One of the key benefits of the ITIL methodology is that it describes ways to quantify and measure the quality of IT service delivery. By such metrics, according to Shea and Weaver, J&J has made major improvements to the efficiency of its infrastructure and has saved tens of millions in annual expenses. For example, between 2002 and 2006, the volume of change requests NCS fielded from the operating companies mushroomed by 250 percent, Weaver says. Yet its success rate for implementing system changesa failed request is one that is attempted but must be backed out of the system because of a problemincreased to 99.5 percent in 2006, up from a respectable 98.7 percent in 2002. "A significant difference in terms of volume," she notes. "But we've been able to handle that volume and still improve the rate of success."
End-user satisfaction is another key indicator that ITIL and other process improvements that NCS implemented are working, Weaver says. In its most recent survey of users across the worldwide operating companies, NCS achieved user satisfaction of 94 percent, she says, guessing that satisfaction levels in pre-ITIL days, before they gathered such data, probably hovered around 80 percent.
Critics note that ITIL can be a struggle for companies looking for rapid improvements in their operations. Because of the breadth of the guidelines, the need to adopt a potentially new vocabulary, the inertia typical of large IT shops, and the cultural changes required to implement the methodology, ITIL can be a serious challenge for many organizations. And even when done well, the framework takes years to implement, even if only in small pieces. "We're nowhere near done," says Weaver.
"In any situation, implementing these processes usually involves changes to the way people work, and facilitating this can take time," agrees Tracey Torble, an IT service management consultant with T2 Consulting in Berkshire, England, who worked with a U.K.-based J&J subsidiary on its ITIL implementation more than five years ago. "In a situation where an organization has multiple operating companies in different countries, the problem is magnified."
Weaver acknowledges that introducing a change across a company as global, diverse and steeped in tradition as J&J is not without its challenges. "When you're working with different groups from around the globe, everyone has an attachment to the way they do things," she admits, adding that she often fields the question: "Why do we need to change? It's working fine the way it is." Yet by providing a third-party framework not created by any individual unit of J&J, ITIL has helped with the politics of federalizing the company's formerly decentralized IT organization. Says Weaver: "It's almost as if ITIL provides a neutral zone. It's not one group versus the other. It depersonalizes the situation and allows people to [say] 'well, if this is the best practice, how can we build a process that aligns with it?'"
But like other service management frameworks, there are cultural impediments to ITIL that don't stem from inertia alone. "Once I tell you how to do something, in a sense I've diminished my own value within an organization," notes Forrester's Gliedman. "So we often see a pushback from people who are afraid that documenting how they go about solving problemswhat their personal secret sauce iswill make them less valuable. Plus, people just don't like to change. Change is scary."