ITIL – some way to go in the US

ITIL was the topic of the discussion session I chaired at Educause today. The session brought together institutions with various levels of experience of implementing ITIL ranging from we’re looking at it through to we’ve implemented some aspects. None had implemented ITIL in its entirety. In the UK most institutions have implemented some part of the ITIL standard. By contrast, if the institutions attending the session today were a representative sample of US universities and colleges, the States has some way to go to deliver effective services.

Those that had implemented most shared their experiences which hopefully will have been of benefit to those starting out. The drivers for ITIL implementation were generally internal – one institution was motivated by the desire to do things better. They recognised that their processes around change management and the service desk were weak and they sought to improve. Another strove to create a service rather than technical focus in their IT department with a goal of embedding a culture of continuous service improvement.

It is not a quick process. Progress is slow partly because of the culture change that is required in some quarters (the suggestion was that the technical staff were slower to move than the service desk staff) and partly because of the breadth of the ITIL offering. Some of the resistance to change can be overcome if you can point out to your staff that their existing practices are already close to the ITIL standard. The rewards though are great. It was reported by one institution that ITIL had allowed the IT department to present the service catalogue to their customers and hold a conversation about the services being delivered. The IT department was able to question whether services were required 24/7 or indeed whether services were needed at all. The department had greater control and the service catalogue helped meet expectations. Moving to ITIL had also resulted in consistency in approach by the staff in the department – all were singing from the same song sheet. In another institution the satisfaction levels of staff in the service desk rose as they could see the improvements in the processes they were following and consequently in the standard of their work.

Unfortunately those who were contemplating ITIL were still seeking for the key business driver. One institution were aiming to become more metrics based and were looking to ITIL to help them establish their service directory and hence demonstrate the quality of their service. Others had some real challenges to address – there remains a culture in some institutions where software engineers develop applications for their friends or where those that shout loudest get what they want. In those circumstances there is no control, no managed migration between project outcome and service deliverable. The service desk cannot function effectively in these situations where they do not know about an application or who to turn to for support. There are various options for where to start with an ITIL implementation. Change management is one but more often than not incident management, since it focuses on the service desk is where an institution is first exposed to ITIL.

The consensus was that it can deliver benefits, even in a chaotic situation where there is no control over development. It would at least give a clear direction to service desk staff and a set of clearly defined procedures that would be understood by staff and customers alike. The kick back where a problem with an unsupported piece of software gets escalated may well drive improvements in process, possibly leading to ITIL adoption in other areas.

Should ITIL be the sole preserve of the IT department? It need not be. There is scope once ITIL procedures are embedded in the service desk, for IT to look to influence the many other service desks that exist in an institution and move them towards improving their service. It could be a key move for the IT department. IT should be a trusted partner in the university business – that it isn’t is due in part to the belief that all IT projects fail or are late or over budget. By demonstrating that IT is delivering a professional service which can improve other parts of the organisation by translating those principles and practices, it can become the trusted partner that an effective institution needs it to be and help lead the institution through the difficult financial times ahead.

PS UCISA has developed, with support from the JISC, a number of resources to assist institutions with their ITIL implementation – see Details of the Educause constituency group are available at


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One Response to “ITIL – some way to go in the US”

  1. Tweets that mention ITIL – some way to go in the US « Execsec’s blog -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Townsend, Peter Tinson. Peter Tinson said: Just published a blog on today's ITIL discussion session at #educause10 #e10_disc06 […]

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