Beyond the 7-minute attention span: getting management interested in ITIL (or anything)

IT initiatives fail so often because of lack of management commitment, support and leadership. What to do about that?

A recent comment said

...the single most important reason for failure to achieve the expected results and move an ITIL process forward is managment's substantial underestimation of the persistent leadership necessary

Ain't that such a common cry? The art of getting management interested (beyond their usual seven minute attention span) is an essential one.

I did an article a while ago about business cases for ITIL, which relates to this. The things that get management attention are:

  • take a pain away
  • delivery of their personal KPIs
  • positive (and preferably quick) ROI
  • alignment with current organisational key business initiatives and politics

in about that order.

So is it because we don't explain these benefits properly to management or because ITIL projects don't provide them?


Which management are you addressing?

As a manager I would not endorse any ITIL programs that will promise that ITIL will be implemented. Because, as you stated before, you don't implement ITIL but use the guidance to create a better IT Service Delivery. And what are the benefits of a better IT Service Delivery?

For the IT manager:
- respect and trust of the business (i.c. customer)/take the pain away
- showing leadership (better chances on promotions) by turning a reactive IT organization into a more professional kind
- possible better financial KPI's (it is reasonable to think that a better managed IT service delivery will decrease unnecessary costs)

For the Business manager:
- a more reliable and trustworthy IT services, meaning a better service to their customers
- alignment with the organizational key business initiatives (possibly)
- possible better financial KPI's, when the added value of IT is higher then it's costs

And then what are the costs and risks of using ITIL (most implementation programs tend to be done poorly and fail). As a manager, would you want to risk your reputation on these kinds of programs? I would pass.

I would like to create an IT organization that will deliver what the business needs. This kind of program should have a positive chance of being successful. And maybe I would look into ITIL as a guiding framework. Just like I would look into CobiT, ISO20000, MOF and all kind of other organizational theories and best practices.

Regards, Paul

Why clients fail? Here's a list

1. Lack of ownership. "I wasn’t sure this ___ idea would work in the first place. I tried it out – it didn’t do that much good. As I guessed, this was kind of a waste of time and money!” Management is, ultimately, responsible for their own success.
As Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.”
2. Time. "I had no idea this process would take so long. I am not sure it is worth it!” The result of Optimism-Bias – goal-setters have a natural tendency to underestimate the time needed to reach targets.
3. Difficulty. “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be. It sounded so simple when we were starting out!” Optimism-Bias – applies to difficulty as well as time. Leaders often confuse the seemingly synonymous, but quite different – simple and easy
Diet books make getting in shape simple; yet, actually doing so is difficult isn’t easy – success comes not from understanding how, success comes from actually doing. Long-term change in effectiveness requires real, persistently-applied, effort.
4. Distractions. “I would really like to work toward my goal, but my company is facing a new and unique challenge right now. It might be better if I just stopped and did this at a time when things aren’t so crazy.”
Optimism-Bias again – goal-setters have a natural tendency to underestimate the distractions and competing goals that will invariably appear throughout the years.
Build in time in change projections to “expect the unexpected.” By planning for distractions in advance, leaders can set more realistic expectations for change and be less likely to give up on the change process.
5. Rewards. “Why are we working so hard at becoming a (supposedly) more effective organization? After all of this effort – we still are …”
Goal setters tend to become disappointed when the achievement of one goal doesn’t immediately translate into the achievement of other goals and immediate appreciation from their customers.
6. Focus. The end game is improvements to business performance, NOT business process improvements.
Realized benefits are primarily an outcome of good management and not necessarily the best technology.

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