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Maturing an ITIL strategy beyond incident, problem, change management

Some ITIL implementations stall once IT gets incident, problem and change management under control. Here's what ITIL practitioners advise to keep driving benefits and maturity.

Many organizations declare themselves "immersed" in their ITIL implementation because they have succeeded with incident management, problem management and change management. And those are the places most organizations start. But for those looking to mature their ITIL strategy, the focus on continuous improvement is a harder road to tread.

"IT doesn't get a lot of chances to prove itself to the business, but with incident, problem, change, all of a sudden IT looks like they have their act together," said George Spalding, a senior analyst at Pink Elephant, an IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) consultancy in Burlington, Ontario. "They're handling the incidents better, problem management is intact, and changes aren't producing as many issues.

"Then they stop," he said.

Future ITIL implementations often don't produce the same quick results or have the same immediate ROI to justify the effort. That can discourage the team, slowing momentum and stalling additional implementation of ITIL principles.

 How can IT get over the implementation hump? Here, practitioners share their ideas for moving your ITIL strategy forward, from specific ITIL practices to attack next to general tips for keeping momentum going.

Engage the entire team in the effort to find solutions for continuous improvement, such as setting standards.

"Some experts say project implementation relies on people, process and technology -- I say it's people, people, people, process and technology," Spalding said. "You can, in essence, buy the technology and the process flows in ITIL, but you cannot buy the hearts and minds of the people to run it."

Often, IT gets stuck in an implementation rut because no one is encouraging further improvement. Harry Butler, director of infrastructure at Elbit Systems of America LLC, began an ITIL implementation eight years ago -- the start of which was a struggle getting his team on board.

"Standardization is tough because you can bring five networking guys in a room and give them all the same problem and they will come up with five different solutions," Butler said. But by listening to each idea and working collaboratively, "we make everyone a part of coming up with the standard solution," he said.

On top of collaboration and employee involvement, Butler said he also had good luck sharing the results of the wins with the group -- how the widely recognized industry best practices were saving time and money.

Set incremental goals and take self-assessments to track your progress.

ITIL is a process of continual improvement. By approaching it incrementally and building a solid foundation, the business has a chance to digest the changes and benefits -- further encouraging future implementations.

"The days of large, big-bang rollouts are gone," said Robert Stroud, international vice president of the IT Governance Institute. "You need to split your service management implementations up into small, sharp pieces to show value to the business quickly."

In Butler's experience, documenting services, developing standard procedures and taking on some of the low-hanging fruit allowed his team to move systematically through the ITIL best practices.

"We set a maturity goal for ourselves after the first two years and brought in Pink Elephant to assess our progress," Butler said. After receiving an ITIL maturity score and some direction and guidance, he and his team dived in again. "We knew where we needed to improve and where we were succeeding, so we kept at it."

From that point, they brought in the consultants biannually for similar assessments to ensure continual improvement. And in between formal ITIL maturity assessments, Butler said his team took advantage of itSMF International's self-assessment tool to regularly track progress.

Establish a service catalog.

A service catalog is a steppingstone or foundation to take on other ITIL processes because it clearly establishes what services IT performs, standardizes the processes for delivering those services and shows the business how much they cost.

We make everyone a part of coming up with the standard solution.

Harry Butler, director of infrastructure, Elbit Systems of America LLC

The benefits of implementing a service catalog include less duplication of efforts, better cost transparency of services and increased productivity within IT.

"The business wants services like accounts payable, new employee on-boarding, full desktop support, etc.," Spalding said. "And they want to know exactly what they are getting for X amount each month and why it's necessary."

Then pursue configuration management.

Once it has created a service catalog, IT needs a way to manage and monitor all those services to maintain the new level of service the business now expects. Enter configuration management.

This requires a new tool -- a configuration management database -- and a lot of work, but it's an important next step in the evolution of your ITIL strategy. Configuration management is usually broken into four tasks: identification of all IT components, control and management of each component, status maintenance and data verification.

Configuration management, without a service catalog, is almost impossible to implement, according to Spalding. "Chances are you weren't able to prove the ROI for a configuration management implementation from incident, problem, change processes alone," he said. "But now that you've sat down with the business side and laid out these SLAs, you have to keep your promises."

Pursue financial management and even service portfolio management.

IT financial management is another likely next step, according to Stroud. "One of the problems IT typically has is business accountability because there is no financial transparency," he said.

Knowing how much IT is spending alongside the mission-critical services identified in the service catalog can help in financial planning. For example, it can help determine the costs of risk assessments and business impact assessments for disaster recovery and business continuity and what is charged in the recovery of various services.

Service portfolio management, which provides an overarching view of IT across the entire service lifecycle, takes service management to the highest level. It requires a mature ITIL culture and implementation of many of the practices described above, in order to look at the tactical, strategic and operational demands on IT, how they integrate and where the bottlenecks are.

In so doing, it enables IT to move beyond reactive operations to focus on proactive measures to deliver consistent service to the business.

Do you have other tips for maturing an ITIL implementation? Let us know; email

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