Employees and technologies are the two pillars that support the growth of any organization. In order to meet their business goals, every organization should ensure its employees are well trained, and the technologies used are up to date. Additionally, effective management of internal services and processes are imperative for an organization to succeed.

This is where ITIL framework comes into the picture!

The popular and widely used framework, paves way for efficient IT service management (ITSM). ITIL framework ensures the business requirements and an organization’s internal operations are well aligned by establishing exceptional service delivery processes.

Needless to say, the popularity and success of implementing ITIL framework has ensured its wide acceptance. There are numerous success stories of this implementation. But as the adage goes, “The wise learn from others mistakes”, a lot can be learned from the implementation failure case studies. This article encompasses some common reasons for ITIL implementation failure.

1. Lack of vision

Implementing ITIL because… well, just like that

This is one of the main reasons for the implementation to fail. Many organizations get inspired by the idea of implementing the framework that they begin to do so, without understanding the objectives of ITIL framework and how it could solve their problems. There have been instances when higher management decide that implementing this framework would solve all their problems. And IT managers are left with no choice but to try and implement this framework out of the book; they adopt the framework as a whole without modifying the framework to meet the unique requirements of a particular organization.

How to overcome this?

The best way to overcome this impediment is to ensure the higher management and the IT team of an organization are on the same page; the higher management should give leeway for the IT teams to make certain critical decisions when it comes to the implementation process. This way, areas where the framework can be useful can be identified. Moreover, it is crucial for the IT teams to be aware of the business strategy and goals to ensure ITSM is aligned to the business requirements. 

2. Lack of planning

Planning? Nah, we hit the ground running when it comes to ITIL implementation

We have all heard it a million times. Plan before executing. However in reality it’s harder to adhere to plans. Or actually put together a plan. A sudden, overall ITIL implementation without proper planning is a sure shot way to fail in implementation. Often, when an organization implements the framework without planning it is not only the process that will suffer- IT teams will be left adrift, without learning about ITIL and not getting certified. Also, the implementation is not just a technological change- it requires cultural change in an organization to be successful. And cultural and behavioural changes in an organization requires proper planning and communication.

How to overcome this?

Plan. Plan. Plan. Plan. And then implement the framework. After careful examination, decide an implementation strategy in phases. The strategy should encompass training the IT team, communicating to the stakeholders and end-users, identifying areas where ITIL can be initially implemented. Understanding the vibe of the organization and planning the roll out in phases can help in easier adoption. During the initial stages it is imperative to hold discussions with the end-users about the change in the IT service delivery process. Receiving regular feedback from the end-users will also smoothen the implementation to a great extent.

3. Uncertainty about service desk tool selection

This service desk tool. No wait! That service desk tool. Hold on, lets go with that one

When an organization decides to implement the ITIL framework, more often than not, top level management take matters into their own hands and identify a service desk tool that they think will work for the organization. This is one of the biggest mistakes for implementation failure. In many cases, the IT team is not involved. Some organizations fail to take into consideration the end-user response to a service desk tool. 

How to overcome this?

Involving the members from the IT team in the decision making process for a service desk tool selection is important. More often than not, a service desk tool is only considered for its merits related to the agent portal. In order to increase end-user adoption of the service portal, it is also good practice to understand the end-user portal of the service desk under consideration. Rather than selecting a service desk tool that checks off all the processes in the framework, it is critical to understand the tool’s functionalities for the modules that is relevant to the organization. 

4. Improper communication

Communication? Oh yeah, we sent out a company wide email about the implementation

Many organizations send out a last minute, FYI email about the implementation. Nothing could be more toxic and lead to the downfall of the implementation (or any envisioned change for that matter) than insufficient communication. It is crucial to communicate and have discussions with every team/department in the organization about proposed changes so that the implementation can be successful.

How to overcome this?

Proper communication can not only help in ITIL implementation but also improve service desk portal usage. Brainstorming sessions and taking the feedback of the end-user will streamline the service desk delivery. Open communication is easily said that done. An organization nailing the communication aspect of implementation, will have see better success rate. Additionally it is imperative to have pilot experiments before the big bang launch. 

5. Giving up on ITIL without trying again

Well, ITIL was just not for us

It is not rare to see organization try to implement ITIL framework but throw in the towel when it doesn’t go the way it was envisioned. The issue is not with the framework but with the way the implementation was approached. The implementation could have failed because of improper planning, implementing ITIL without considering business vision, selecting the wrong service desk tool, insufficient communication.

How to overcome this?

Well, the ITIL framework works. The numerous success stories of its implementation stands to support that. It is imperative to select modules that are relevant to a particular organization and use its framework in tandem with other best practices methodologies such as Lean, DevOps, Agile.

What should an organization do to ensure a successful ITIL implementation?

Well, avoiding the common implementation mistakes will ensure success in an organization. High level management should let the IT team take a lead in deciding the service desk tool and implementation process. Preparing the IT team for the transition is crucial- though it takes some time, it will reap benefits. Additionally, it is important to understand that the implementation is not just a technological change. It involves a behavioural and cultural change for the entire organization. Regular communication and receiving feedback from the end-users will ensure ITIL is well received.

Apoorva Ravikrishnan is a Product Marketing Manager for Freshservice at Freshworks Inc. She is an ITSM enthusiast and frequently voices her thoughts on ITIL and best practices for ITSM.