How One Organization Is Winning the ITIL Race

Ann All

As someone who's endured plenty of bad buffet food and innocuous small talk at conferences, it surprises me that anyone who has never been to one would jump at the opportunity for a conference-like experience. But a conference simulation was a "huge success" among IT employees at Cook Children's Health System in Ft. Worth, Texas, said Tina R. Jones, the service delivery manager for the system's IT department.


It's pretty obvious from Jones' biography, mentioned at the beginning of her presentation during this week's itSMF USA Fusion 10 Conference in Louisville, Ky., that she has "been there and done that" when it comes to delivering IT services. With more than 20 years of IT experience under her belt, she has an MBA, a PMP (project management professional) certification and an ITIL Foundation v3 certification. She's been a quality assurance manager, a project manager, a program manager and director of a project management office..


In the first two years of its ITIL initiative, the 150-person department, which provides services to 5,000 employees, implemented 13 ITIL processes. Two other processes and a service catalog are on tap for 2011, although Jones says the IT department has decided to "slow down a bit and make sure we're better in what we've already implemented." Considering that many organizations never advance beyond incident, problem and change management, I think that seems like a wise strategy.


Based on her bio, I knew Jones would have some great ideas on making ITIL work. And I was right. Showing her IT chops, she condensed her advice into a four-letter acronym: RACE for rewards/recognition, assessments, communication and education.



The aforementioned "conference" came under E for education. Noting that conferences and networking were a great way to learn about ITIL, particularly from those working in the same vertical industry, Jones said she wanted to "simulate a conference for people who don't usually get to go to them." So she put on an off-site event that featured a race theme ("ITIL 500"), catered lunch, goodie bags with an event program and shirt, speakers and an exhibit hall where each process had its own booth, complete with swag such as small calculators for financial management.


Non-IT speakers who addressed how IT helped improve their parts of the business, such as the health system's patient safety officer, were one of the biggest hits among attendees. They also enjoyed playing games such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Twister, said Jones. Though in retrospect, she joked, "I do not recommend Twister because, trust me, you probably don't want to see your coworkers like that."


Other aspects of education include ITIL concepts training for new employees not familiar with them and ongoing educational efforts more specific to the system's IT processes.


The main components of rewards/recognition include regularly nominating ITIL practitioners as IT employee of the month and a bonus incentive based on meeting selected metrics. Results are posted each month, with bonuses based on quarterly results, Jones said, with 6 percent the desired quarterly improvement rate. Jones said employees have begun working together to achieve bonuses, for instance providing information to service desk staff so they can improve call-resolution rates.


Outside consultants performed an IT "health exam" assessment in 2007, interviewing folks throughout the organization, and an IT controls performance benchmark. Jones repeated those in 2009 and will do so regularly moving forward because she wants to "show continued rewards from ITIL." She also brings core teams together for regular process reviews. She used a maturity model provided by Gartner to benchmark the system's performance against other organizations, particularly those in health care.


Communication occurs at monthly IT Service Management Operating Council meetings, and ITIL is also a regular topic at IT department meetings and IT steering committee meetings. Jones also produces monthly reports for senior executives. She only focuses on a half-dozen or so key metrics most relevant to them, related to areas such as customer satisfaction and total cost of ownership, rather than the dozens of metrics she tracks. She also doesn't use the word ITIL with executives "because it's foreign to them."


Using SharePoint, Jones created a pretty extensive website for the ITSM Operating Council. Among other features, each process area has its own workspace. It also has a discussion board where Jones likes to float ideas before meetings of the council, finding advance online discussion saves time during physical meetings. Jones also likes to liven up the site with photographs and slideshows of events. "Good, old posters" have been effective communications tools, "strategically placed" for maximum exposure in the break room, at the printer and in the bathroom. "That way, you know they'll be seen," Jones said.


I especially like how Jones wrapped up her presentation, by juggling the letters of RACE to spell CARE. "You have to really care for this to work," she said. "IT is known for being very task-oriented. That's important with ITIL, but it's even more important to get the soft skills right. It requires more effort than anything else."

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