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Next Practices in Business Service Management

 

 

Top 10 Types of Resistance to ITIL Improvement Initiatives
by Paul Wilkinson

Editor’s note: As the documentation and implementation of best practices for IT Service Management, ITIL constitutes an invaluable collection of IT management processes that can make an enormous difference in better aligning IT with their business counterparts.  The following summary of survey research from Paul Wilkinson identifies roadblocks to ITIL initiatives.  While the most frequent types of resistance focus on project management oriented issues, several of these top 10 highlight the criticality of Business-oriented Service Management (or BSM) for ITIL success with IT processes.

As IT becomes increasingly important to business operations more and more IT organizations are turning to ITIL and other such ITSM frameworks to bring IT under control and provide services that deliver business value. ITIL V3  sums up perfectly what we in IT need to deliver "Value to customers in terms of outcomes they want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks."

Unfortunately, too many  ITSM improvement programs fail. Reports vary, stating that between 70% and 80% fail to deliver value. A Forrester report revealed that 52% fail because of resistance. These failures cause wasted costs and increased business risks. These failures are no longer acceptable.

Despite more than 2,000,000 worldwide ITIL certificates still most initiatives go wrong if we are to believe the figures. I personally have played Apollo 13 for our business simulation with more than 1000 different customer organizations and I too can reveal the feedback from the sessions confirms the difficulties organizations are having adopting and deploying best practices. Obviously something is missing in the training and certification approaches being generally offered! If we are to finally remove these wasted costs and risks and deliver real value with the frameworks it is important we identify these types of resistance so that we can learn to address them.

We have surveyed 2250 ITIL practitioners who have together been involved in literally 100s of ITSM improvement projects to identify the top types of resistance. We used the ABC of ICT card set and asked the practitioners to choose the top 3 types of resistance they most often encounter. 

We also started discussions on a number of ITIL linkedin groups and consolidated the feedback into the ABC of ICT grouping. The itSMF in the US also held a series of ABC workshops at local LIGS to also capture feedback.

We conducted a survey of more than 1000 international IT practitioners and users of ITIL to gain a more detailed and accurate set of findings. These were shared with the whole ITSM community. Hopefully the training companies and consulting companies are translating the findings into solutions so that we can manage the costs and risks and finally start delivering value. 

This article identifies the overall Top 10 types of resistance chosen.

No management commitment

Comments included:

  • Managers giving 'lip' service to the importance of ITIL, or managers not 'Walking the talk'.
  • Managers who don't address the issues of 'Saying Yes, but meaning No'.
  • Managers who withold or withdraw resources.  
  • Managers who become frustrated at the lack of results and withdraw commitment.  

It is clear from the Linkedin discussions that management commitment needs to be consciously addressed and fed with quick wins and progress to ensure they remain committed. The feedback from the Linkedin discussions around this subject drove this to the number 1 position.

Saying 'Yes', but meaning 'No'

People promise to deliver new procedures or designs and fail to do so …and other work is more important.  In addition, while in live operation people say they will follow a procedure or update a tool but don't.....

ITIL is the objective not what it should achieve 

Very often we communicate to the organization 'what' will happen but not 'why'.  ITIL is the goal not what we want to achieve using it. Comments included:

  • 'Other people are adopting ITIL we should too....'
  • 'We are going to 'Implement' ITIL.....'
  • 'That is what it says in the book!...'.

Often ITIL initiatives are too large or too complex and are not 'fit for purpose'. People try 'implementing'  too much too fast, setting unrealistic ambitions and goals.

Plan, Do, Stop......No continual improvement focus

Too often ITIL projects are simply that! …projects. The results are not embedded into a continual improvement cycle to ensure as business needs change or new IT solutions are deployed that ITSM remains aligned and that processes continue to deliver value and protect against escalating costs and risks.

“Never mind about following procedures just do what we normally do”

People do not like to change. If they see no reason or value they may resist. If there is too little management commitment this type of resistance will rapidly grow. This type of resistance can be displayed at all levels including the business and users if they perceive ITIL as a barrier.

“ITIL will never work here”

…or a general resistance to changing the way people work and a lack of belief that ITIL is necessary or it will make a difference. Often people are not told or convinced of the need to change, or there is a denial that change is necessary. Once people are confronted with the fact that ITIL will happen the resistance is centered on lack of time or resources. The pressure of existing workload demands and perceived lack of staff become even more strained because of ITIL demands, causing increased frustration and resistance.

Throwing (ITIL) solutions over the wall and HOPING that people will follow them

Despite the more than 15 years of ITIL, the training and certification offerings, and the annual itSMF conferences with the 100's of presentations and cases …we still do not know how to adopt and apply ITIL. We still fail to engage and involve people in designing their own processes and procedures. We still think we can simply 'implement' or 'install' ITIL. In the “ABC of ICT - An Introduction,” industry experts shared their tips and approaches. These have been summarized in our article 'What the experts say' to help people identify how to successfully adopt and apply ITIL. The question is does anybody feel responsible for reading them and doing something with them ...or will most people adopt the number 5 resistance characteristic 'Not my Responsibility'.

IT thinks it doesn't need to understand the business to make a business case 

A survey using the ABC cards to identify the top ABC within IT organizations reveals as the number 1 roadblock that 'IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority'. Partly this is compounded by the fact that IT is still too 'internally focused'. Often there is a business case or set of metrics and measures.  However they are generally 'internally focused' and have too little customer or service focus. There is no real relationship with business 'value', 'outcomes', 'costs' and 'risks'. IT may argue that the measures accomplish this.  But go and ask the BUSINESS if they agree that these are indeed the measures, value and outcomes they require.

There is a general resistance to changing the way people work and a lack of belief that ITIL is necessary or it will make a difference. Often people are not told or convinced of the need to change, or there is a denial that change is necessary. Once people are confronted with the fact that ITIL will happen the resistance is centered on lack of time or resources. The pressure of existing workload demands and perceived lack of staff become even more strained because of ITIL demands, causing increased frustration and resistance.

Unable to specify the VALUE required by the business

We still do not fully understand the “value” and outcomes we need to achieve using ITIL. 70% of ITIL initiatives are still unable to measure or demonstrate value. IT is not seen as an added value partner and does not know how to gain the trust of the business. Whenever we ask at an ITIL conference who knows what the definition of a Service is according to ITIL less than 5% of the hands go up........although 90% are busy 'Implementing' ITIL. The question is 'what are they hoping to achieve with ITIL?  

Everything has the highest priority according to the users

Is it any wonder! …if we have spent more than 15 years 'playing with ITIL' and most companies do not understand business impact and priority or the value they expect to deliver to the business using ITIL.

Paul Wilkinson is the co-owner of GamingWorks. He is an ITIL Service manager with more than 25 years of experience at all levels within the IT branch, from Computer operations, to IT services manager to IT services development manager. Author of ITIL V2 publication. Designer of GamingWorks products. Co-Author and Cartoonist of the 'ITSM from hell book'.



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