Getting Started With ITIL – The 30-Minute Version

Time is valuable, so many of us are cash rich and time poor these days. We value simplicity and loathe the complex. Things need to be done yesterday, if not before. 

I can only see this getting worse as we are pressured to deliver the proverbial "more with less."

To elaborate, and it's a little tongue in cheek, Flash only had 14 hours to save earth. Twitter only allows us 140 characters to express ourselves. Shorter industry analyst pieces seem to be in vogue and, thankfully, in demand. BUT trying to tell someone how to get started with ITIL in 30 minutes is a bit of a challenge.

Well I'm up for it, and here is my starter for 10 …

To begin:

  • It’s about adopting not implementing ITIL
  • Take an adopt-and-adapt approach. Use what you need rather than everything. It’s a framework not a standard
  • It should be people then process then technology


  • Do not underestimate the importance of people and their behaviors to ITIL success
  • ITIL is culture-based. A way of thinking as well as a way of working … IT delivered as a service (ITIL v2) … the Service Lifecycle (ITIL v3)
    • Too many organizations adopt ITIL without subscribing to its concepts
    • Many organizations stick with the common/core processes, never moving from these reactive processes to the more value-adding proactive processes
    • Many organizations say that they “do” ITIL v3 when all they “do” is a subset of the ITIL v2 processes and have bought Service Catalog technology and/or sent staff on an ITIL v3 course
  • ITIL should be adopted based on business need and IT pain points and drivers
    • It should not be an ITIL Project. Rather a project that improves IT service availability, or reduces IT costs, or improves IT QoS (or a business improvement project)
  • Stakeholder support and buy-in is critical (Senior Management and employees) … communication and education as well as training
  • Keeping momentum on the ITIL journey is difficult. I wrote about this in a former life as “The elephant in the ITIL adoption living room”


  • You will probably be doing a lot of ITIL already (it’s documented common sense)
  • Common starting points are Incident and Change, or Change and Configuration
  • CSI is often overlooked. It can be a great starting point …
    • Establish high-level objectives
    • Conduct an initial assessment
    • Create plans to close gaps
    • Measure achievement
  • Most take a phased approach over “big bang”
    • But have an awareness of the process adoption roadmap such that linkages between processes and technologies can be planned for
    • For instance, Service Catalogs are still in vogue but you also need Service Level Management, Service Portfolio Management, and IT Financial Management to support true Service Catalog Management
  • Many I&O organizations overstate their level of ITSM maturity, e.g., Problem Management is reactive not proactive
  • I&O organizations should take stock of what they currently do before adding in vogue processes/technologies … Service Catalog Management, Automation, etc. (Back-to-Basics ITSM).


  • Technology should come last
  • There is functional parity in ITSM tool marketplace. Look for softer differentiators and of course price
  • Tools will have out-of-the-box ITIL processes BUT these might need to be tweaked to fit internal ways of working
    • Go with standard processes if you can though
  • RFIs/RFPs are often flawed as these are merely ITIL tick lists that cover far more than many I&O organizations will ever use
  • Tools that offer everything for a single price are great BUT be careful not to do too much too soon (like gorging in an all-you-can-eat buffet)
  • SaaS is a good fit for ITSM
  • Most I&O organizations will change ITSM tool every 5 to 6 years. Plan for this now – will you want to archive or port ITSM data? CMDB CIs and relationships for instance.

No doubt that there is a lot to cover when talking about starting out on the ITIL journey.  But, what did I miss? What would you change or challenge? Let me know.

UPDATE: Two popular ITIL-related blogs:

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Getting it right

You have stated three often-missed points very clearly:
1) Do not underestimate the importance of people and their behaviors to ITIL success
2) ITIL should be adopted based on business need and IT pain points and drivers
3) Technology should come last

The order of things promotes, well, the order of things. Well done - Thanks.
- Roy

And think customer first

Stephen, thanks for at least trying to steer folks away from implementing ITIL. Its a flawed strategy, along with major process improvement and maturity led progression. IMHO there is no tangible evidence any of this actually results in measurable customer benefit. If it did, they might fund it! I'd like to suggest that folks go beyond the traditional ITIL language here and consider starting up a "continuous improvement program (CIP)", not a service focused CSI effort as that will invite inside-out thinking.

The CIP should look at matters from the perspective of those served, this is one half of the original service management mandate described way back in 1970s by Richard Normann (a business thinking luminary). Improvement should be wrapped in consumer/customer context, their scenario, relevant to an activity they need to get done and an outcome they care about. It should document the customer expectation of how it all should work, and inspect the interactions, the experience the consumer has with using products and services, and contacting the provider organization.

Yes, these all form part of my outside-in service management approach, but with Cloud and outsourcing back in fashion, whats left for many IT organizations to manage, and frankly how are they performance managed by their customers today?

Outside-in Thinking

Thanks Ian. I am kicking myself for not mentioning the customer more. I know I did when I spoke for my 30 minutes, I have definitely oopsed here when jotting down what I covered. I also mentioned outside-in thinking (although not USMBOK and other service management methodologies/frameworks/standards, which I plan to write about at some point - "ITIL is not the only fruit").

For those wanting to know more about Outside-in thinking and USMBOK, Ian's website is (listen out for the penny dropping as the home page renders) and/or follow Ian on Twitter!/ianclayton

Adopt ITIL in an Agile way...

Sounds like there is a good opportunity to adopt ITIL in an Agile way..:-) !

Agile ITIL ...

... is definitely something that has been talked about, as has ...

- Fast ITIL
- ITIL Lite
- Back to Basics ITIL

and so on.

However, if people were educated in what ITIL really is and how best to use it we probably wouldn't need to be discussing such variants.

The use of the phrase "ITIL-compliant" still makes me wince.

Fast - Failure


These are all admissions that slow or heavy, or comprehensive, or whenever you want ITIL fail. They are also clues as to what ITSM/ITIL projects do - fail the customer. The focus on ITIL is as we have discussed - wrong because its inside-out and frankly irrelevant to customer success without a long trail of breadcrumbs. As Theodore Levitt and Richard Normann, pioneers of customer centric service may have said, "its the customer stupid!".

Why is it that some folks think doing less of something stupid, or doing it quicker or with less intensity will be better?

My suggestion to all these "my first approach didn't work so let me try another using your money" folks, is to help position ITIL as what it was designed and intended to be - a contributor towards something else... I'll stop there - enough clues.

Great post

I'm on kind of holidays and catching on with my reading... I just discovered this. Fantastic post, Stephen!