Straight Talk on Project Management

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For maximum return from IT Service Management and Delivery, prioritise people over process

I overheard a conversation today that made me smile.

“What is ITIL?” asked an intern having read the term online.

The way he had pronounced ‘ITIL’ allowed the IT Manager to quip, “It’s short for ‘It’ll fail’ and when it does ‘It’ll be me that has to stay late to fix it.'”

It was a nice joke, of course, had the intern pronounced ITIL right it wouldn’t have worked but I guess in humour as in IT, sometimes you take your luck where you find it.

Behind the ‘joke’ was a truth seldom acknowledged – behind every IT initiative, piece of IT architecture, or amazing technological advance – there is a person or people making it happen.

It’s is exactly the same with the ITIL framework.

The ITIL framework (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) was designed to standardise the planning, sourcing, delivery and ongoing support of business case led IT services. I suppose if you were, to sum up the goal of ITIL, I’d say it would be to deliver improvements in efficiency through IT and deliver stable, predictable IT service levels to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

It’s that last part of my definition that matters the most – “to the satisfaction of all stakeholders”.


Looking back, IT used to be all about people adapting their working practices to accommodate evolving available IT. So you’d have a desktop PC, servers, networks, physical storage and software that, more or less, did what you needed it to (and you’d fit in to fill the gaps!).

Nowadays IT should, for the most part, fit around you. Your business case, your culture, your customer and end user expectations, IT should take what you do and make it more efficient.

To this end, the ITIL framework moves IT from a back-end support function and thrusts it forward into the limelight as a business service partner. Aligning IT decisions with business case through an ITIL framework gives IT the flexibility and scalability to adapt and change as your business grows.

For that to work you need 100% buy-in from everyone involved. So, you need to know what will get everyone on board. What are your customer’s key expectations, what are your end-users’ main requirements, which other departments are affected and are they affected positively or negatively and how will you mitigate that?

Do you notice the common thread running through all these considerations? Customers, users, staff in other departments … they’re all people.

ITIL is a framework and it’s built on processes and technology delivering results, but it has a crucial third pillar which I’d argue props up the other three. The people.

When you build your ITIL framework around people first, the processes and the technology fall into line much more easily. People follow processes that they’ve had a stake in ‘designing’ – even if their only contribution was to have a proper moan about the current state of IT (which is often the case when you carry out the interview process).

The technology is easier to source, plan and deliver if you have really nailed the reason why it’s needed in the first place. As long as the technology you choose is fit for purpose the people will make it work – if they’ve bought the mission goals. Plus, the more you ‘sew’ your people into the fabric of any IT Project or Service Delivery journey, you’ll find they’re more forgiving when something does go wrong.

You’ll also find that the people who can put things right along the way are more likely to do so if they’re totally on board.

For example, one IT Manager and his team have a policy when it comes to detection of low-level incidents and predictive events – you know the type, a small isolated problem that becomes a trend that becomes a major service disruption. They call it their twenty/twenty policy. When a low-level incident presents itself it is run through a filter – first, can it be sorted in twenty minutes? If the answer is yes, then it is done. If not, it is ranked on a scale of 1 to 20 and put into the IT team’s job queue to be dealt with in order of urgency.

Point is, this was a policy that was designed by the team.

It’s not part of the ITIL framework. They created it because they had bought in passionately and believed that everything that they were doing was in the interest of the business but had also identified how little things can often trip up big things.

The IT Manager told me, “The ITIL framework and its processes are there for the big picture, me and my team’s twenty/twenty policy is there to monitor the tiny brush strokes that can be the difference between a masterpiece and a piece of graffiti.”

In conclusion, technology and processes matter but for maximum strategic return from IT Service Delivery – put your people first.

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