Handling ITIL Role Conflicts


Although it’s clear (at least in theory) that the addition of various ITIL roles can improve the quality of an organization’s services, it should be noted that internal conflict among these “roles” is still very likely to occur.

Nearly everyone involved in the IT profession is aware of the fact that ITIL certification is among one of the best ways to prepare an individual or group to deal with virtually any infrastructure-related issue(s). When an ITIL-rich approach is adopted by an IT group, a variety of roles are created for which individuals are tasked with presiding over. These roles comprise the maintenance, assurance, planning, design, and improvement of all the individual components of all IT-related assets. To simply assume that there won’t be the occasional miscommunication or misunderstanding (concerning shortfalls, mishaps, or misplaced responsibilities) would be a mistake. Even though the various ITIL roles were created to help manage the 6 primary steps* associated with ITIL adoption, their primary focus is on improving and providing quality uninterrupted service(s).

*The six steps / stages:

  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service Operation
  5. Continual Service Improvement
  6. ITIL roles outside the IT organization

One of the big secrets about ITIL implementation is that it is not being fully or completely embraced. For instance, even most large organizations, which might have become increasingly reliant on ITIL, are holding back on fully implementing the complete roster of official “roles”. There are a variety of reasons as to why this might be the case, one of the biggest being that some IT departments may be slow to encourage all their team members to attain ITIL certification, for example.

One individual, multiple roles…
If we were to trace most ITIL implementation role conflicts back to a single point where they originally began to “sour”, you might discover that everything started to go wrong when too much stress was put upon an individual (or individuals). It might start off innocently enough; with some individual(s) “cross tasking” to lend assistance in another developmental stage, only to eventually end up managing both elements. This sort of “multiple roles” syndrome can create serious problems, especially when individuals are performing duties in one area which might unpredictably alter those of another (of which they are also tasked with).

By and large, the best way of avoiding internal conflict(s), which are stemming from placing undue strain on individuals, is to keep them designated to one specific stage. Simply put, if one person absolutely must be tasked with managing multiple components, they should all fall under the same heading / step / stage (like service design, for example).

Still, major issues can creep up even if this recommendation is followed to the letter. You are most likely already familiar with the concept of checks and balances, perhaps not as they pertain to ITIL implementation however. One of the primary reasons why even expertly assigned multiple roles (even those falling under one stage) might cause strife, has to do with “checks and balances”. It is through regulation(s) that most ITIL (along with IT) implementations are allowed to flourish. Multiple points-of-view are often required to not only functional, but also to keep everything “legitimate”. All it takes for a major mishap to occur is for one individual who is juggling multiple roles to knowingly or unknowingly sidestep the established system.

Following formal ITIL recommendations...
If your IT group has encountered problems because they have not implemented a majority of the required roles, then difficulties should come as no surprise. In all honesty, the established system for ITIL works very well, but in order to reap the benefits of such a thing, you have to be in alignment with the initial requirements and expectations. For example, the various ITIL implementation roles exist as part of a larger system which has been meticulously designed to serve several purposes and achieve multiple goals simultaneously.

However, if it simply isn’t possible for your IT organization to adopt every single role as outlined, you still have another option at your disposal; simplification. If individuals absolutely must take charge of multiple roles, it must be under the direct supervision of the IT manager. Often times, conflicts arise because there is no one surveying the actions that are occurring; in other words, no one is privy to the “big picture”. It is definitely possible for an IT department to fully implement virtually every single ITIL “role”, but that would require someone to take a complete inventory of duties and then determine the best system for organizing them, with the ultimate goal being an elimination of internal conflict(s).

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