What’s the Most Challenging Aspect of Adopting ITIL Best Practices?

yogalaptopStudents in my ITIL® classes ask me that question often.

In class, I present quite a bit of information that usually causes students to generate many ideas about what they’d like to do back at work. One of the challenges that students of ITIL often have is picking what to do first and where to focus the organization’s resources.

If you asked 10 different ITIL Experts what the most challenging aspect of adopting ITIL best practices is, you’re likely to get 10 different answers. It’s not that anyone is wrong; it’s that we all approach service management based our own background and experiences.

I’ve seen numerous organizations adopt all aspects of the ITIL best practices. In all of those cases, actual adoption of any specific aspect of ITIL, such as incident management, or change management, wasn’t really all that difficult. In fact, once the organization moved past political aspects that slowed adoption and became willing to consult the ITIL books, “setting up” anything specific that ITIL describes was relatively easy.

However, in all cases that I’ve witnessed, organizations from various industries experience shortcomings in the same area. Without exception, the part of ITIL that I see organizations having difficulty with is overall governance.

Anything that ITIL describes is relatively easy to follow. However, what’s usually challenging for most organizations is clearly defining their vision, communicating the vision, and ensuring that the organization is working together to achieve the vision.

From a specific process activity standpoint, organizations often have difficulty communicating the policies and processes that are defined, and they have further difficulty enforcing specific process activities, policies, and other boundaries that are defined when an organization chooses to adopt best practices.

Tonight I flew from Dallas to Washington DC. Airlines generally have very strict rules about exit rows and underseat baggage, since personnel and passengers would have to quickly move through those exit rows if there were an emergency. On the flight tonight, a traveler seated in the exit row attempted to place a bag under the seat in front of him. The bag was most likely eligible for an oversized luggage charge, yet this person put it under his seat and rested his legs on top of his bag. The bag literally blocked the entire middle of one exit row.

The flight attendants were aware of this. They saw it several times. A passenger even mentioned it to them. For whatever reason, they chose to not enforce the policies regarding underseat baggage in the exit row—a clear example of how setting up a policy is one thing and governing that policy is an entirely different thing.

Policies, procedures, roles, responsibilities, and other boundaries are great, but they’re only really useful when clearly communicated and fairly and transparently enforced.

Related Courses
ITIL® Service Lifecycle: Service Strategy
ITIL® Service Lifecycle: Continual Service Improvement
ITIL®: Managing Across the Lifecycle

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  1. Barry Corless Reply

    Hey Michael,

    Like this. Anywhere I’ve been in the world with IT service management (indeed any process or policy) “People” tend to be the biggest stumbling block…the root cause is often lack of knowledge. Paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling, then communicating to stakeholders “Who, how, why, what, where and when” is vital. Sadly, training, education and awareness so often get missed 🙁

  2. FoaRyan Reply

    Totally right, a lot of the time the reason policies aren’t followed like we’d like them to be is that no one else has any knowledge of the policy. In my org we seem to get pushback or carelessness about the change management process, but if you go out to the areas within IT that are required to submit change requests, they don’t know anything about them, or why they are important in the first place!