employees consider ITIL and other ITSM methodologies just another business trend. That's still the case at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, after eight years. "I would say two-thirds to three quarters of my technical team is still on board, and the rest think of it as the fad of the month," said Lucas. To address this, he's investing in ITIL training for his staff and working with others to understand the concept of IT as a service to the business.

In many cases, employees who are resistant to change try to stall the project (see sidebar for the layers of resistance to change). They might say, "We've been doing this for years; we don't need ITSM. We'll just get a tool." Or, "We've heard there are a lot of flaws in those ITIL books; we should wait till they're perfected."

Knowledge should be your first tool used here, advised DuMoulin. A thorough communication plan that explains what ITSM is, what the implementation process will look like and how it will affect people's current jobs helps defuse misinformation and gets stakeholders on board before potential negativity has time to take hold. "A plan to change behaviors should be on your communications plan, not tools and process design," said DuMoulin.

Consider getting human resources involved in this messaging, since it involves people and their work practices. Otherwise, appoint a capable person in IT to manage communications.

Companies should also have ITSM kickoff meetings; however, DuMoulin cautioned, you shouldn't spend all the ITSM communications budget up front. "Plan your communications back to when you're going to hit a dry period, with no quick wins or releases," said DuMoulin. "It's better to spend your communications budgets mostly in the middle or toward the end of the implementations."

Obstacle No. 3: It's a journey, not just a project

A big challenge to successfully implementing ITIL and other ITSM methodologies is that you can't declare a win when it's over -- because it's not a project with a start and end date. ITIL and other ITSM methodologies are about the journey. "Projects are understood as only temporary in nature," said DuMoulin.

Once Lucas' team completed the implementation of the incident and problem management processes of ITIL, "I think they thought it was finished," he said. But that wasn't the case -- it was only the beginning. The processes still needed to be managed and measured over time.

To address this issue, Lucas refreshed his own ITIL V3 training in an effort to have a better understanding of the IT Infrastructure Library and also to be able to drive people in the right direction.

People need to know that ITSM and ITIL continue to be important to their teams and the executives. If the management team takes ITSM off its scorecard, things go back to the way they used to be. ITSM and ITIL can't survive in that type of environment, according to Probst.


Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Guglielmo, Executive Editor, or follow her on Twitter @kgugl.

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