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Overcoming the 3 key challenges of ISO 20000 implementation in SMEs

Implementing an ISO 20000-based Service Management System (SMS) brings many changes to a company’s everyday life. It affects almost all employees involved in delivering IT services, as well as the services themselves. There are many benefits an organization can gain with an ISO 20000 certification, but many challenges, as well.

Some of the processes that a Service Management System (SMS) covers will go through significant changes. That also includes people who are involved in process activities. This may result in their resistance to the change, inconsistencies in following processes (at least in the first few weeks/months), or inefficiency in performing their activities. These are some of the challenges an organization faces while implementing ISO 20000.

I think these challenges need to be approached seriously, but there also some bigger challenges I have experienced when setting up an SMS in an SME.

1) Not enough resources

One of the first items when I start an ISO 20000 implementation is to clarify the question of resources. Clients know (more or less) what the aim of the standard is, who (inside the company) is affected, and who should be responsible for the implementation. And then the project starts, and many of my clients face challenges in order to finalize the implementation.

Because any implementation project starts with management involvement, the question of resources that are needed is the first challenge that needs to be resolved (management doesn’t question technical details, right?). Resources that need to be clarified in order to implement an ISO 20000-based SMS are:

  • Money ‑ i.e., budget needed for the implementation and (later on, after the implementation) maintenance. Explain to your management how much losing a customer due to a breach in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) would cost, or how much spare (or purchased but not used) software licenses cost. Or, how much does a failed (due to insufficient testing) or unauthorized change cost. SMEs are even more sensitive to those issues than big companies.
  • Time ‑ why don’t you consider existing practices, compare them with the standard’s requirements, and reuse whatever you can? I’m pretty sure you already manage incidents, changes, or IT assets. But, be careful to adapt to the standard’s requirements. External help can also be useful to optimize your own time.
  • People ‑ you will need some people to implement and run the SMS. Check their expertise and skills. Further on, combine several people to manage processes (see the article What ITIL roles can be combined in one person?, which is applicable to ISO 20000, too).

2) Not enough know-how

Even if you are a small business, don’t worry – even big companies face issues with lack of know-how. And that’s logical. Your company has expertise in your area of business (and that’s usually not ISO 20000). The first step toward overcoming this challenge was just mentioned – being aware of the fact that you are missing knowledge needed for the implementation.

Once you are clear that more knowledge is needed, look for the options to get it. There are many opportunities to get all the necessary know-how:

  • Expert articles – there are many blog articles, white papers, books, tutorials, etc. that you can find (using the Internet) written by experienced experts.
  • Video tutorials – these are generally about IT Service Management (ITSM), as well as about ISO 20000 specifics (e.g., processes or required documents).
  • Trainings – these could be online or classroom-based. See the article How to perform ISO 20000 training and awareness to learn more.

3) Why do we do it, after all?

This is, as I have experienced, maybe the biggest challenge for the implementation because it involves personal and organizational change. Namely, change is always stressful, be it in private or professional life. People are used to doing their jobs in a certain way, and now they need to change (and those changes are usually pretty extensive – many new and changed processes, new functions, roles and responsibilities, records, etc.). So, the challenge is: How can you motivate people to take an active role during the implementation, and to participate actively in the SMS once it’s implemented? Well, there is no magic wand to make this happen, but there are a few things that could help:

  • As we are talking here about small businesses, SMS implementation will be quite visible, as will the management’s involvement and commitment. So, management has to be 100% on board with the project, and employees will notice that.
  • Find some recent situations where the company lost a customer, received a major complaint from a customer, or faced some other negative effect due to the unmanaged processes, unclear roles and/or responsibilities, lack of recorded data, etc., so your employees will see clear and practical benefits of the implementation.
  • Communicate more details about the ISO 2000 standard and provide employees with appropriate training. Training can include awareness sessions in the beginning; then, as implementation progresses, it can go deeper into the subject.

There are more possibilities for gaining your employees’ buy-in for the project; see the article 7 effective strategies to gain employee buy-in for ISO 20000 implementation.

Be careful

Big or small, any company will face challenges while implementing ISO 20000 (or any other standard). But, being a small business, mistakes in addressing challenges can get you into situations where there is no second chance; i.e., you have to be very careful to address them in the right way.

Customers are becoming more demanding, technology is developing at a fast pace, and management puts pressure on everyone to save costs and increase profits. Here is the ideal chance to change something in the way you do business – ISO 20000 implementation can be your opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Facing the challenges that such implementation brings is unavoidable. But, the sooner you do it, the easier it will be – not just for your company, but for you personally, too.

Get this free white paper: How can ISO 20000 help your business grow? and become fully aware of how implementing ISO 20000 can help your business grow and perform better.

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.