Communication, planning key to ITIL success

Best practice frameworks have to be introduced properly, CIO says

ITIL is about people and changing their behavior. If you can get that message across to your IT staff, you've won most of the battle for improved IT processes, said Neville Teagarden, senior vice president and CIO for ProLogis, during Network World's IT Roadmap in Denver, Colorado recentlty.

ProLogis, based in Denver, is a global industrial real estate developer with operations in 20 countries, US$36.3 billion (NZ$45.1 billion) of assets under management and 1,500 employees. Teagarden is the midst of deploying operational standards to help his 100 IT employees cope with the company's growth.

IT executives pursing ITIL or CORBIT (ProLogis uses both) need to understand that asking people to change the way they work will stir employees' fears. Executives can overcome this by creating a high-level vision for the IT staff, Teagarden said. This will help employees understand the ultimate goal of process standards. ProLogis chose a formula race car's pit crew as a mascot-like idea. "The average time for a pit stop in Formula 1 auto racing is 8 seconds," he said. Every movement is orchestrated so that the team works efficiently together. That's the role model that he wanted to set for ProLogis' IT department

Setting aside the time to work on ITIL is also a challenge. "You have to prioritise it," Teagarden said. He created an ITIL leadership team, including himself, and signed them up for an intensive workshop. Such a workshop, where employees will be asked to objectively analyse their behaviour and work processes, is guaranteed to get emotional, Teagarden warns. "So don't try this at home," he says. Professional facilitators are a must and the boss has to be just one of the players, not a leader. "It is very important to check your title at the door," he adds. At the end of the workshop, ProLogis employees created a vision statement that every person signed. That visual reminder of the workshop and the goals to create a more efficient work environment helped people stay committed to the process.

Limit the scope of the standards to be adopted, too, Teagarden advises. Understand that, as written, ITIL is too big to attack in its entirety. Instead, do yourself a favour by selecting a more compact flavour. Prologis chose the Microsoft Solution Framework and modified that one step further to create its own subset of processes. Also he advises limiting the team to a small number of processes at first. Otherwise, you'll inadvertently "create a bureaucracy", Teagarden warns.

IT executives should further create a simple message about the goal of the ITIL project and train all IT employees how to communicate this message. In Prologis' case, that message was the "pit crew vision". In this way, every time an IT staff member found themselves chitchatting with an executive, such as in a lift, staff members were prepared to deliver an easy-to-understand explanation of the project.

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