Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Getting the boss onboard....lessons from the trenches

This is another case of learning from my mistakes. My first ITSM initiative, as a very green ITIL convert, had a couple of false starts.

After I came to the realisation that the stealth approach just wasn't working I decided it was time to hit up the management team and tell them all about the wonderful world of ITIL and how it was going to deliver them amazing benefits. That was sure to work and they would sign off on a generous budget without a backward glance....Yeah, right! (sorry if non NZ readers miss the significance, but you get the picture!)

In my excitement I assumed that everybody would get as enthused about processes and functions as I had...if I could see what it could do for our IT department and the entire business, surely anybody else with a brain would "get it" instantly. I think I actually lost them on the first slide when I started talking about UK Government initiatives!

So, here are the lessons I learned from my first, abortive, attempt to get that all important management buy-in. Fortunately, I got a second chance around a year later and applied the knowledge I had gleaned from the reaction to my earlier presentation.

  1. Don't talk about ITIL, COBIT or any other framework - the typical C-Level exec really is not interested, they also don't want to know about the history of these frameworks, where they came from or who devised them
  2. Before you try to get your support make sure that you understand the business, outside of the four walls of the IT department. Where does the company makes its money? What risks does it face? Where are their potentials for growth? How can well-managed IT services help exploit those potentials?
  3. Get the right people in the room - there is no point winning over people who don't sign the cheques, at least not initially. Make sure you know who the budget holders are, and ensure that you are talking to them at the right phase of the budget cycle - there is no point getting their support the week after next year's budget has been allocated
  4. Concentrate on real business benefits - you need to prove that an investment in an IT Service Management initiative can deliver real value, in a quantifiable financial sense. Spend time researching case studies of companies, in your market sector, that have undertaken successful ITSM initiatives. If you can, make contact with the initiators of those projects and see if you can get some first-hand advice and information on the benefits that have been delivered to the business
  5. Make sure that you prepare your budget well and understand how, when and where it needs to be spent. Don't just pull a figure out of the air...you need to be able to justify it. Whatever you do don't underestimate what a well executed ITSM initiative will cost
  6. Get your own team onboard first - I made the mistake of trying to get a budget for the initiative without winning the support of the team I was working with, and there were some real doubters in there. In hindsight it would have actually been pretty easy to gain, at least tacit, agreement that ITSM could improve the way we worked...that way they wouldn't have sabotaged my presentation!
  7. Paint the big picture...don't get weighed down in the minutiae of service management. Unless that is the world you live in, it really is not at all exciting....I know, hard to believe isn't it, but not everyone gets excited about incidents, service requests, problems, changes, releases and SLAs!
Second time round was the charm, the right people were there, the budget was open, my team was enthusiastic and supportive, and we showed the business how we could improve their bottom line by delivering innovation, reducing support costs and, most importantly, increasing customer satisfaction.

For those of you who didn't get the "Yeah, right" reference above....below is a typical New Zealand Tui Billboard (Tui is a local brand of beer).


  1. Great writing Kirstie, I recognize a few of the areas where I currently struggle. And since I guess I’m on my first attempt to the big ITSM initiative, I’m still making a lot of mistakes and should read it all over again to make sure I correct my course before going any further :)

    I think it’s great that you share your common sense and your mistakes with the community. It’s strengthening for us who struggle.

  2. Thanks Tobias, I have to say I am really enjoying this now I have got started!