The 9 Most Common ITIL Implementation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Date: 28/05/2024| Category: Tips and Interviews| Tags:

“In your opinion, what are the 3 most common mistakes made when implementing ITIL? And what are your suggestions for avoiding them?”

We asked three of our trainers and experts (Claudio Restaino, Carmela Occhipinti and Fabio Savarino) to answer these questions, drawing up their own ranking of errors. One question, nine mistakes, nine detailed explanations… and lots of advice on how to implement the world’s most popular IT Service Management framework.

A Real ITIL Implementation Requires Commitment to Change

One of the most common mistakes made when implementing ITIL can be attributed to an approach that is not ‘real’ within the organisation.
Adopting ITIL requires a real commitment to change. First of all, you need to be clear about the objectives you want to achieve, and be aware that ITIL is only a means to an end.

Not Taking into Account the Impact of People

Experience of ITIL implementation projects suggests that if ITIL implementation is seen as simply installing a tool without the support of people, change will never happen. This means that failure to consider ‘soft’ change and its impact on people is often the biggest factor in the failure of ITIL transformation.

Therefore, in order to avoid these common mistakes and facilitate acceptance of change, it is important to understand the ’emotional’ stages’ that a person must go through before accepting change. To this end, the ITIL practice of change management must be accompanied by the practice of organisational change management, which helps to define an organisation’s approach to transformation.

Lack of Problem Management Guidelines and Lost Knowledge

Many ITIL projects choose to focus on the operational aspects, in particular the Service Desk and Incident Management, while completely ignoring the application of Problem Management. The mistake is not to differentiate between an incident and a problem. This is the main reason why Problem Records are not opened on incident ticket management system tools.

This error in the implementation of the ITIL model often results in the non-existence of known errors, so that, particularly in areas where staff turnover is high, the knowledge acquired over time is lost. Or it often happens that, contrary to what is stated in the ITIL guidelines, this responsibility is delegated to the Service Desk, which ends up self-certifying its solutions.

Lack of Strategic Focus in Service Management

Organisations applying the ITIL framework often focus their attention on the more operational aspects or the practices considered to have the greatest direct impact on users, neglecting other aspects of the service lifecycle. Indeed, while the focus is often on event, incident and problem management practices, practices that support business strategies are sometimes overlooked or underestimated.

In fact, companies, particularly SMEs, should spend more time defining their business objectives and staying focused on them throughout the service lifecycle. This promotes, on the one hand, controlled management of the organisation, consistent profits and economic strength and, on the other hand, a vision focused on co-creating value with their customers, by meeting their specific business needs.

To this end, the definition of the strategy, based on Mintzberg’s 4Ps (Perspective, Position, Plan, Diagram), must include an in-depth analysis of the context (e.g. SWOT analysis):

  • the market and the relevant segments in which to operate
  • the customers to target and the evolution of demand in this area
  • a study of the competition to find the right positioning to gain a competitive advantage.

Once the services to be offered have been identified, it is necessary to determine both the return in economic and other terms (e.g. return on image) and the risk management strategies envisaged as part of a specific feasibility study (business case).

Dis-alignment between Business Processes and ITIL

When the company’s practices and processes are not aligned with those defined by ITIL, critical situations arise. Particularly in the operational phase, it can become tricky at the point of direct interface with the end user of the service.

ITIL proposes a continuous improvement approach, according to which, when faced with the need to improve the company, as in the case of this misalignment, after understanding the company’s objectives (vision), it is necessary to carry out a prior analysis of the company’s practices, processes and procedures (assessment of the situation as it is). Once the company’s objectives have been identified (definition of measurable targets), it is necessary to plan the introduction of ITIL step by step, starting with the processes considered to be the most important in meeting the company’s requirements, defining key performance indicators and related measurement criteria to determine whether the objectives have been achieved. Then consolidate and build momentum to set increasingly ambitious targets.

Management and Communication: Undefined Roles and Responsibilities

In some cases, despite the existence of a corporate strategy to adopt the ITIL framework, it is not clear to the team what work needs to be done, who does what and for what purpose. And often, in these conditions, the team is reluctant because of the lack of clarity. This is obviously primarily a communication problem. In this case, it’s important to raise awareness among employees.

This forms the basis of a company’s management, understood as the system of ethical values, fairness, responsibility, disclosure and transparency that enables the company’s objectives to be achieved while taking account of all the organisation’s stakeholders.

Tool Focused Change

An ITIL implementation project certainly represents an organisational change, so it needs to be assessed carefully and managed with great caution. Such a complex change needs to be discussed with the business first, although the triggers for the improvement project are usually at an operational level.

It is the Service Manager‘s responsibility as an ITIL coach to carry out an immediate assessment based on precise evaluation criteria, using survey tools aligned with known standards, rather than agile frameworks: this depends on the corporate culture in question. The results of the assessment will be taken forward to determine the most appropriate practices for the customer, together with specific recommendations based on direct observation within the company.

The characteristics of the tools present in the company in no way influence the consultancy project: it will be up to the company to evaluate them afterwards, in order to decide what should be kept and exploited, or which tools are deemed unsuitable and should be changed.

KPIs and smart objectives

Once the new work instructions/operational notes for the customer have been defined, we must not run the risk of forgetting the last “building block”: the success of our project will have to be measured, and this depends on the final results (result = measurable improvements at company level) as well as the subsequent benefits in terms of economic return for the customer, but not only.

The tools – customised at this stage – will be used one last time, and we will first decide what to measure and what metrics to note: together we will study the most appropriate way of doing this, in order to periodically transform the results into reports, and demonstrate how much the company has improved in terms of ITSM.

Not training the people involved “before” and “after” the project

Implementing ITIL guidelines and best practices depends not only on the practices, but also on the people involved and/or impacted.
This means, for example, that rushing into an ITIL consultancy project without first properly training the key players will not only fail, but even become counter-productive. A change in the status quo on this scale will come up against a great deal of internal and external resistance, at all levels.

The objective of the ITIL coach in charge of the project should therefore be to identify from the outset which stakeholders are involved, and to ensure that they receive the appropriate training (for example, a standard or customized ITIL Foundation course). The success of an ITIL implementation project also depends on the (more specific and targeted) post-project training of all the operators: it is obviously not enough to have tools configured, and procedures relating to the ITIL practices implemented, if the ‘how’ has not been explained before using them.

Want to improve the Success rate of your projects, like an ITIL implementation? Also read our blog on “How to Increase your Project Success Rate“.

As an Accredited Training Organisation (ATO), QRP International offers courses for ITIL certifications. For more information, check our ITIL Certification page or contact us!



Claudio is a trainer and consultant in IT governance and service management, with over 16 years’ experience in various sectors (finance, retail, telecommunications and public administration). As a trainer, his main objective is to combine his personal experience with his rigorous knowledge of the ITIL, TOGAF, COBIT, Lean Six Sigma and ISO 27001 frameworks, in order to provide participants with experience on how to put the methodologies into practice in their day-to-day services. Claudio currently lives between Rome, Milan and Lugano.

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Carmela Occhipinti


Carmela has many years’ experience, also at international level, in the field of information technology and management, which she has enhanced by obtaining several certifications (ITIL Expert, PMP, PRINCE2, SCRUM Master). She is a multilingual trainer, an expert in national and European funding, and a mentor to public and private companies in innovation and business transformation processes.

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Fabio has many years’ experience in the world of service and project management in a variety of sectors: from public administration to small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as numerous multinationals and banking institutions. He is a multilingual trainer and consultant for QRP, which enables him to integrate the vision of very different methods into his offering to customers (ITIL, PRINCE2, AgilePM, DevOps, etc.).

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