Tips for Implementing ITIL

ITIL is a widely accepted approach to IT service management and provides a set of best practices drawn from the public and private sectors internationally. Here’s how to make it work for you.

Short for IT Infrastructure Library, ITIL is an infrastructure library, initially developed in the U.K. ITIL is a widely accepted approach to IT service management and provides a cohesive set of best practices drawn from the public and private sectors internationally. It’s supported by a comprehensive qualifications scheme, accredited training organizations, and implementation and assessment tools.

The management and control of the IT infrastructure is a critical function and improved service delivery and service support processes will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of operational delivery.  The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a widely accepted industry framework that adopts a process driven approach to developing operationally excellent IT service support and service delivery processes. The benefits of implementing globally consistent, ITIL-based processes include:

  • Improved availability, reliability and security of IT services.
  • Increased IT project delivery efficiency.
  • Reduced TCO of IT infrastructure assets and IT applications.
  • Improved resource utilization including decreased levels of rework and elimination of redundant activities.
  • Provisioning of services that meet business, customer and user demands, with justifiable costs of service quality.
  • More effective and better third-party relationships and contracts

While ITIL process improvement and standardization promises to greatly upgrade service and yield cost savings, success is not guaranteed. There are, in fact, some common misconceptions or myths that could lead an organization astray.

Since the ITIL framework provides only the necessary guidance on process structure, many CIOs are not seeing the improvements they expected — despite heavy investment in ITIL. ITIL deployment should be set within the context of a business or IT change program and as such, is more than a simple set of processes that can be rolled out and uncompromisingly followed. Any IT change program will encompass organizational, process and technology elements.

Here are ten tips CIOs and program directors can use to approach effective ITIL implementation with confidence:


1.  Approach ITIL implementation as part of the IT-wide strategy, and use it to guide all other strategic initiatives.
ITIL process implementation has significant IT-wide impacts; it is not an isolated initiative. To avoid both resource and programming constraints, implementation must be aligned with other global and regional programs, IT initiatives and sourcing or supplier initiatives.  A portfolio management approach should be taken to understand the alignment and priorities of all initiatives in addition to the overall benefits to the organization.

2.  Consider the post-ITIL organization before completing the process design.
Introducing ITIL-based processes generates requirements for new functions and roles, which could impact the current service management structure. Prior to completing process design, understand the roles and functions required to support the processes; giving specific consideration to the supplier/internal resource split.  Consideration must also be given to the governance structure needed to guide and support the new IT organization. Establishing a transformation program ensures that the structure from which to hang ITIL is secured and operational prior to process implementation.

3.  Engage, engage, engage. Continuous communication is required at all levels of the organization.
Implementing ITIL impacts the full spectrum of the organization’s employees. Because of this, it is critical to understand the impact at each level within the organization and the value each brings to the program. Subsequently, engagement, communications and training are absolutely key to success; from the initial engagement of senior stakeholders to the manager-level ITIL training of new global process owners.

4.  Set realistic expectations about benefits realization and establish a baseline from which to monitor improvements.
Change within any organization takes time to be accepted and implementing ITIL is no different. Implementation of ITIL focuses on improving customer service and as the processes mature the subsequent ROI will be recognized.

To determine the end result, focus the strategy and focus communications on improving service quality and establishing an early baseline of key performance indicators (KPIs) from which to monitor improvements. The chosen KPIs and their associated benefits should be business-focused and clearly understood so that effort is not wasted on measuring and interpreting superfluous data.

5.  Engage existing suppliers early.
Existing suppliers and any subsequent SLAs will be affected by the implementation of ITIL. The strategy for handling third-party engagement and establishing a robust communications plan must be clearly defined, with priorities focused on the desired supplier landscape.

Early engagement with procurement and legal departments will help to support and address the ripple effect that occurs right through to existing contracts and SLAs upon implementing the new processes. An end-to-end SLA will also be ultimately required to support the operation of the new processes.


6.  Identify and deliver the quick wins.
It’s “old” advice, but it remains fundamentally important to ensure that the organization achieves, communicates (and celebrates) early successes. Such an approach buys time for the process implementation and will help to gain the much-needed stakeholder engagement across the organization. Experience suggests that failure to achieve these successes will typically double the resistance to the change and halve the support within six months.

7.  Maximum benefit can be only achieved if the impact each process has on another is understood.
The ITIL framework is comprised of ten service management processes and one service management function. Every ITIL process supports, interfaces and integrates with at least one other process.

For effective development and deployment the relationship, impact and interdependencies across the ITIL framework must be clearly defined and understood. The close integration and understanding of the processes allows for the continual flow of up-to-date, critical and accurate information that in turn enables management to drill down and identify target areas for service improvement.

8. Prioritize process selection based on current maturity; don’t bite off more than you can chew.
It’s important to take a holistic view to ITIL implementation, however. It’s not imperative to implement all processes concurrently in order to realize operational improvements and a significant ROI.  Implementation of individual processes or the prescribed combination of processes can deliver the desired operational improvements. Processes should be selected based on the benefits sought by the organization and the ones that drive the most business value.

9.  Use success as a springboard for further improvement.
Implementing ITIL is a strategic commitment and will take many months to fully implement. During this time many different parts of the IT organization will be required to change.

In this sort of environment, it’s important to also implement a program of continuous improvement (e.g. a “plan, do, check, react” cycle). First this will ensure that improvement is actually delivered as expected and, second, it will help to build further improvement rather than assuming the job is done and risk slipping back in to old behaviors.


10. Combine process and tool activities from day one as part of a single solution approach.
Implementing a service management tool will support the streamlined processes, automate tasks and manage and distribute information. Knowledge management (e.g., the re-use and integration of information) is a critical component of the service management tool. Integrating data control processes with the tool will ensure that information is current and continues to add value to the service management processes.

Implementing ITIL is not just about evaluating and revising processes, it’s about change: changing the way people work and are rewarded; changing technology platforms; and changing behaviors across an entire organization.