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Who is your ideal project manager for ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation?

From time to time I have the opportunity to visit conferences that are IT Service Management (ITSM) related. Whether the topic is ITIL or ISO 20000 – implementation is the topic that creates the most interest. Implementations aren’t a part of daily activities and they don’t repeat many times during the lifetime of a company. That makes them interesting, but – on the other side – unique.

There are many issues (hey, but that’s true for most projects, isn’t it?), like time and cost/finances pressure, technical and human-related challenges … etc. That’s why your approach to the implementation project and particularly to the project leader requires your full attention.

About the motivation

Projects are always a hot topic. It’s well known that many projects either never get completed or are late. ITIL and ISO 20000 implementation projects are no exception. They are not cheap, they require a lot of (expensive) resources, tools usually have to be implemented, and they affect the business activities of the company. These are the reasons for the high visibility of such projects. At the same time there are many pitfalls, i.e., places where that kind of project can fail.

ISO 20000 is fairly straightforward – there is a set of requirements (ISO/IEC 20000-1) and, if you want your organization to be certified, you have to fulfill all of them. Difficulties arise when you have to decide how to apply those requirements inside your organization. Well, there are two elements that are your “allies” here: ISO/IEC 20000-2 (which is a code of practice) and ITIL. From my experience – you will need both of them.

ITIL is a bit different. You have IT services that you provide, and now you want to implement a framework that will help you manage them from strategy until operation, i.e., improvement. ITIL is the answer. The scope you need to cover is broad – and so are your possibilities. Pragmatism instead of bureaucracy is needed here.

Who are the candidates?

Since ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation projects are complex, but highly important, it’s crucial to find an appropriate project manager. ITIL and ISO 20000 are not the same, but implementation has many mutual elements. One of them is that they require an excellent project manager. So, let’s see what to look for when selecting the ideal (as much as possible) candidate.

First of all, the ideal candidate is not that easy to find. ITIL and/or ISO 20000 implementation requires skills that reach beyond IT, and individuals possessing such skills (they have to have enough time to devote to the project as well) are not “just around the corner.”

The other option is to look around inside your own organization. So, feedback on the Service Desk Manager is excellent. He is skilled in incident resolution and regularly achieves set targets. Or, the Change Manager has great managerial skills and (almost) no mistakes in change implementation. The Service Level Manager has great communication skills (inside and outside your organization) and always fulfills SLA requirements. And there are many more excellent people on your ITSM team. Does that mean that they are great project managers for ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation? Well, they are best-in-class in their areas of responsibility, but your project manager needs more.

And the winner is …

Project Managers, in general, have to be multi-skilled, meaning that they have to have topic knowledge and project management experience, as well as soft skills. Let me divide those skills into three segments and see how this improves ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation.

  • Expert (subject matter) skills – it’s for sure that such a complex topic must be led by someone who has proven subject matter knowledge. How do you evaluate this? It’s ideal to choose some real-life issue (ITSM related, from your organization or from his experience) and see his approach to solve it. Then, certificates – they will not tell you who is a subject matter expert, but they should guarantee that the candidate has (at least) theoretical knowledge. Here I mean ITIL/ISO 20000, as well as project management certificates.
  • Personal (soft) skills – this project requires the project manager to be in close cooperation with people on a daily basis, either inside the project team, management, or other employees of your company (remember, I said that ITIL and ISO 20000 are integrated with the business activities of the company). So, the project manager can’t be an introvert or someone who has difficulties in communication. You have to be aware that the project manager influences the atmosphere inside the project team. And that will reflect on team member motivation and, consequently, on results.
  • Experience – from what I have experienced so far, this is the most important characteristic. Subject matter knowledge and personal skills are very important, but what makes the difference between candidates is their experience. Why not check (thoroughly) his/her work experience – which tasks did he/she perform, which roles, for how long, what were the results (measurable, if possible) … etc. Or, ask for references from previous projects, and talk to your candidate’s customers. That’s particularly important if you have someone who has never implemented ITIL/ISO 20000.

Double-edged sword

Once you set the requirements, and before you start your search for the ideal candidate, you’ll ask yourself a logical question: should you look internally, or outsource? Well, candidates from your company have a big advantage in that they know your business and they will easily understand how to integrate ITSM and business activities. On the other side, external candidates have experience with different kinds of organizations (and related projects), and that’s something that can have a huge positive effect on your implementation.

Before the project starts, you can’t know whether your choice of project manager is the right one. But, once the project starts, it’s your responsibility to monitor and evaluate his performance. And don’t forget that a good project manager costs money. Well-invested money usually means a lot of savings later – a project finished on time and within budget.

To start developing a project plan for ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation, you can use our free  Project Plan and Project Proposal documents.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.