When ITIL Progress has Stalled: How to Take Improvement to the Next Level

Erika Flora
Written by Erika Flora

SCENE: You’ve implemented a few ITIL processes; Incident, Problem, Change, Request, and a few other processes are doing pretty well. BUT! You’ve hit a wall. You’ve gone about as far as your internal expertise can take you and haven’t made much progress in a while. Now what?

Now, this:

Get advanced training for your staff.

You may be able to get a little farther by training internal staff on advanced ITIL topics (yes, there is training after ITIL Foundation). If you got everyone in IT ITIL Foundation Certified, they likely understand the basics, which is a good first step. If you bought a bunch of the ITIL books, they can serve as a reference and get your staff a bit further.  

But Foundation and book-reading alone does not teach you how to build, measure, and improve new ITIL processes. You will need to send select staff (particularly your Process Owners) to more in-depth ITIL training. This is where an ITIL Intermediate class can help, as it teaches the “how” of ITIL, not just the “what” covered a Foundation class. If you’ve tried that and gotten as far as that will take you, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Find external, temporary support.

Unless you have been-there-done-that staff who have taken organizations to greater levels of IT Service Management maturity and/or been part of large scale ITSM transformations, you will not be able to get too much further on your own. That’s when it’s time to seek external expertise (for a time, at least. Don’t panic. It’s not forever).  

IT Service Management consultants can help you get to the next level. Think of them as coaches who will hold you accountable, track your progress, then set you off on your own path to improvement. The key here is to find an organization that will teach your team to be self-sufficient over the long term.  You should run far, far away if you get the first inkling that a consulting firm is there to “land and expand”.  A great ITSM consulting firm will, instead, learn where you need help (an ITSM assessment is a fantastic first step) and break their services into manageable, finite chunks of work.  

As a result of an ITIL assessment for instance, consultants worth their salt may say something like, “Hey, Jeff. You need to revamp your Service Catalog because it’s holding you back from doing x, y, and z.” Then they’ll help you get it to a good place within a matter of weeks, not months.  Or they may say, “Hi again. Great to see you, Jeff. Hope the kids are well. Your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) desperately need improving because p, d, and q,” then work with you to design a short-term plan and/or roadmap to get you moving in the right direction (again, this shouldn’t take more than a few weeks). Their goal should be to kick-start your stalled program and teach you how to fish rather than do all of the fishing for you (making you forever dependent on them whenever you’re in the mood for a bit of delicious Chilean seabass – you get the point).

At some point, you have to be able to identify when you’ve exhausted your internal resources and need to seek external guidance. Knowing when to ask for help is a strength, not a weakness, Jeff. When you reach that place, your best route is to find an organization that works specifically with ITSM (not just IT strategy or the like), and does work with organizations like yours day-in and day-out. An organization like this (*cough cough*) can save you from months of, “Wow this was super painful and we’ve ticked off a bunch of other teams, but I think maybe we’re making some progress.” 

You should be ready and willing to learn from experts who give the kind of advice you can take and mold to fit your organization’s needs. For example, they should be able to give you ideas on the long-term impact of short-term decisions, look at your organization structure or team’s skills and provide recommendations on how to improve them, and help you structure and communicate upcoming changes to the organization. Most importantly, they should be able to help you avoid the “Oh crap!” challenges they’ve seen other organizations struggle with, so you can get out there and catch some delicious fish already. You deserve it, Jeff.

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Originally published May 05 2017, updated January 01 2019