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7 questions to ask before implementing ITIL

Sharon Florentine | March 8, 2016
Implementing an IT infrastructure library (ITIL) can help organizations trying to get a better handle on IT services and resources. But ITIL's just a framework. One size does not fit all. In fact, you might not need it at all Here are seven questions to ask to find out if ITIL's right for you.

Many organizations turn to IT infrastructure libraries (ITIL) to better manage how IT services and technology are delivered to users. But ITIL's not a one-size-fits-all solution. In some cases, you might need to customize ITIL to the needs of your organization or you might not need ITIL at all. How can you decide?

"First of all, don't start by saying, 'We're implementing ITIL.' In some organizations that have tried and failed, it can be a four-letter-word. You need to emphasize that you're trying to focus on getting better results and outcomes from IT, and on improving service management. ITIL is a framework, and you have to adapt and modify it to the needs of your own IT organization," says Gary Case, principal consultant with ITIL/ITSM training, education and consulting company Pink Elephant.

In a session at the Pink16 ITIL/ITSM conference, held last month in Las Vegas, Case lays out seven questions to ask before you get started.

1. What problem(s) are we trying to solve?

The first thing to ask yourself is, "What problem are we trying to solve?" If the answer's not clear, then ITIL isn't going to be a solution, says Case. Are you trying to improve customer relationships? Address a poor requirements-gathering process? Implement a better change management or incident response and management procedure? Maybe the problem is that your IT department isn't even sure what it is they are providing to customers in the first place, Case says.

"When I'm brought in on a consultation, this is always the first question I ask. And if no one can answer that for me, then I'm not going to be much help. Everyone in an organization, from the top executives to the lowest-level IT professional has to agree on what the problem is. Sometimes ITIL is the answer; sometimes it's not. I've seen too many executives try and implement ITIL out of the book without knowing that it must be purpose-built to address the problems in your unique organization, to be modified to take advantage of other frameworks like agile or lean, and that's almost a guarantee of failure," Case says.

Case suggests making sure that every department first understands the business strategy and the use cases involved in IT decision making so that they can more effectively focus on improving outcomes and aligning IT with the larger goals of the business, with or without ITIL.

"I think 100 percent of the people who work in an IT department should have access to the business goals and strategy, but how often do IT teams have any idea what the business strategy is? If you're going to focus on outcomes and results from the business level, you have to provide that information to make sure business and IT are aligned," Case says.


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