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ITIL Mission Statement: Key to Better Services

July 29, 2013
Hank Marquis

Many I&O leaders and customers see little value from investments in ITIL. Not getting the Return on Investment (ROI) you expect normally comes from using ITIL incorrectly. You, your staff, and your customers must share the same goals and understand exactly what to expect from your ITIL investments.

The goal of ITIL is not “business and IT alignment” or “competitive advantage from IT investments.” Instead, its first goal is to stabilize service operation. This builds a base for the second goal: increasing value through service optimization. You must have clear-cut, documented, and managed expectations for each activity, and order is vital. Success requires that you stabilize service delivery before trying to optimize. Focusing on the correct goal and linking each ITIL task to that goal is the correct use of ITIL.

Creating an ITIL mission statement based on four questions is one way to start realizing benefits from ITIL-related activities and projects. Asking responsible staff and vendors to answer these questions can improve your ITIL ROI. If you do not yet have an ITIL program, use these questions to start one. ITIL advice, used right, can help you deliver more and higher-quality services in the face of rising demand and fixed budgets.

If you cannot fill in the blanks in the following ITIL mission statement form, you are more likely to fail than to succeed, and you may never obtain the ROI from ITIL that you expect:

“For the service ___, we use ITIL to ___. We will measure ___ to show ___ in ___.”

Examine each ITIL investment in training, hiring, organizational change, software, consulting, etc., and complete an ITIL mission statement for each. Ask responsible staff, managers, and vendors to “fill in the blanks” using the Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goal-setting method. This simple form will help you and your teams understand your goal. It will force the creation of reporting and metrics, and it provides a mission statement for the initiative. It will tell all involved what you are doing, why you are doing it, and when and how you will see its benefits.

Assume that you will not get clear answers to your “fill in the blanks” request. Be careful not to be punitive. Instead, use the lack of understanding and inability to answer as a starting point for improvement. Seek opinions of those in your organization that you trust first, and work together to gain understanding of the initiative. Use a service-based approach to understand firm and customer impact and value potential. Be sure to include whether the ITIL mission statement is for stabilization or optimization. If it is for optimization, you must verify that the service in question is stable.

Investigate each ITIL-related project and initiative to discover how you determine success today. Do you base your expectations on vague promises, or do you know in advance exactly what you expect to happen, when, and why? Assess the success of all services and all ITIL-related projects and investments based on its ITIL mission statement. Use the ITIL mission statement as the metric to reference maturity, benchmarking, Quality of Service (QoS), and Quality of Experience (QoE.) Use the mission statement to drive promotions, bonuses, terminations, training, etc. Require vendors to complete an ITIL mission statement for purchases, and ensure trainers and consultants complete one before engagement. Do your current service level management reports answer or provide an ITIL mission statement?

Launch your ITIL mission statement review by choosing one ITIL-related project or initiative. Introduce the ITIL mission statement at the next team or status meeting. Explain its purpose, and try to agree on one at the meeting. Always use a service-based approach to evaluate business needs or market initiatives. This includes engaging with customers to validate the mission statement in business terms. Ensure each ITIL mission statement reflects upon desired business outcomes. Share it with all I&O staff, users, and customers as appropriate. Review it every month if possible. Minimally, review it at least quarterly.