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How To Avoid This Tragedy In Your Organization: ITSM Project Failure in Five Acts
Eighty percent of IT Service Management and ITIL programs and projects have failed to meet their objectives and are deemed a failure by the sponsor. Despite the high-profile success of ITSM and ITIL projects in organizations like Proctor & Gamble and BMO Financial, most ITSM projects will fail. This is tragic since ITIL has so much to offer in helping organizations align IT with their business objectives. This tragedy of failed ITSM programs generally takes place over five phases, or like Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, Hamlet, five acts. In the following, I present the phases of a typical failed ITSM implementation along with suggestions on how you can avoid this kind of tragedy in your organization:
 
ACT I - The Way to IT Shangri-La
 
Macbeth:
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself,
And falls on th'other...
 
Our hero, the CIO, joins an IT organization and seeing that there is a lack of standardized processes and mistrust between IT and the business, issues the directive that ITIL will be introduced into the organization. The ITSM program had been successful at the CIO's previous organization where she had been an IT director, so why couldn't it be successful here? The directive is for all IT staff to receive ITIL Foundations training and ITSM consultants will be hired to implement ITIL processes.
 
Recommendations:
 
The typical ITIL training program involves training everyone in IT in Foundations, which is 100% content, then giving more advanced training to a small subset of IT staff. Instead, focus on creating understanding of the process and the intent of the role the IT staff will play in the process. Don't focus on content. Create awareness and let people come to their own conclusions about the need for change. Use simulations to make people aware of the processes and get shared experiences about how ITIL can be used in the organization. Then do ITIL Foundations training, but focus on the right roles and people.
 
ACT II -Invasion of the ITSM Consultants
 
King Henry:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
 
 
ITIL training is provided in-house to all IT staff. Like most involuntary training involving change, twenty percent of staff will embrace it and get excited about the opportunities ITIL provides, ten percent will be openly hostile to change, and the majority seventy percent will take a wait and see attitude. Certificates and pins are handed out, and cute Nerf toys are left behind for people to throw at each other. Next, ITSM consultants descend on the organization to hold process design workshops, create Visio diagrams and RACI charts and produce ITIL process binders. An expensive ITSM software tool is chosen and installed with the help of another ITSM consultant, who can't interpret into the tool the processes designed by the other ITSM consultants, so they configure the tool the way they want to! The ITSM consultants then leave behind their process designs and documentation, and the organization is left to begin following these processes and using the tool. No one considered the management of change required with such a big cultural and operational change, so only about 20 percent of people begin following the processes and 20 percent are openly hostile. The rest are indifferent and just wait for this latest management fad to go away so they go back to working like they always have.
 
Recommendations:
 
Have a training plan that involves more than certifying all IT staff in ITIL Foundations. Focus your training on key staff that gets what IT service management is about and have them get excited about it and spread the message to other IT staff. Don't leave your ITSM program to just the consultants. Ensure that you are familiar with John Kotter's 7-step model for management of change and don't skip steps! Clearly document your ITIL processes before implementing an IT Service Management software toolset.
 
ACT III - Incident, Problem, Change, ... Stop
 
Florizel:
When you do dance, I wish you
A wave o' th' sea, that you might ever do
Nothing but that.
 
 
The organization starts with implementing the Incident Management process, adds in some service request components, moves on to working on the Problem and a root cause analysis process and then proceed to modifying their existing Change Management process to align with ITIL. Then...stop. At this point, the wind begins to die out of the sails of the ITSM program. Champions become disillusioned as they fail to make a business case to move forward with implementing the other ITIL processes. People stop following the processes, if they ever did, since the ITSM consultants never considered how staff would be held accountable for following the processes. The cultural change associated with ITIL was not considered, so the shift to becoming an IT service provider never happens. And without this cultural change it becomes nearly impossible to implement the ITIL processes beyond Change Management, like Service Catalogue Management, Service Level Management, and Service Asset & Configuration Management, etc...
 
Recommendations:
 
To take your ITSM initiative past Incident, Problem and Change it is imperative that you focus on the foundation of ITSM... services. IT must demonstrate the value it offers to the organization and the best way to start this is to clearly define what IT does for the business. Do this by building an actionable and relevant IT Service Portfolio or Catalogue that clearly articulates all the services that IT provides. ITIL provides basic guidance in this area but engaging someone who has successfully implemented a Service Catalogue in an organization similar to yours is my recommendation.
 
ACT IV - Disillusionment
 
Marcellus:
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
 
 
The IT service management program begins to die a slow death. The CIO has other priorities now, primarily outsourcing all IT development to India; the early ITSM champions have left the company; the ITSM software tool is being used for 10 percent of its capability and duplicate tools are being used and purchased across the organization. Managed Service Providers (MSPs), also known as IT outsourcers, are approaching the CIO and business unit customers about Software as a Service (Saas) options for key business processes and Cloud Computing concepts for replacing the organizations costly IT infrastructure. In essence, these IT outsourcers are doing what should have been the goal of the ITSM program in the first place:  aligning IT with the business and becoming a value-added service provider.
 
Recommendations:
 
If your ITSM program has gotten to this point there may be little chance to save it. The key is to define to the CIO and senior management what IT does and the value it provides to the organization. Only be defining what you do can you compete with Managed Service Providers trying to take your business. As with all the ITIL processes, don't try to boil the ocean. Don't aim for perfection with one process before moving to the next. All of the processes are important so do what you can with each of them. If your audit or internal controls group is using COBIT, ensure that you leverage it in your ITSM program to implement processes to meet audit requirements.
 
ACT V - Death
 
Juliet:
O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.
 
The final act of this tragedy is the death of the ITSM program. The CIO moves on to another organization and the few staff left that believed in the program move on to other projects. Management and staff who never bought into the program declare it another failed management fad. Ironically, more and more IT systems and functions are outsourced to managed service providers who understand what service management is about. And all that work and effort (and cost) of the ITSM consultants? The ITIL process binders and documentation sit on shelves and network drives until they are finally discarded as part of a clean-up project.
 
Recommendations:
 
Don't leave your IT Service Management program to consultants! Here are 5 tips for having a successful ITSM program.
  1. The CIO and other IT leaders should take an active role by being executive sponsors for the ITSM program and ITIL process implementations.
  2. Run your ITIL process implementations as projects; however that is defined at your organization. If you try to do these things on the side of your desk you won't get the exposure and buy-in required. There are lots of elements to a process implementation so it is essential that it is run as a formal project.
  3. Communicate all the time to all levels throughout the project. And communicate in different ways: email, web, presentations, handouts, etc. Experts claim that a person needs to see something 7 times in 7 different ways before the message sticks.
  4. Get some quick wins. Don't wait for the process project to be complete before implementing something. For example, if you are implementing Change Management, can you start a Change Advisory Board and start having meetings. Do you need the entire process to be complete before implementing this step? Probably not, so look for these quick wins in each ITIL process project.
  5. Prepare for organizational resistance and fight-back. Management of change must be considered and Kotter's 7-step model for implementing change is an excellent guide in this area.
Service management and ITIL have so much to offer organizations who want to improve their business processes and align IT with the business. Please don't let the tragedy of a failed ITSM program happen to you and your organization by following the guiding principles in this article. If you do need external help, contact consultants who have demonstrated they have improved organization's IT operations and effectiveness in past ITSM / ITIL projects.
 
About the Author
 
Lee Marshall is an accomplished management consultant and business process reengineering specialist. His specialities are service management, organizational architecture, IT governance and helping build companies that matter by improving their business processes and adding value, and removing non-value, for their customers and stakeholders. Lee attended the University of Waterloo and is a certified ITIL Version 3 Expert and Business Process Master.
 
The Manta Group: As a viable alternative to large management consulting firms, the Manta Group has the vision, tools and methodologies to assist you in building a high performance business.   Our focus on integrating governance, risk, compliance, portfolio management and service management has resulted in a comprehensive service offering enabling enterprise views into operational effectiveness.
 
You can contact Lee Marshall at lee.marshall@mantagroup.com or 647-880-1652.
 
 
You may also be interested in this article: ITIL increased adoption in US Department of Defense
 
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