ITIL Case Study – Using ITIL and PRINCE2 Together

ITIL Case Study – Using ITIL and PRINCE2 Together

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Case Study
August 2010

Case Study: Using ITIL® and
PRINCE2™ Together

Noel Scott, PMP

© The Stationery Office 2010

2 Using ITIL® and Prince2™ Together

Setting up service desks in offshore locations is big business. There
are various drivers behind such efforts. Some are pure cost savings.
Others are to attain quality improvements by leveraging superior
language or business skills available in the new location. Some
projects can be extremely emotive, and all are certainly challenging
projects that need to be handled with care.

Recently I was employed by a corporation to manage their first
foray into this arena. Their service desk supported not just internal
but also external customers, providing in particular incident and
access management plus request fulfilment. Their key driver was
that their existing service desk was reaching capacity. Expansion in
the current location was not physically possible or cost effective,
and so an offshore location was selected. To add urgency, a new IT
product was going to be released which meant an imminent
increase in volume and pressure on the service desk. Demand and
capacity management already had calculated the size of the
expansion required (150 extra service desk staff, along with the
usual supporting IT infrastructure).

The project to set up the new service desk following ITIL®
procedures was formally initiated by the company’s official IT
change authority, in our case called the Change Advisory Board
(CAB). The CAB rightly recognized early on the scale of the
change and so officially invoked the project management group.
The vice president for the overall department was confirmed
as the project executive to sponsor the project going forward.
I was assigned the project to set up the new offshore service
desk to run in parallel with the existing service desk. Specifically,
I had to ensure the new desk was designed and built to
replicate the existing service desk, and bring the two physical
services desks together so that they became a single logical
virtual service desk.

PRINCE2 supporting ITIL
From the moment the CAB provided the project mandate, the
project was run using PRINCE2™ methodology. PRINCE2 was
extremely valuable in ensuring success. It did this in many ways,
but of particular value were the following:

1. The PRINCE2 principle focusing on business justification

2. PRINCE2’s management by stages to break it down into
manageable chunks.

3. The PRINCE2 emphasis on lessons learned from previous

4. PRINCE2’s risk management provided a methodical and
consistent approach throughout.

1. Business Justification
Perhaps the greatest benefit PRINCE2 brought was the principle
of continued business justification and consistent focus on the
business case throughout the project. It ensured that the project

did not deviate away from its central objective. And thank
goodness. As there were many tests and traps trying to entice
the project away from the original design.

One such lure away from the plan was in the area of function
creep. The primary aim of establishing the new service desk
was to ensure greater capacity ahead of the release of a new
IT product. The new service desk had to be online and ready
ahead of the IT product’s launch. It had to be done at minimal
expenditure, and so the second site in an offshore location was
selected rather than expanding the existing site. The second
site did provide other benefits, in particular some extra cover
for disaster recovery. If there was a denial of service (such as
a fire alarm) or denial of access (such as a network outage) in
the existing site, then the new second site could be designed to
provide business continuity.

However, to guarantee such extra benefits were realized
required extra expense. This additional expense was not overly
significant in relation to the overall budget for the project.
Moreover, some project savings had already been made
elsewhere, so we did have sufficient funds to cover the extra
expenditure. However, I did NOT authorise the expenditure.
PRINCE2’s principle on focusing on the business case ensured
I did not fall into the trap of spending the savings on realising
these extra benefits.

Why not? Yes, thanks to the savings already made on the
project, our budget would still have remained within our
financial tolerances as laid out by the project board. And yes,
it is certainly true that it is cheaper to put in place the disaster
recovery (DR) infrastructure from the outset (as retrofitting
offices with the extra DR requirements afterwards will always
be the more expensive option). However, the DR benefits were
a perfect example of gold plating. They were still an exception
beyond what we had originally justified. Our PRINCE2 business
case reminded us that we were not creating this site specifically
for disaster recovery purposes. Our primary concern was to
expand capacity. So when extra expense was requested to
ensure the new site was fully capable of providing such business
continuity options, it was clear this was beyond the scope of
the original business case. As the project manager, I had been
entrusted to spend specific company resources to expand
capacity. I therefore could not authorise spending on something
else, however inexpensive and beneficial that might be.

That is not to say that I ignored the potential extra benefits either.
In such circumstances it is not the role of the project manager to
say no and to move on regardless. I worked to ensure the project
board were aware of the new opportunity. It was their decision,
and the request had to be referred to them. My role and the role of
the project team was to provide the board with all the information
to help them weigh up the pros and cons of extending the project
to include this extra requirement.

Ultimately they deemed the risk to the timeline to be too high
and so the project continued as originally planned. The project
board confirmed it was better for me and the project team
to focus on delivering the extra capacity by the required date

© The Stationery Office 2010

Using ITIL® and Prince2™ Together 3

as stated in the business justification and ensure that that
meets the requirements. The cost of missing the deadline far
outweighed the cost of retrofitting the new site with the full DR
capability, and so only minimal DR that did not add any extra
time was completed.

2. Management by stages
ITIL is huge. It has a wide breadth, covering all IT functions across
the organization. It also has a great depth, getting deeply involved
in the very root of processes and their design. Making changes and
additions to ITIL can therefore be very daunting. The ramifications
can spread far and wide. PRINCE2 helped us be successful by
ensuring we avoided biting off more than we could chew. It did
this through PRINCE2’s management by stages.

We focused on Service Operations, and within that on the
Service Desk. We ensured each of the ITIL service operations
processes (Incident management, problem management, access
management, event management and request fulfilment) were
covered and adopted correctly by the new service desk. Of
particular benefit was the Service V-model. The Service V-model
breaks down relatively high level requirements into smaller
more detailed designs. It does this by defining the requirements
at the high level and requiring that to be signed off. Once that
is approved, the next level of more detailed design is then
documented and approved. Each step of the model can be
considered a stage for PRINCE2. The V-model gets its name
because the requirements and documented design represent
the left hand side of the ‘V’. As they get towards the base
of the ‘V’ the signed off definitions get progressively more
detailed. The right hand side of the ‘V’ then shows the test
plans, with each of the tests being built around its equivalent
requirement definition on the left hand side. This stepping
stone approach down one side and then back up the other
helps ensure that you document and sign off first and then test
and deliver precisely what is required. We tailored the model
to meet the specific project requirements, making sure we kept
the fundamental concept of the defined requirements at each
level then being used as the acceptance test and sign off criteria
going forward. Each definition itself was signed off before we
moved onto the next one, thereby ensuring we managed the
project in sizeable chunks.

3. Lessons learned
The emphasis on learning from previous experiences is another
area that PRINCE2 helped ensure the successful implementation
of the ITIL based service desk. Lessons learned from past efforts
(both successful and disastrous) were used from the outset.
For example, the business justification and business case were
based upon former historical failures. Previous IT product
launches had swamped the service desk. The ramping up of
service personnel had been reactive, with major decreases in
customer satisfaction reflecting the lack of investment. Those
lessons were used in the business case to justify the upfront
expenditure ahead of the launch. It was the first time the
company had geared up ahead of a major IT product release.

The consistently high customer satisfaction scores during the
eventual IT product release were a real vindication of the
forward planning.

Lessons learned also helped avoid common pitfalls in setting
up the new service desk. A review of other expansion attempts
within the company was carried out. There had been one or
two attempts by other departments to expand, and so a few
nuggets of value were gleaned from this internal review. In
parallel a review of external sources for lessons learned was
also undertaken. Some of the best lessons came from this. In
particular, industry trade bodies were a wealth of information
around what works and what doesn’t. I already had set up
service desks abroad for previous companies as well, and
so I brought with me some key lessons from outside of the
organization. The combination of internal and external sources
helped ensure all possible lessons were learned.

We reaped the reward for these internal and external lesson
learned reviews as we progressed. The single biggest win I felt
was in ensuring that all the potential costs were accounted
for up front. We therefore avoided underestimating the total
expenditure. The hidden costs were everywhere, ranging
from individual extra talent acquisition to consultancy for local
tax experts to help you move your IT stock from one floor to
another within the same building! Not only were we able to
identify up front the vast majority of the potential extra costs.
(It is perhaps unreasonable to think you will get all of them!).
We were also able to accurately estimate them as well. It was
only thanks to the review of lessons that ensured we could
provide the estimated costs with such accuracy. The fact that
we successfully came in under budget is in no small part thanks
to the effort made up front in calculating all the potential costs.

The lessons learned did not stop with previous projects. By
identifying and capturing lessons within our own project itself,
we learned quickly what we were doing right and wrong. By
doing this methodically at least at the end of each stage, we
were then able to communicate that out to the wider project
team, so they could replicate what works and avoid what
did not. For example, we learned early on that there was an
incredibly long lead time to source IT equipment in the remote
location. Items that might only take a few weeks in the UK
could take many months to arrive in the new location. We
therefore adjusted our project plans to ensure this lengthy
delivery time was accounted for. We could not change the
project completion date. Rather we moved other work
around, and brought purchase requests forward as much as
possible. The long delivery times actually moved some of the
procurement items onto the critical path, and therefore they
gained the correct visibility to get them completed on time.

Lastly, our project provided lessons for future efforts as well. In
this regard our own project plugged well into ITIL’s “Continual
Service Improvement” theme. While building the new service
desk we identified specific process improvements which could

© The Stationery Office 2010

4 Using ITIL® and Prince2™ Together

be harnessed by both service desks in the future. These follow-
on action recommendations were collated and made available
in the end project report, ready to be used by future projects.

4. Risk Management
The risk management aspects of the PRINCE2 method
helped guarantee a consistent attitude to both opportunities
and threats. It provided a methodical and robust approach
throughout the project. In particular it supported the change
advisory board (CAB) in their efforts. PRINCE2’s emphasis on
identifying and assessing risks helped the CAB in its role to
provide approval for rolling out the changes. The detailed risk
register reinforced to the CAB how seriously the project took
risk management. The CAB recognized that the project team
was working hard to reduce and avoid threats occurring. In
particular the fallback or contingency plan (often a roll back
plan) should the threat occur helped the Change manager and
the CAB give the required approvals.

ITIL supporting PRINCE2
I found during the project that the relationship between PRINCE2
and ITIL was not all one-sided. Quite the reverse. For each occasion
where PRINCE2 supported the ITIL implementation, ITIL reciprocated.
In particular, ITIL helped the PRINCE2 implementation in the following:

1. During Starting Up a Project

2. Communication

3. Quality versus cost balancing

4. Plugging a potential PRINCE2 gap

1. ITIL supporting Start Up
Over recent years I have noticed that projects initiated by
departments that are mature practitioners of ITIL have certain
things in common. Take for instance the project mandate; it is
never an illegible scrawl on the back of an envelope. Service
Strategy and Service Design generate very clear and detailed
project mandates. The reasons why the project is being
undertaken, why this particular approach is required, the scope,
the success criteria and so on all tend to be clearly thought
through and then documented. These greatly simplify the time
and effort required in starting up the project.

It could be argued that the clear mandate is as much a
reflection of the maturity of the organization as it is to do with
their adoption of ITIL principles. What is less contentious is how
ITIL helps the designing and appointing of the project board
when the venture is starting up. ITIL initiated projects tend to
have clearly identifiable personnel to fit the roles of the project
management team. For instance, in my project, the incident
manager was an obvious candidate to sit on the project board
as the senior user.

2. Communication
Another area where ITIL supported the PRINCE2 project was
communication. ITIL provided a standard language around
which all could operate. To ITIL practitioners, incidents are
clearly different to problems which again are clearly different to
requests. Thanks to ITIL, we were able to make these kinds of
distinctions and therefore speak very precisely. It ensured there
was no confusion.

For instance, PRINCE2 rightly places significant focus on
defining the products required and the quality criteria of the
products. We used ITIL heavily in the quality definitions of the
end products. The service desk technology was all defined using
ITIL terminology. Likewise ITIL featured in the job descriptions
of the new service desk personnel. When the time then came
to managing product delivery the team managers knew exactly
what was required of them.

I mentioned the Service V-model earlier. One additional
benefit of the Service V-model was in communication. There
were stakeholders who were ITIL trained, and stakeholders
who were PRINCE2 trained, but few knew both. Using the
Service V-model allowed us to speak to both ITIL and PRINCE2
audiences at the same time, each understanding immediately
where we were in the project. Even those uninitiated in these
Office of Government Commerce best practices could still very
quickly understand and follow the project plan thanks to the
intuitive nature of the model.

3. Quality versus cost balance
As with all things, there is a risk of getting bogged down in the
detail. It sometimes becomes difficult to see the wood for the trees.
ITIL’s emphasis on seeking an optimal balance between quality and
cost proved extremely useful as a reminder to take a step back and
weigh up quality improvements against the bigger picture. In our
project, as we focused on the details, some of the IT teams began
to lose sight of the need to be cost effective. IT teams generally can
be extremely customer focused. They often go into IT support
because they enjoy helping people, and this is a very positive
attribute. This though became a concern during the project as
some of the IT teams appeared to put the customer first regardless
of costs. We were not a charity. I needed a way to gently remind
members of the IT teams of the overarching company goal to
increase revenue and decrease cost. ITIL’s constant balancing act of
quality versus cost fitted the bill perfectly. When requests came in
to spend budget on specific tools, functionality, resources, etc, I
encouraged those making the applications to review them using
this ITIL principle. The number of change requests decreased as
people realized the costs of making the changes. More cost
effective alternatives began to be sought. ITIL helped make sure
that the project team only had to focus on the most important
change requests.

© The Stationery Office 2010

Using ITIL® and Prince2™ Together 5

4. Plugging a gap
Perhaps the biggest benefit of ITIL was in plugging a potential
gap within the project. We had been tasked to implement a
new service desk following ITIL principles. As with all good
projects, we were working and being measured against what
the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) sums up
as the “triple” constraints. This covered not just the traditional
measures of cost, time and quality, but also the more modern
and enlightened approach of measuring as well against risks,
scope and customer satisfaction.

Towards the end of the project, we were ready to roll out the new
service desk. We were within both time and cost tolerances. We
had stayed within the clear scope outlined. The quality of the end
product itself as well was met, as the new service desk team had
been trained, tested and were ready to go.

From a purely PRINCE2 project perspective we were hitting our key
targets as outlined in our own project’s success criteria. However,
the rollout of the product (the new service desk) was going to
impact the quality of the existing service desk. There was still some
nervousness and anxiety within the existing service desk team.
While it had not been technically within the boundary and scope of
the project, this was obviously a major concern.

The nervousness of the existing teams had to be addressed.
We could not let morale of the existing team suffer needlessly.
Based on ITIL principles a change to our project was therefore
made. The emphasis moved away from rolling out the new
service desk by the deadline come what may. We still had to
launch the new service desk by the required deadline, but
now we had to do it without negatively impacting the existing
service desk.

This reflected ITIL’s need for transition of the new service into
operations without generating undesired consequences. ITIL’s
stability versus responsiveness principle as well ensured that
we looked at not just delivering the project’s end product
regardless. We had to also be aware of and minimise any
ramifications on other groups. So although it increased the
costs, a more gradual rollout of the new service desk was
agreed upon. This ensured a good balance of stability to
the existing operations while allowing the new team to be
introduced into their work.

Whilst this oversight in the original project brief might have
been captured anyway, ITIL helped ensure that it was resolved
satisfactorily, with the best solution in mind. Like programme
management best practice (as reflected in Managing Successful
Programmes), ITIL helped the project remember that it is simply
an enabler. Delivering an end product is the goal of the project,
but to only consider that goal is not enough. The project must
also keep one eye on the benefit realisation that will come from
that end product. The project itself cannot necessarily focus
100% on this, as often the benefits only commence after the
project is completed. We successfully avoided the temptation
to roll out the new service desk and declare victory too soon.
When our post project review took place, it showed the extra

costs spent in rolling out the desk were well spent. The review
demonstrated that the benefits had indeed been realized and
firmly embedded in.

Weaknesses of combining
This is not to say that ITIL and PRINCE2 were a marriage made
in heaven. As in any partnership, there are some lows as well as
highs. Some of the ITIL functions and processes certainly added
an extra level of bureaucracy to the project. For instance, the
change management process covered all IT changes. However,
it was independent of the financial approval process which
went through a completely separate procurement process.
We therefore on occasions had the odd situation where we
had the project executive’s approval, and the business and
financial approval (shown through the approval of the purchase
order), yet we still struggled to get approval from the IT change
authority. This added if not time then certainly some frustration
to the project. With hindsight, one potential solution could have
been for the role of the leader of the CAB (the official IT change
authority) to have been added to the project board. This would
have given the CAB greater insight into the project, which could
only be a positive step.

Another area where the two did not mesh so well was that ITIL did
seem to introduce an inordinate number of stakeholders. It is
understandable that lots of departments and lots of personnel
would be interested in the introduction of a new service desk.
However, we were somewhat taken aback by just how many
groups felt they should have a say in project decisions. ITIL terms
were often quoted to justify this. It is difficult to say if this was
more to do with the specific ITIL implementation and the
personnel involved rather than ITIL itself. Either way, it did seem to
be overkill. The project team had did have to spend significant
effort on engaging and managing stakeholders with sometimes
tenuous links at best to the project.

Whatever metrics you choose, the project was a success. From
a timing perspective, it was completed ahead of the release
of the new IT product, and so it was able to manage the
spike of incidents that followed. From a quality and customer
satisfaction perspective, our loyalty scores not only avoided
a dip, but in fact increased, both during the period when the
new service desk came on line, and then later when the new IT
product was launched. From a cost perspective we came in just
under budget, and that included some extra costs to provide a
more gradual rollout.

Moreover, the project illustrated several key benefits in using
PRINCE2 and ITIL together. Yes, there were some conflicts.
But overall the two OGC best practices did naturally and
neatly interlock together. ITIL worked well in defining the best

© The Stationery Office 2010

6 Using ITIL® and Prince2™ Together

practice targets; PRINCE2 then assisted as the best practice
route to get there. For me it was clear that combining the two
provided benefits greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that we do not see more ITIL and
PRINCE2 projects together.

Noel Scott

Noel Scott (PMP) is a MSP Advanced Practitioner, PRINCE2
Practitioner and ITIL Practitioner specializing in managing
programmes and projects within the contact centre industry.
With over 10 years experience in a wide range of customer
services programmes, Noel regularly delivers articles and speeches
on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of contact centres.
Noel is a leading member of the “Customer Contact Council”
and the “Service and Support Professionals Association”.

Sourced and published by TSO on

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cannot accept responsibility for errors, omissions or inaccuracies.
Content, diagrams, logos and jackets are correct at time of
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without prior consent from the Author.

ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government
Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.

The swirl logo™ is a Trade Mark of the Office of Government
CommerceITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of
Government Commerce.

PRINCE™ is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government
Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.

© The Stationery Office 2010


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