13 ITSM Tips They Don’t Always Tell You at ITIL School

Last year, my good friend Earl Begley wrote an interesting blog called “Things I didn’t learn in ITIL school.” Earl’s blog detailed some important things that people need to consider as they build and execute their IT service management (ITSM) plan. These things are mentioned in ITIL but often need more practical advice for successful real-world adoption.

Earl’s advice included ensuring that selling, negotiating, and building relationships skills are available, and that the value of IT services are understood and regularly communicated. All of this will help to make the transformation to more formal, or improved, ITSM easier.

I thought it was time to add to Earl’s wisdom with what is really “Things I Didn’t Learn in ITIL School, Part 2.” So here are some more things to consider when building and executing your ITSM plans.

How to Get Everyone Talking the Same Language

The ITIL practice books certainly imply that an underlying goal of your adoption plan should be to get everyone speaking the same language. While that sounds easy, it takes sustained effort to get teams to adopt the terms AND their meaning. For instance, stop to think about how many different uses of the term “service” there are throughout your IT organization – a group could be talking about services but they could be talking about three different things.

Becoming a polyglot (Editor: that’s a fancy word for you Joe) isn’t easy and people often revert to their “native” language as it’s the easy thing to do. Adopting a new language takes dedication and determination, and using a common ITSM language within your organization will take time. But it’s worth it – your organization will see long-term benefits with less confusion and improved efficiency through the use of a common language for IT.

Some practical advice here is to:

  1. Build a term dictionary and acronym guide, and make sure that it’s accessible to all IT teams.
  2. Encourage and support team members challenging (in a positive way) the meaning of terms.
  3. Where appropriate, teach your customers the terms and how to use them.

Using Other Companies’ KPIs as a Measure of “Success”

Many of our peers are willing to share their service management program information. This is a good thing. However, it can turn ugly pretty quickly when people decide to simply “copy” what another company is doing, without thinking about its applicability.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should reflect the performance of your company. Of course, it can be important to measure how your company is performing/competing in your industry. But simply copying and using another company’s KPIs will most likely not provide the information your company needs to succeed. It’s similar to the advice we have all followed about never looking at a single metric as a measure of success – other companies’ measures will most likely not consider your company’s goals and customer needs, so how can they ever be true KPIs?

Some practical advice here is to:

  1. Know your service management program goals and the measures necessary to define progress and success.
  2. Use the values of others to simply assess where you may be positioned in an industry segment.
  3. Always define what success means to your company.

Playing Like You Practice

Your ITSM plan must address training. As you roll out processes, and tools to accelerate the process flow, you’ll need to teach team members how the process works and how to utilize the tools to help them conduct their work with greater efficiency. Unfortunately, in many organizations, the initial project-based training is the only training that occurs. We then depend on team members (who may or may not have attended the initial training) to train new employees, advise customers how a process works, and to make adjustments to workflows as new requirements/demands are submitted by customers. This minimal-training strategy can easily cause team members to unintentionally deviate from the agreed process steps and cause deviations in how different team members, or even different teams, handle similar issues or requests.

To help counteract this, the ITSM team should work with management to hold regular “tabletop drills.” These drills, along with audits, will help teams to stay focused on the process intent. Using tabletop drills also allow teams to reimagine process flow in the context of proposed changes, conduct “what if” scenarios with new service offerings, and validate that the desired outcomes of the process are achieved.

Some practical advice here is to realize that:

  1. Practice make perfect.
  2. Practice allows teams to make mistakes and get coaching in a safe environment, with minimal business impact.
  3. Practice sessions can serve as audits to help ensure teams execute processes as designed.

Some Final Advice

There are many things ITSM practitioners need to consider for a successful ITSM or ITIL adoption. In addition, try to remember:

  1. That ITIL® is a best-practice framework, not a detailed recipe for success.
  2. To base your plan on what your company needs to accomplish rather than everything ITIL has to offer.
  3. That it’s perfectly fine to look at what others have done, however, don’t blindly copy them just because someone else’s approach to ITSM appears to be successful.
  4. That success depends on your goals and desired outcomes rather than the introduction of a best practice process or new technology.

Well there you have it, 13 tips inspired by Earl’s earlier blog. What else would you include?

Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).

4 thoughts on “13 ITSM Tips They Don’t Always Tell You at ITIL School”

  1. Avatar ProQuotient

    These are some very valuable tips coming from someone who is very experienced in the field of ITSM. A must read for all the aspirants who want to understand the world of IT service management.


  2. Avatar Paul Leenards

    I would add to this list:
    start by applying CSI principles from the start. Put a process in place to keep gathering feedback on how IT (service management) is performing. Reflect on this feedback will all key players involved to find some essential learning points. Maybe use the ITIL body-of-knowledge as a reference point (what does ITIL say about this?). And make the necessary improvements.


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