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ITIL/ISO 20000 Knowledge base

How to implement ITIL

Author: Neven Zitek

ITIL® is probably the most adopted and most widely used approach for IT Service Management. It’s service based, easy to understand and follow, and there are lots of documentation, training and consulting available on the market that will help you get started. ITIL can be used either to transform a currently operated IT organization into service-oriented one, or if you want to improve existing services by embracing ITIL best practices. In either case, here are steps and guidelines on how to implement ITIL.

1) Getting started

Before even starting with ITIL implementation, it’s really important that key management figures are introduced to ITIL principles, and committed to ITIL implementation. That will help ensure proper management attention, and secure necessary funding, training and other resources required for successful implementation. Read this article for more information about ITIL Foundation – all you need to know.

Another important topic, before getting started, is to establish the person, or role, responsible for ITIL process management, who will ensure that all processes will work together, that the tools required are provided, and that processes are well documented.

2) Service Definition

ITIL has a strong focus on services, so the best way to start is by creating a service overview, composed of business services and IT services that support them (supporting services). Business services are the ones that represent direct value to the business (customers), and supporting services are the ones that don’t do that, but are required in order to run business services. A good example would be a retail business with a web shop, where internet access is required, but is not considered a business service. Learn more about IT Governance’s involvement with business / IT processes alignment: IT Governance – the basics.

In this phase, it’s important to record any agreements, or commitments, that reflect business services (e.g. web shop is used by retailers, and must be available 24/7), which will later be used for supporting technical architecture design and SLA design.

3) Introducing ITIL roles and owners

It’s very important to know, at any given point, who is responsible for what, and therefore introduce designated roles and functions according to ITIL framework. Depending on the scope of ITIL implementation, not all ITIL roles may be required in your case, but identifying key roles and owners is a must. Roles, and their involvement within the service lifecycle, are maintained in a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed). A list of all ITIL processes and roles can be found in this article: ITIL Processes and Functions.

When designating people for each role, a good practice is to assign people who will be involved in operating the process to the design phase as well. This will help them to use knowledge gathered in the design phase to be better used later in the operational phase.

4) Gap analysis

The next important step is to analyze the current, as-is, state of processes, and identify the current level of process maturity. It’s important that this action is performed by a person with ITIL experience, in order to keep the focus on the process itself, rather than on historical reasons that led to the current process state. Once completed, the focus should be shifted to where you want to be in the future, in order to firmly align supporting processes with business ones.

A gap analysis is basically a report about which processes you need to change, which need to be abandoned, and where new ones should be introduced. A gap analysis could be focused on overall information technology or some aspect of information technology, such as a tool implementation. At the end, the conclusions of a gap analysis must describe how much effort is required in terms of time, money, and human resources to achieve the vision.

5) Planning of new processes

For the implementation of new processes, the ones that didn’t exist before, it’s important to consider ITIL best practices as a whole; this means that if you’re implementing Incident Management, you should consider implementing Problem Management as well, due to the close relationship between the two.

Another key action is identifying so-called ITIL Information Objects, which are inputs and outputs of the process. In general, processes are inefficient due to missing specification of their inputs and outputs; for example, in the case of Incident Management, it’s very important to define data that will be a part of the Incident Record in order to avoid additional workload caused by missing data that could be easily provided (e.g. “John called; he can’t work” is not considered enough information).

6) Process control

When designing a process, it’s important to implement measurable metrics (KPI) that will clearly display whether the process running according to expectations or not, because that information is very important to Process Owners.

Choosing the right KPIs is also dependent on your ability to measure them, as what can’t be measured, can’t be controlled. Ideally, KPIs can be calculated automatically, for example by Service Desk software (number of first call resolutions, number of incidents, etc.). Therefore, successful definition of measurement procedures is key to efficient process control.

The final step of process control is process reporting, and reporting procedures must be clearly defined, specifying which KPIs are reported, in which form and for whom is that report presented.

7) Implementation roadmap

Just starting and being finished “whenever it’s finished” is not recommended for any task, and ITIL implementation is no exception. The purpose of an implementation roadmap is to provide an overview of all the steps necessary in order to successfully complete the project.

A good approach to ITIL implementation would be to divide the available timeframe into chunks, where you address steps according to priorities, where the most important are high-priority gaps and quick wins. It is also important that you start collecting metrics on your quick wins, so you can show progress and justify the project as a whole.

8) Implementation of ITIL processes

As you should’ve learned from ITIL so far, implementing ITIL does not mean that your work is over. At this point you should check whether the implementation plan has fully met expectations, if all services were successfully implemented, and if your processes are producing the outputs you wanted.

If not, you can use the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) process to identify and correct any service or process that isn’t performing up to expectations. CSI is a vital part of ITIL methodology, as it continuously searches for new areas of improvement, and drives the change within the Service Lifecycle. Those changes should always end up with measurable improvements.

There is a great blog post about ITIL CSI that you can read for more information, which can be found here:  ITIL Continual Service Improvement – the never-ending story.

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