6 Reasons Why You’re Going Wrong With ITIL

ITIlL mistakes

Congratulations, you’re a newly-certified ITIL* professional – eager to start adopting the ITIL framework in your organization. You’ve read the books, you’ve sat the course, and you’ve even passed the exam. But what if putting what you’ve learned into practice isn’t as straightforward as you originally thought?

As per the old adage “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip”, so much can go wrong between becoming ITIL-qualified and your organization successfully adopting, and benefiting from, ITIL best practice.

The Common ITIL Newbie Mistakes 

If I had a dollar for every time I heard an IT professional say “We tried ITIL, it didn’t work for us,” or “ITIL didn’t help us”, then I’d be relaxing on a beach in Barbados rather than writing this blog in between supporting my SysAid colleagues’ IT. If I then had another dollar for every time my discussion with said IT professionals uncovered that they’d made one or more of the following mistakes, then I’d be partying with Kanye West on my new boat somewhere in Barbados too.

These common newbie mistakes, although unfortunately they are not limited to newbies, include believing in one or more of the following:

  • “ITIL is a silver bullet.” I hate to break it to you but ITIL isn’t going to solve all of your issues, nor is it a “quick fix.” Yes, ITIL can provide significant value to your organization but only if you approach it with the right mindset. You will automatically set yourself up for failure if you think that it’s going to be the solution to all your IT and business woes. ITIL won’t fix everything, but it will be able to help you if you take a pragmatic and realistic approach to your ITIL activities.
  • “It’s about adopting ITIL.” Wrong, it’s about improving the business – but at least this is better than the phrase “implementing ITIL.” You don’t have to (and you shouldn’t) follow the ITIL books word for word, forcing them into your organization like trying to squeeze a jumbo jet into a shed. ITIL is a best practice framework, yes, but “best practice” might not necessarily always be “best” for your business. One size doesn’t fit all, and you should approach ITIL as a set of recommendations to guide you on how to best improve your processes, IT operations, and business performance. You don’t have to adopt everything ITIL says nor read the “ITIL mantra” out loud at 9am every morning before you start work.
  • “It’s all about process improvement.” You’re not wrong here, unless of course you think it’s ONLY about process improvement, because then we have a problem. ITIL is also focused on technology, and more importantly PEOPLE. Don’t underestimate the breadth and depth of organizational changes that utilizing ITIL will require across all three of: people, process, and technology.

Ultimately, the way in which you approach ITIL makes a significant difference to whether or not you will succeed or fail against your hopefully lofty ambitions. It’s not about replicating the ITIL books, nor is it as easy as ABC. Instead you need to take a considered approach and to keep an open mind. Just because a best practice worked for the fictional character in your ITIL exam, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to work in exactly the same way for you.

Misunderstanding ITIL 

Sadly many people can come away from their ITIL training and exams too bogged down in the granularity of the processes, forgetting about the wider implications of ITIL and what it could mean for their business. Here it’s important for IT professionals to remember that:

  • ITIL isn’t a one-off project. It’s not something you “implement” over the course of three months, check off as complete, and then walk away from. Nor is it self-sustaining. Instead, ITIL is an on-going commitment. It’s vitally important for organizations to continually revise, reassess, and improve the mix of people, processes, and technology to ensure that their IT service delivery and support is what is needed to achieve business goals. After all, there is an entire ITIL book dedicated to continual service improvement that doesn’t get as much love as it should.
  • You need senior-level buy-in to succeed with ITIL. Otherwise you may as well be on that beach with me in Barbados. Senior management needs to understand the value of ITIL and be willing to help you deal with financial backing and any resistance you may come across. You’ll need their backing and support to ensure that all IT employees take the time to understand how the new ITIL-based processes will work, how they impact them, and why change is required. Just because you’re all psyched up after your ITIL course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your senior management will be as enthusiastic when you mention that scary phrase – “organizational change.”
  • Unrealistic planning will most likely result in failure. Is that short ITIL adoption window you’ve set yourself to introduce new technology and five new processes really viable? Have you painted an overall vision for organization including short, medium, and long-term goals for your ITIL “project”? Have you considered how your new processes will link with existing processes both inside and outside of IT? Have you created a clear and concise communication plan for both IT and end users? Have you thought about what training is required – again for both IT and end users? So please, don’t set yourself up to fail, instead plan carefully. It’s better that your “project” takes 12 months and is done properly, than crammed into six months with a variety of issues, mistakes, and push-back from the business.

Of course there are more than six mistakes that you can make when it comes to ITIL but, for me, these are six of the most important. So what would you add to my six?

* ITIL is an IT service management best practice framework

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