What to do when your IT “goes all ITIL”

Help! My IT has gone all ITIL on me! What do I do now?

You knew it was coming.  It’s how it goes with these things. You ask IT to focus a little more on the business. An innocent request in itself. We’re all under pressure, and all you wanted was more focus on the things you need to meet your commitments. Things seemed to be going right. It starts with an innocent “IT Transformation” effort. Then perhaps a little process re engineering, maybe a little LEAN…. whatever, so long as they’re delivering more. But before you know it, they’ve “gone all ITIL”.  Now what do you do?

If properly cared for and fed, “ITIL” has a fairly predictable maturity cycle. Not all organizations are the same, of course, and all ITIL efforts are different by design. Yet there’s a remarkable similarity in the stories from numerous organizations around the world.

ITIL is often first applied in areas that are experiencing difficulties, or “pain points” for the organization. Those well-intended early implementers show so much enthusiasm for making things better, they give the impression ITIL will be all things to all people…..  bring world peace, end hunger, and cure cancer. What’s not to like? Besides, they’re offering to fix something that we don’t like. Let’s call this the puppy stage. Full of energy. Youthful enthusiasm. Fun to watch, and at least at first, things do seem to be getting better. “Yay ITIL”.

Unfortunately, without a broader plan, ITIL processes implemented in isolation really don’t make a lot of sense, and our eager ITIL implementers quickly diagnose the problem – we need to implement more ITIL processes to make the one successful.

It’s at this point that word gets out that “that ITIL thing” is large and complex, bureaucratic, and entirely unnecessary for “a company like ours”. Factions form, sides are taken. True believers become zealots, and non-believers take the customer-focus high ground. Meanwhile, the business still just wants more of what it’s always wanted, so it can do more of what they do. Let’s call this the Teenage Rebellion stage. Still a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but some people are getting ITIL tattoos  (and we’re all pretty sure they’re going to regret it some day).

As a business manager faced with an IT organization “going all ITIL”, your secret weapon is within ITIL itself. Ask your IT folks to explain the business value of ITIL. Ask them to quantify the business value of the particular process they want to implement. Like a loving parent, this dialog is critical to convert youthful exuberance into a business value.

Because organizational growth happens in the struggle to answer the question, your goal isn’t to debate or devalue, but rather to engage and direct their energy to what’s important to the organization. The linkage between  their energy, and the business need is what gives the effort its sense of purpose.

This is the young adult stage ~ a level of maturity and sense of purpose, and the drive to get stuff done. You’ll know you’re on your way when you start hearing more about delivering value, and less about designing IT processes.  Get your IT group to this stage, and you have a valuable strategic asset that you can’t buy. Dedicated folks who’s sole purpose is to deliver business value in the form of technology services you need to be successful.

Have you seen these stages in your organization? What’s your experience?