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INFOTECH: Top Reasons for the Failure Of IT Service Management


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IT Service Management (ITSM) provides organisations with the opportunity to improve the quality of their service, increase productivity and customer satisfaction, reduce costs and achieve operational excellence", says Edward Carbutt, Executive Director of Marval South Africa. Additionally, it enables organisations to meet their information governance objectives. However, it often does not live up to these expectations and organisations are let down by hidden costs, poor implementation, or a solution that may align in theory but does not meet the practical demands of the organisation's operations.

By understanding the most common reasons for the failure of ITSM, it is possible to avoid them, and know where to direct extra consideration when planning and carrying out an implementation - and thereafter.

1. Lack of executive commitment

By far the most common reason for the failure of ITSM in organisations is a lack of executive commitment. Although the project may receive the buy-in it needs to get going, it is likely to fail unless it is driven by an executive who is accountable to the board. Commitment entails more than just buy-in; it needs to include effective communication about the project and its impact on all levels of the organisation, and must be accompanied by a well-planned change management strategy.

In essence, this means that the most important prerequisite for a successful ITSM project is good leadership. It needs to be enforced from the top down, and staff need to be led by example.

2. Lack of structure

For ITSM to be successful, it needs to be well-planned and well-structured.
Unfortunately, this usually seems easier than it really is. Knowing ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) theory, downloading a framework off the Internet or going on a training course does not necessarily prepare one for the complexity involved in the practical implementation. ITIL is a framework - a set of checklists, tasks and
procedures- intended to be tailored by organisations to improve service management in their unique business scenario, which means its implementation necessitates a deeper level of understanding of ITSM and the business in question - so planning and structure cannot rest wholly on ITIL or a generic framework.

For this reason, experience is important for success, and organisations should be discerning when selecting a vendor. They should also be prepared to dedicate resources from all levels of the organisation to partake in the planning and recommendation phase.

3. Cultural resistance

Change is often met with resistance. And when it comes to changing processes and procedures that have been ingrained in organisational culture for decades, such resistance is often fierce. ITSM is about more than processes and technology; it is largely about people - and in order for a project to be successful, it needs to be accepted by all people in the organisation. It entails facilitating a change in the way people do - and therefore, think - about their jobs, which is very personal and should be treated as such. It is commonly assumed that the technology and the planning of processes and procedures is the hardest part of ITSM, when in fact it is often getting all people within the organisation to adopt these changes.

Communication is key to overcome resistance to change, and should be used to raise awareness about the benefits of the ITSM project for the organisation as a whole, as well as the individuals within it.

4. Lack of sustainability

People tend to think of ITSM as project that has a 'start date' and an 'end date'. And while this may be so from the vendor's perspective, it shouldn't be the way the organisation views ITSM. It should be viewed as a continual journey, or lifestyle, that needs to adapt and evolve along the way like any other aspect of business. In fact, when the vendor is finished and has left, the ITSM 'project' has only really just begun for the organisation.

ITIL is a framework that needs to be 'adopted' by the organisation, rather than merely 'implemented'. Its over-arching goal is sustainability, so it needs to entail a change in the way the business is run. And this is why knowledge transfer is so important in the implementation phase.
Organisations are often left at a loss over 'what to do next' once the vendor has left - a result of insufficient training and advisory on the vendor's part.

5. Insufficient understanding of business needs

An ITSM project that does not adequately address a business' needs is simply a failure. This shortfall is common when vendors do not give partial responsibility to the business in the recommendation phase. A service provider will never understand the client's business to the extent that the client understands it, and as such, service providers should insist that the client is proactive in the planning phase of the project.

6. Gap between business and IT

The infamous great divide between business and IT is another pitfall in many ITSM implementations - ironically, because bridging this divide is precisely what ITSM is about. And this refers to more than the fact that business and IT are traditionally separate departments within the organisation - it refers to often completely different 'types' of people, and different ways of thinking. As mentioned, for ITSM to be a success it requires good management and a well-structured plan in addition to the technology that enables processes to run smoothly. As such, responsibility for the success of ITSM must be shared between the business side and the IT side of the organisation, and driven from executive level. It is a mistake to think of ITSM as merely 'another IT project', and doing so is often the root cause of many of the problems outlined above.

ITSM should be viewed as a continuous improvement programme, and this involves a change in mindset for many organisations. It's relatively simple to see that because it underpins the businesses prime directive, it should be viewed in this way, yet this is often not the case. All levels of the organisation need to be made aware of the core purpose of the programme - that is, to improve service - and their roles should be explicitly linked to this purpose.
ITSM projects create valuable opportunities to strengthen the vision of the 'common goal' across all levels of the organisations, and to revive the sense of purpose that is so often missing in the day-to-day lives of employees.

To end off, the cultural mind shift that needs to happen when it comes to service management is best exemplified by a janitor at NASA at the beginning of the Apollo mission project who, when asked what he was doing, replied, "I'm helping to put a man on the moon!"

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