Insight article

ITIL Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

By Jason Akai, guest contributor

Process improvement is everywhere.  People talk about the need to improve processes or procedures.  There are jobs that are devoted solely to reviewing processes and procedures.  I think most people I know learn the value of Visio through their first Swim Lane diagram.  Hours of meetings, training, review, new meetings, new training – all of this spent to trim the excess fat off of the processes we all live by.  We constantly talk about cost saving and having repeatable processes for tasks.

So, then, why is it that everyone runs and hides at the bare mention of ITIL?  Managers have said to me before  – “Don’t say ITIL, or CMDB, or Service Desk” because people get nervous around those terms.  Some people react violently to ITIL. They tell you how it can “never work here” or that “it’s easy – just call everything a service and you’re done, right?”

You would think ITIL was designed by IT auditors given the reaction from most IT people – run away, divulge only specific information that is asked of them, and never incriminate themselves or others.  Hide in their offices or under the desks, and maybe it will go away soon, like a storm.

As an “ITIL guy”, I hear and see this sort of thing all the time.  My favorite reaction from some people who try to like ITIL is: “So, what would ITIL (Moses) do?”  As if there is one universal solution that works for every situation.  I’m sure that all “ITIL guys” will have the same response – “It depends.”

ITIL isn’t magic.  ITIL isn’t rigid and unbending.  It isn’t some straightforward blueprint you can just “follow” and it “works.”  It’s a series of goals, practices, ways to help form best practices, processes and procedures for a specific company.  It gives people a framework from which to build a house of efficiency.  It shows you how to value what you do by thinking of it as a service to your customers, rather than a burden or plight on society.

ITIL is also not a four-letter word.  I mean, I guess it is – clearly (most people pronounce it “I – til”, by the way), but not in the way where your mom washes your mouth out with soap.  It should be easy to embrace, but people have many hang-ups and misconceptions about it.

So let me be your guide on this eye-opening journey for your company to follow the ITIL road to glory.

  • Do not panic.  Do not think that this will be quick and easy, and that just by reading ITIL books, everyone will instantly know what to do.  Be patient, since change is never easy on anyone.
  • Get an ITIL provider – like Pink Elephant or Third Sky – to help provide training and help evaluate where you currently stand.  You can tier the support you obtain from them based on your budget.
  • Everyone in IT should attend some form of an ITIL foundation class – and I mean the entire IT department.  It helps alleviate the questions – and fears – around what ITIL is and is not.  It also helps establish a vocabulary that everyone can agree to.
  • IT should designate one person to lead the team dedicated to transforming the IT department.  This team  – or at least the lead person – should take all the ITIL classes and become subject matter experts.

Sometimes it is best to hire someone for the specific purpose of helping with this initiative – someone unbiased by being in the company for a long period of time.

  • That person can move to being part of continuous process improvement and usually end up supporting new projects for customers.
  • They have to understand how to communicate with all levels of the business environment – staff, customers, managers, senior officers, etc.
  • If you are unsure about hiring a full-time ITIL specialist, ask the provider if they have someone who could work with the team and help – at least through the planning phase.

The team’s first role is to determine what is already in place and what needs to be worked on.  They can start this after the foundation class.

  • Before they start working on any areas, they should finish the manager or practitioner classes for that area.  This is something they can do in less than a month.
  • Focus on the big wins first – usually service desk, change management, and asset management are good places to begin.  These improvements provide clearly visible returns for stakeholders.
  • Pull in managers and key players to understand the current state and to review potential new ideas and processes.

Continue to develop your company’s own best practice documents as part of this improvement cycle.  It’s these practices – informed by ITIL – which create the blueprint for your company’s success.

Got questions?  Please comment and Jason will answer them promptly!

About Jason Akai

Jason is a problem solver extraordinaire with over 23 years of work experience. He is the kind of person who everyone knows, remembers, and looks for when they need to network or to just fix something. He adds his own personal brand of humor and insight to most situations. He is an IT person by accident – being both a personable conversationalist as well as understanding the ins and outs of IT. He received his Masters Degree in Business Information Technology from DePaul University and holds a number of ITIL certifications. He is a Toastmaster, having earned the highest honor – the Distinguished Toastmaster award – twice. He’s taught little old ladies how to use computers, 5-year-olds how to play baseball, supported extremely well known industry giants, played golf with sports super stars, and presented to rooms of over 700 people. We’re excited to have him as a new irregular blogger on IT topics!

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