Sunday, October 14, 2007

ITIL Lite?

As Featured On Ezine Articles

What exactly is ITIL Lite?

I often hear people use the term "ITIL Lite." But what exactly does it mean? The phrase is often used within the context of trying to gain the benefits of ITIL without making the necessary difficult choices and sacrifices; thus, deviating from the core principles of IT Service Management. In this sense, ITIL-Lite is the shortcut taken whenever the organization is not able (or at least does not believe it is able) to get the requisite level of buy-in to fully implement the best practice concepts as defined in the Library.

In most situations, the following scenario exists: someone (usually a mid level manager) within the organization that has achieved some level of ITIL certification (usually Foundation) has the revelation that the way forward is with Service Management. Unfortunately, due to having just enough knowledge to be dangerous, a grandiose implementation plan is hatched. After all, how can anyone argue against the "common sense" of Service Management?

On paper, everything looks great; finally, a solution to all that ails IT.

Sometime shortly after the project is launched (assuming it was launched as a project,) the realization sets in that people don't always embrace change simply because it is the right thing to do. After all, ITIL looks very good on paper but it’s “really just theory” and “it doesn't work for very complex organizations”. Or, maybe, “our IT organization is very unique”.

Somewhere amid the haze of chaos which inevitably ensues from unplanned organizational changes, the brilliant concept of ITIL-Lite emerges. If ever there was the hope of a successful application of the ITIL concepts, all is now lost.

This genius is crafted as a compromise between what is viewed as the theoretical ideals of the "ITIL Methodology" in the "uniqueness multi-layered complexity" of the IT organization in question.

The promise, of course, is that all the required hard work and discipline associated with realizing the benefits of Service Management can be bypassed without sacrificing the quality of the outcome. What’s missed here is the point that this is contrary to best practice. Best practice is best practice because it has been proven. It is not based on conjecture or theory but on the examples taken from those that worked diligently to put in the time and effort to define objectives, create buy-in, and deliver the value promised to the organization.

In doing so, they realized that it’s not possible to simply skip activities and levels of maturity in exchange for expediency and achieve the same level of quality.

As a practical matter, neither can you cherry pick the most palatable elements of best practice. But alas, eventually the realization sets in that it just doesn’t work that way. The ITIL model is an integrated one. There is purpose and thought behind every activity and process flow. This is a lesson most organizations who attempt an implementation without the right amount of planning learn in the most disappointing of ways.

Often, even the generic “improvement in quality” or “increased value” is never realized. This is mostly due to the fact that it was never very clear why it was being done in the first place. No one really ever knew where you were supposed to end up. This is best known among Service Management professionals as the classic case of “ITIL for the sake of ITIL.” The objective of such an undertaking is never explicitly identified before undertaking this effort.

If you don’t know where you’re going, anywhere will do. And that’s just where most organizations end up. After all of the hype, time, cost and effort associated with such an endeavor the let down has far reaching effects. One of the greatest dangers lies is the resulting loss of faith in ITSM as a really effective and realistic set of best practices.

Eventually, the consensus becomes that Service Management just doesn’t work for most organizations. Over the next couple of weeks, I will continue to explore some of the causes of these issues for IT organizations as well as the implications for the Management Consulting profession.

The follow up topics will include:

* Lack of appropriate level of management buy-in

* Process implementation pitfalls

* No internal implementation knowledge

* Mistrust of consultants

* Unaware of the limits of the knowledge of most consultants

* ITIL for the sake of ITIL

* Inability to differentiate practice from Best Practice

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