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Author  Madeleine Townsend - IT service and governance consultant, Foster-Melliar

September 19, 2016 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Incident management
  • IT Services
  • Processes
  • ITIL

Many people associate ITIL’s core books with managing incidents and problems. This focus on break/fix scenarios is probably historical, but the misconception is still very much alive.

Having been an ITIL trainer for more than 15 years and practising even longer, the only people I seem to train are infrastructure people such as service desk staff, desktop support and network engineers. The CIO often doesn’t believe that ITIL is a framework he should be thinking about, Project Managers focus on PRINCE2® and the application guys say they don’t need ITIL because they have the SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle).

Most of my students battle with the Transition, Design and Strategy modules, as they have simply never been exposed to it, or only from an operational perspective. So many people still believe a good change management process is one where we authorise change implementations into production.

Tackling the enduring ITIL misconception

Perhaps the misconception lives on because ITIL has been so successful in the incident space and is the go-to framework for operational processes. Unfortunately, many students now apply the transition and design concepts within the infrastructure space. Although some have had success with that approach, I still believe it detracts from ITIL’s true purpose and mission - to manage IT services.

Another cause may be that most IT Service Management (ITSM) software vendors are still very focused on managing incidents, requests and changes. The fault does not lie with the software vendor but rather IT management who still believe they are “implementing ITIL” when in fact they are only implementing a toolset to help them record and track incidents, requests and changes.

But how can you tackle the misconception and generate even more success through using ITIL? First, more people around IT need to embrace it. Introducing the CIO to ITIL’s service strategy is a good start. We need to stress more that managing a service is not just managing what’s already live, it’s managing the end-to-end product and understanding how service integrates with the wider business.

I have now started pushing people to focus on the service catalogue first: It sometimes takes quite a mind shift though to get them to realise that an IT Service is network management and not just network support.

Overall there is a lot of experience that says our customers want good support from IT but when it comes to designing new business processes, IT is often the last to be engaged; I think that’s because IT is seen as nothing more than a support department - the fixers. For the business to see IT as a true enabler, IT needs to get involved earlier in the planning cycle and show that its processes to scope, design, build and roll-out new services are just as robust as those used to support them. And of course ITIL can guide them in the design of these processes too; if only they would look into it.

ITIL - an expletive to be deleted?

Hard to believe, but ITIL has become a swear word in many places and often used as a stick with which to bash staff. And often those who implement ITIL are at the root of the problem. Many times, processes are implemented for the sake of having a process with the explanation that “we are doing ITIL!” and, when that happens, IT staff start viewing ITIL as red tape and cumbersome.

Instead of blaming ITIL, process owners should go back to the objectives of what they’re trying to achieve and then use ITIL as a structure in which to work. The objective of incident management is not simply to log incidents, but rather to manage Incidents so effectively that we restore service to the customer as quickly as possible.

Perhaps if we start going back to the roots of ITIL - or at least look at ITIL in its entirety - we will be able to expose this myth. ITIL is not just for infrastructure or only managing services that are already in production; ITIL is a robust framework that can guide you from the very beginning of your service journey.

Perhaps we should be handing out the Service Strategy book to all CIOs that attend the next itSMF conference; that is if they will even attend a conference that is perceived to be for the infrastructure guys!

See our ITIL section for more information.

More blogs in our ITIL Misconceptions series

ITIL® Misconceptions: “ITIL doesn’t require any formal training, it is just common sense or a tool that will fix it all.”

ITIL® Misconceptions: “ITIL is incompatible with other practices.”

ITIL® Misconceptions: “ITIL is only for big organizations.”

ITIL® Misconceptions: “ITIL requires too many people.”

ITIL® Misconceptions: “ITIL is a standard to adhere to”

5 popular misconceptions about ITIL®: ‘ITIL is a standard’, and other folk stories

ITIL® Misconceptions: "You don’t need to worry about culture when adopting the ITIL framework."