What Are the Biggest Challenges of Adopting ITIL?

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These days, IT is king. Whether in daily business operations, strategic planning, or anything in between, digital services can make or break a company’s offering, to say nothing of its reputation! With this in mind, the importance of structured IT Service Management (ITSM) cannot be overstated.

‘ITIL’ is the world’s most popular ITSM framework, having helped establish corporate cultures of continuous improvement for several decades. During this time, it has continued to evolve, to the extent that it can no longer even be called a static ‘library’ of practices on IT infrastructure. In fact, the latest version, ITIL 4 , is set to be updated on a regular basis via input from both AXELOS and the ITIL practitioner community.

Does this make ITIL a surefire solution to any issues you have with ITSM? Well, yes and no. Adopting ITIL comes with its own share of challenges. There is no doubt that it takes a proactive approach to implementing ITIL to really maximize the framework’s benefits.

Here are the most important points to keep in mind to get past the challenges of adopting ITIL 4!


Even positive changes are still changes and have the potential to cause disruptions. Implementing ITIL 4 is no exception!

Any staff who will be affected by your adoption of the framework will require knowledge not only of how it works but also why you are adopting it in the first place. What are the benefits of ITIL? What tools and terminology will staff members need to be familiar with? How will it impact their individual roles?

An effective way to overcome this is by organizing ITIL training. Even staff who will not be using the framework can still benefit from an ITIL Awareness or ITIL Foundation course. Investing in training for teams and departments rather than individuals can also greatly enhance collaboration, as staff will have a shared understanding of how to utilize and support ITIL practices.

It also goes without saying that staff cannot simply be told to start using ITIL. Handing out copies of the ITIL Handbook might seem like the easiest choice, but nobody can start applying the framework from scratch. This is especially true for areas within ITIL’s intermediate syllabus, as appreciating these modules requires at least a foundational understanding of the framework.

The good news is that not all staff members need to study the entire certification path . Following on from Foundation, you can have staff focus on whichever modules are most relevant to them. For example, high-level managers may want to focus on the Strategic Leader (SL) stream, which covers IT strategy and only features two exams. Meanwhile, team managers or newer team members may be better suited to the Managing Professional (MP) stream, which looks at creating and optimizing competitive services that meet stakeholder requirements.

Don’t Think in the Short Term

A fairly common mistake companies make when adopting a framework is treating it as a quick or short-term solution. The thing is, ITIL is not all about short-term benefits. Instead, it is about continuous improvement.

When ITIL 4 practices are integrated into a business, the idea is that IT teams continue utilizing them on a permanent basis. Granted, it can be worth applying it slowly at first, but full implementation is usually the key. ITIL is even specifically designed to continuously improve existing services rather than having practitioners deploy and forget about them. In short, having a short-term or temporary mindset regarding ITIL can deprive a practitioner organization of its biggest benefits.

It is also worth keeping in mind that digital and IT management are constantly evolving. Previously, a new version of ITIL would be released every few years, complete with new practices and tools. Now, however, ITIL 4 is set to be updated on a regular basis. Studying ITIL 4 can give businesses access to a continuous source of new information and ways to get ahead – so why not take advantage?

Stakeholder Support

Whenever you introduce a major change in a business, stakeholders will want to know why. Convincing the higher-ups that ITIL training and implementation is worthwhile will be an essential step. After all, you will be making permanent changes to your IT management and governance practices – so, what are the benefits?

The key is to know ITIL well enough to be able to sell the benefits to your organization. Emphasize what you stand to gain in terms of brass tacks, including greater efficiency and organization, more strategically targeted ITSM practices, and much-improved ROIs.

That is not to say that you’ll only need to sell ITIL once. Tracking and analyzing your results will help you learn how to best utilize ITIL in your business, but it will also signal to stakeholders that they made the right choice by supporting you. Be sure to keep strategic goals in mind when it comes to your chosen metrics – that’s how you can demonstrate the real value of ITIL.

Immediate Implementation

This goes back to the previous idea of seeing ITIL as a short-term measure or a source of quick wins. Another common mistake businesses make when implementing a framework is to go all-in immediately, without giving employees, managers, and stakeholders time to adjust.

Instead of doing this, it can be best to start with an incremental approach. Using ITIL on a smaller scale can demonstrate its benefits, reassure stakeholders, and help you understand how to adapt the framework to meet your needs. Taking this route with employees who already understand ITIL can also leave you with more time for training and onboarding other teams and departments for implementation down the line.

Not Understanding Whether You Need ITIL

The business world loves a trend, doesn’t it? When you hear about major businesses, charities, universities, and other organizations using something like ITIL or DevOps, it can be easy to want to jump on the bandwagon.

One of the most important challenges when it comes to adopting ITIL is considering whether or not you actually need it. Ask yourself, how important are IT services for your offering? Do they need to be better managed or improved? Are they aligned with your strategic priorities? You should also consider the nature of any issues your organization is facing. It may well be that, while some modules of the ITIL certification path offer suitable solutions, others are irrelevant.

There may even be alternatives to ITIL which are most suited to your business. IT4IT, for example, is ideal for prioritizing visibility and optimization, while COBIT 2019 helps craft frameworks suited to a practitioner organization’s unique requirements.

To gauge whether or not you need ITIL, it can be worth speaking to a training provider in advance. Obviously, if ITIL is all they sell, they may not offer the most objective advice out there. However, a provider who covers multiple frameworks should be able to help you choose one that suits your company down to the ground.

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