How to Overcome Resistance to ITIL

Ann All

Don't think you'll have resistance to the IT infrastructure Library (ITIL)? Think again. While CIOs may be ready to employ ITIL, it may take some convincing to bring others on board. In November when I interviewed Patrick Bolger, chief marketing officer of Hornbill, a provider of service-management software, about ITIL, one of the key points he made was to expect cultural resistance to ITIL from both business users and IT. He told me:

One of the difficult things for an organization to make progress with ITIL is securing backing from the business. Even within IT itself, I think you have a culture that's resistant to change. "We've always done it this way, so why should we change how we are doing it?" And from IT's customers within the organization, if they can shout loudly enough and get something today, then why would they want to do something that may make them wait longer to get access to an application?

This idea also comes out clearly in a list of the top 10 types of resistance to ITIL improvement initiatives on the GamingWorks blog. GamingWorks' top 10, gleaned from a survey of 250 ITIL practitioners and from ITIL discussion groups on LinkedIn:

  • No management commitment. This includes managers who offer only lip service to the importance of ITIL and those who withdraw commitment and/or resources when they become frustrated by a lack of clear results.
  • Saying "yes," but meaning "no." People who promise to follow a new ITIL procedure of use of a new tool but do not.
  • "ITIL will never work here." A general resistance to ITIL and/or a lack of belief that ITIL will make a difference.
  • No focus on continual improvement. ITIL is instead treated as a "plan, do, stop" project.
  • ITIL itself, rather than what it will achieve, is the objective.
  • IT thinks it doesn't need to understand the business to make a business case for ITIL.
  • Preference to follow current procedures rather than adopting new ones.
  • Not being able to demonstrate the value of ITIL to the business.
  • Throwing ITIL solutions over the wall and hoping people will follow them.
  • Everything has highest priority.

 

At least half of the list relates to pushback from IT and from business users. You can read many specific instances of these pushback scenarios by clicking through to a compilation of some of the points made by members of ITIL groups on LinkedIn. Some of the comments paint a pretty scary picture, but don't get too discouraged. They also offer some ideas on making ITIL work, many of which are echoed in my interviews with Bolger and other ITIL experts, a list of ITIL success factors from GamingWorks and a recent SearchCIO.com roundup of real-life ITIL experiences of organizations including Spectrum Health System and Canadian Tire Corp.

 

The title of my interview with Bolger pretty much says it all: "Taking an Incremental Approach to ITIL." Bolger told me Hornbill recommends "bite-size ITIL." He said:

We start with a tool, with the option to upgrade at any time. People are sill focusing on getting the basics right, so we sell them a tool that does incident, change, problem and service-level management. We say, "When you can prove you can operate more efficiently, you can get the go-ahead for more." We advise them not to talk about ITIL, which will probably raise some objections, but to talk about service improvement or "service first" or whatever they want to call it.

Laszlo Takacs, manager of service management at Canadian Tire Corp., one of the sources interviewed in the SearchCIO.com story, also suggests an incremental approach. Says Takacs:

Decide what areas you can get the biggest wins from and where your pain is. Once you define your major problems, look into the processes to get a foundation to start.

For many companies, incident, problem and change management will be the entry point to ITIL, as they can produce quick wins and visible results, something that all the folks represented in the various discussions agree is important to getting both user and management buy-in.

 


It's also important to involve business and IT in joint discussions to determine tangible ways ITIL can be used to improve the business. Getting people to look at business processes from different perspectives is helpful, learning what their coworkers do and how IT and business interact helps change attitudes, according to GameWorks. Such discussions will bring any resistance to the surface and should ultimately lead to acceptance and behavior change.

 

Other good ITIL advice:

  • Determine key performance indicators, again through joint discussions.
  • Baseline current performance levels before you start. Without a baseline, "you're trying to measure against a moving target," said Bob Mathers, a principal consultant for Compass Management Consulting.and one of the sources whom I interviewed for a story on ITIL last spring. Measure at a granular-enough level of detail so you can attribute changes to ITIL-enabled tools or processes, and focus on unit costs, quality and productivity.
  • Take time to understand your processes before spending a lot of money on software and ITIL consultants. Tracy Schroeder, vice president of information technology for the University of San Francisco and another of the sources from my story, recommended attending training sessions and using what you learn to analyze and document your organization's processes before making such purchases. The university didn't invest in a new tool until nearly three years into its ITIL initiative, although it now uses several tools from Service-now, a provider of on-demand service-management solutions,
  • Don't worry about moving all your processes to the latest version of ITIL. Spectrum Health Services uses elements of both ITIL version 2 and version 3, according to the SearchCIO.com story. Bolger believes ITIL neophytes should start with v. 2 to get more detailed operational information before moving to v. 3, which incorporates a more strategic approach to service.
  • Consider implementing ITIL with more formal governance practices such as project management, Six Sigma and COBIT.
  • Establish a functional service catalog to get a better handle on the costs of services offered. (Not everyone likes service catalogs. Chargebacks are often employed as an expense-control mechanism in conjunction with service catalogs. As I wrote last week, some experts believe chargebacks can lead to bad decisions because managers become more concerned about reducing their individual costs than doing what is best for the company.)
  • Demonstrate how ITIL saves money. David Mulcahy, director of Enterprise Operations for Kelley Blue Book, told me the company's IT organization was able to create a list of tools that could be eliminated with the move to ITIL. When I interviewed him last spring, nine "random" tools or systems had been cut. So in addition to the measurable reporting and visibility into day-to-day service-desk management and deliverables we gained with ITIL, we've been able to eliminate the license costs of those multiple tools, along with the costs of learning and maintaining them," he said.


Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 27, 2010 7:41 AM Robert Robert  says:

I do not agree with the citation by Patrick Bolger.

In addition to the tools you also need processes and people for a complete solution. In fact, tools should support the processes.

The quote "A fool with a tool is still a fool" is absolutely valid.

Cheers Robert

Reply
Feb 1, 2010 8:18 AM Patrick Bolger Patrick Bolger  says:

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your remarks.  I've heard the comment "a fool with a tool is still a fool" many times and I couldn't agree more.  However, the statement presumes that the recipient of the tool is already a fool.  Nowadays, few businesses are funding fools or tools. 

I'd absolutely agree with your comment about People being one of the most important dynamics in the People, Process, Product (Technology).  The best product and the processes do not deliver service...People do.  When you combine the right attitude towards service, with a bite-sized approach to improving ITSM, then the results are somewhat different.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a couple of events where two of our customers presented their results having adopted this approach.  Both organizations set clear goals for the first phase of their journey and both reported overall savings of over $2 million, alongside measureable improvement in customwer satisfaction.  Amazingly one customer did this with little or no business backing or funding. If it's of interest to you, you can access a recording of the webinar here.  Go about 28mins into the recording if you want to listen to our customers experience. 

http://www.thinkhdi.com/members/ITSMArchive.aspx

I wouldn't encourage anyone to purchase a tool without understanding how it could help them address their immediate pain.  Nor would I encourage anyone to buy a tool that was not flexible enough to accommodate them configuring it as their process maturity increases.  If you've found a good Partner in your vendor, who understands what you want to get from adopting certain Processes, with a flexibke Product that can grow with you as your organization matures, you will be much more likely to get the Progress you wanted.

In summary...People, Partnership, Process, Product, Progress in that order.  I hope this offers a different perspective.

Cheers,

Patrick

Reply
Jan 21, 2011 12:34 PM David David  says:

Best Practtice? No Such Thing

There is often resistance to ITIL from the business side of the house because the IT approach to it is to acquire ITIL documentation, identify best practices, and then diligently deploy those practices.

There are two fundamental flaws in this approach:

(1) What is best practice for some is not best practice for others, and

(2) What was best practice yesterday may not be best practice today.

Best practices are guidelines; they explain what, but they don't explain how.  To realize the most benefit from an ITIL deploynge is the only constantment effort, best practices must be analyzed and adapted to provide maximum benefits to the specific organization served by IT. Once the business begins to see that its strategies are being helped by best practice, resistance will begin to decline.

We live in a World where change is the only constant.  As businesses adapt to those changes, IT too, must adapt, and that requires further analysis of current best practices, and perhaps adapting them as well.

Best practices provide a wonderful starting point; to ensure that IT continues to serve its business, they must constantly be re-evaluated.

Reply
Oct 19, 2013 7:09 AM Hadi Hadi  says:
Sir, Give a brief description of how to overcome the factors ‘resistance to change’ for each of the 10 types of resistance mentioned in the survey results. 1. No management commitment. This includes managers who offer only lip service to the importance of ITIL and those who withdraw commitment and/or resources when they become frustrated by a lack of clear results. 2. Saying “yes,” but meaning “no.” People who promise to follow a new ITIL procedure of use of a new tool but do not. 3. “ITIL will never work here.” A general resistance to ITIL and/or a lack of belief that ITIL will make a difference. 4. No focus on continual improvement. ITIL is instead treated as a “plan, do, stop” project. 5. ITIL itself, rather than what it will achieve, is the objective. 6. IT thinks it doesn’t need to understand the business to make a business case for ITIL. 7. Preference to follow current procedures rather than adopting new ones. 8. Not being able to demonstrate the value of ITIL to the business. 9. Throwing ITIL solutions over the wall and hoping people will follow them. 10. Everything has highest priority Regards, Hadi Reply

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