There’s a lot of debate and discussion regarding IT Service Management (ITSM) “implementation” (or adoption), ITIL processes, and general best practices. While it’s expected that no two implementations are the same, there are some mistakes and underlying issues that are common among even the most mature organizations. For instance, when ITSM transformation leader Derek Lonsdale was asked what some of the biggest mistakes IT organizations make during the ITSM tool implementation process, his response was simple – “Doing IT for IT’s sake and not focusing on business priorities.”

Now, going on four years later, it’s safe to say that business value should still be the absolute laser focus for an ITSM improvement program and tool RFP; where the software or platform solution an organization chooses is tailor-made in meeting only the most important of their business requirements.

How to get ITSM right

Easier said than done, right? Designing, implementing, and managing new ITSM processes has its share of trials and tribulations. That said, let’s examine some of the most common ITSM mistakes organizations make before, during, and after an ITSM tool implementation and explore what IT leaders can do to combat them.

    1. The RFP misses the mark
      This is a big one, and one that many organizations seem to struggle with. When creating the RFP, many organizations get so caught up in the technical aspects of the ITSM tools, that they fail to get to the core value components that address why they are prospecting the tool in the first place. Instead of slapping together an extensive list of technical requirements from IT stakeholders and their associated ITIL processes, Gartner suggests using the MoSCoW Method (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have yet) to clarify business requirements and avoid convoluted checklists.

    2. Being stuck in the past
      Another common mistake during the design phase is getting too caught up with what has worked in the past. While it’s important to review and take note of what’s worked previously within the organization, your RFP for an ITSM tool should include requirements created to fuel growth and attain the best ROI for the immediate future. Reusing or recycling past RFP requirements is inherently problematic, and may cause unforeseen issues years down the line.

    3. Waiving off cultural buy-in
      Implementing a new or replacement ITIL-based solution for ITSM can be a big jump for growing organizations. It’s human nature to resist change, especially when you haven’t made clear the motivations or properly conveyed the value it will bring to the business. For these reasons, it’s crucial that your team is brought into the fold, and that their commitment to these changes is just as important as the technology and processes you’re implementing.

    4. Not spending enough time on process
      Achieving high levels of business value through process maturity should be the goal of any ITSM-related project. However, you’d be surprised at just how many organizations don’t spend enough time thinking through their own process integration in the planning phase. It’s important to establish document control and be consistent in your process strategy so that all team members involved have a clear understanding with how they’ll work and integrate with your new or replacement ITSM solution.

    5. Too much too soon
      On the flipside, trying to do too much in the ITSM adoption phase may result in spreading your existing resources too thin. Going back to the MoSCoW Method, make sure you’re only implementing the tools and processes you absolutely need to achieve your targeted ROI and business value KPIs. Oftentimes, baby steps and continual small improvements win out over large, seismic changes out of the gate.

    6. Scope creep goes wild
      It’s the bane of any project manager’s existence. When expectations and goals aren’t properly planned for at the start of the ITSM project, scope creep will inevitably come to take things off the rails. Just like the mistake of trying to do too much too soon, IT leaders should be wary of scope creep as a result of taking on more than what you’re able to manage. Make note of improvements that need to be made and try to course correct as a part of ITIL’s Continual Service Improvement (CSI) best practices.

    7. Lack of communications strategy
      We already know it’s important to achieve buy-in for your new ITSM project, however, IT project managers often make the mistake of not formulating a clear communications strategy that loops in management and team members as to all pertinent statuses, milestones, and related information and metrics related to ITIL or the ITSM project as a whole. Relegating these items to one-off emails without first considering who they’re targeting, what you’re trying to accomplish, or if any feedback is needed can cause organizational strife and may potentially hold the project back.

    8. Don’t get caught up in what you don’t need
      It happens to the best of us. You saw a cool piece of technology, automation, or dashboard feature that your organization just can’t live without. Working in the IT world, it’s safe to assume that many of us geek out when we see something that’s just really cool. However, you shouldn’t lose sight of what’s important with your ITSM project. Look at how implementing that awesome tool or automation will affect established processes, performance, entire departments, etc. As Elzette points out in her article regarding common mistakes made with IT automation, “it’s imperative that you establish a clear strategy that takes into consideration existing automation efforts, business value, and key indicators for success.” This same logic should be applied to ITSM and ITIL-related projects.

    9. Misusing KPIs
      A huge mistake identified by Linda Tucci of TechTarget is when IT organizations place too much emphasis on the measurement of IT performance metrics and less on how those metrics actually impact the business. Gartner describes these differences as below-the-line versus above-the-line metrics. Measuring and prioritizing KPIs that affect the business such as network downtime or incident escalations is key to achieving the most value from your ITSM tool solution.

    10. Satisfaction with the status quo processes
      Finally, IT leaders must always push to improve their ITSM solutions and associated processes. ITIL is a continuous effort, and process is never “done.” Even if goals are consistently met, CSI calls for the constant measurement, analysis, and implementation of process changes and improvements in order to attain the most value possible. IT is constantly shifting and evolving, and if processes are not changing with the times, then they will quickly be made obsolete.

These are just ten of the most common ITSM-related pitfalls and what you can do to steer away from them. Have any additional thoughts or mistakes of your own to add? Please feel free to make a comment below.