In some circles, enthusiasm is so great that ITIL has taken on the aura of religion.
Like many hot topics, people have got so excited about ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) that they think it's the answer to everything.
For example, Frank, the CIO of a thousand-person IT department, saw ITIL as the key to improving his organization. ITIL charts were everywhere. ITIL became the basis for every discussion of procedures, methods, structure and even resource-governance. All change initiatives were rooted in ITIL, and his goal was to implement all ITIL processes. For Frank, process became an end, not a means. His organization became so bogged down in the process of implementing new processes that it nearly collapsed. Frank soon "retired" with an agreement not to even talk to his former staff for a period of a year.
ITIL is a great source of best practices for some (not all) IT functions, but its scope is limited and there are pitfalls in implementing it that can actually degrade the performance of an organization. Let's get a perspective on what ITIL really offers, and what IT leaders should be doing about it.
ITIL is a registered trademark of the British Office of Government Commerce (OGC). It was developed in conjunction with the British Standards Institute (BSI), and is overseen by The IT Service Management Forum (itSMF), a not-for-profit organization.
ITIL defines a broad range of processes that are considered best practices, documented in a series of books. Processes include: incident management, change management, problem management, service-level management, continuity management (disaster recovery), configuration management, release management, capacity management, financial management, availability management, security management and help desk management.
ITIL includes both high-level overviews of the recommended processes and detailed definitions of the steps in each process. Plenty of consultants would love to teach your staff the processes, and vendors offer software solutions to help implement these processes.
Pitfalls in Implementing ITIL
While ITIL is a useful tool to improve the performance of IT operational functions, common mistakes in its implementation have undermined not only the effectiveness of ITIL but, in some cases, of entire IT organizations. There are five pitfalls to be avoided in the implementation of ITIL.
Pitfall 1: Structuring around ITIL processes. ITIL processes each involve a broad cross-section of the professions (specialties) within an IT organization. Conversely, multiple ITIL processes may draw on any given profession. Thus, if you design your organization chart around ITIL processes, a given profession (needed by many processes) will be fragmented throughout your structure.
This fragmentation of professions creates two significant performance problems:
1. Work will be replicated by multiple groups that are all studying the same skills, developing the same methods, and reinventing work products. Because work (and skills development) are replicated, costs rise. Due to reinvention of products and methods, consistency is lost. Synergies are lost when multiple processes no longer share common people, information, methods and reusable objects.
2. With any given competency scattered about, specialization is reduced. Instead of one consolidated group of experts comprising professionals who focus on sub-specialties, many different groups have to know the entire profession. By necessity, they become relative generalists. When specialization is reduced, performance naturally suffers.