Q&A: Jean Ritala of Mystic Lake Casino Hotel on ITIL

By Anna Maria Virzi  |  Posted 2006-07-31

Jean Ritala is I.T. support services manager at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minn., and president of the I.T. Service Management Forum USA (itSMF), a not-for-profit membership organization. Ritala has been an active member of itSMF's Minneapolis local interest group, one of 37 such chapters in the United States, and is an advocate of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

Here are her suggestions, offered in an e-mail interview with executive editor Anna Maria Virzi, for adopting ITIL:

Q: What are your top tips for an organization implementing the Information Technology Infrastructure Library?

A: You need a change agent to spearhead and drive an ITIL implementation. Someone who sees change as a process and not an event and recognizes how change will affect the bottom line in an organization. A person who is an active enthusiast for change who inspires others. A role model for new vision skills and behaviors.

You need a burning platform, or what some people call "pain points" or a mandate in an organization. Like from a recent internal or external audit or where it's too painful too stay the same.

  • Do a good baseline assessment on the maturity of your company processes first. You can't measure how you've grown and improved unless you know where you've been and what things were like before.
  • Realize it's a multi-year journey, not a one-time silver bullet approach to change.
  • Take small steps. Get strategic—and quick—wins.
  • Tie ITIL to performance reviews and monthly guest service scorecards, such as the results of guest service surveys.

    Q: What benefits can a company realize from ITIL?


  • Streamlined, centralized ways of doing things that bring process efficiency. There's less chaos when everyone's on the same page doing things.
  • Cost savings with process improvement, particularly when you start by showing improvement in the areas of "pain" in an organization.
  • Increased knowledge of "end-to-end" processes in an organization and the how and why of these process ties.
  • Obtain the ability to answer an executive's questions real time about what the heck is going on—once you have enough of the ITIL processes in place.
  • Ensure more effective use of subject matter experts in I.T. and an organization by utilizing the "right people for the right job" and not using, say, a programmer to answer baseline questions coming into an I.T. service desk.

    Q: What are the limitations of ITIL?


  • It takes time. Again, there is no silver bullet. Or a 12- to 18-month month way to slam in a paradigm shift in an organization's processes. It's an ongoing evolution of changing how people think and do things.
  • ITIL needs dedicated change agents who have a relentless pursuit of service management excellence
  • You need dedicated technical writers as well so you help make it easier for everyone to do better and more document, and ongoing, updates.
  • Remember: It's not the tool(s), it's changing mindsets so you can change and implement new processes.
  • Realize that executives or less experienced change agents may think or tell you it will be done quickly and that all depends on dedicated resources and commitment to changing how a business does things.
  • The line of business and executives don't care what you call it. Just tell them you are working on service improvements so you can align to the business better.

    Q: What is the most popular library or framework and why?

    A: ITIL processes and terminology may be new, but many highly regulated companies such as defense/government contracting, medical, etc. have been using process frameworks that are or have been similar. When I worked for Honeywell and the defense side of Honeywell in the 1980s, we used formal change, configuration and release management processes. Also, some companies may choose to use a combination of frameworks. I know several companies that combine using Six Sigma and ITIL.

    Q: Any reasons why some companies avoid ITIL?

    A: None that I see. Any company that's in business to provide service and products and wants to grow needs to learn how to do continual process improvement by setting standards and doing good documentation.

    Even the smallest companies with few staff can implement process improvement. In many organizations several ITIL functions are done as part of a person's job. An example is a service desk manager may and often will do incident management and service level management.

    NEXT: How to Get Support for an ITIL Projectfor an ITIL Project">

    How to Get Support for an ITIL Project

    Q: How can a technology manager win business support for ITIL?


  • Have awareness and communications campaigns.
  • Provide overview training for management and employees, even an hour at the start.
  • Train key change agent(s) who will start and lead the implementations, then train the others
  • Show them by inviting them to itSMF USA local interest group meetings so they can network with their peers to learn what and how others are doing ITIL implementations

    Q: What are some metrics that companies collect and analyze once they've adopted ITIL, which they may not have collected before?


  • The number of incidents that became problems
  • How end-to-end process ties through reports so you can see the true issues
  • The number of changes that were not approved, each quarter, and why
  • The number of times that service level agreements were not met and why
  • The cost of the last downtime
  • The cost of existing services, including the cost of removing or adding a service
  • The number of incidents and/or problems reported after a change was made

    Q: What size investment does a company typically have to make to adopt ITIL?

    A: As little as $15,000 will get you started. That would cover, for example, sending a few key employees for an ITIL Foundation (a certificate program to become familiar with ITIL basics) and at least one employee to an ITIL Managers' course (a certificate program to become proficient in ITIL).

    You can make it the service desk manager's job to start an ITIL implementation. And you don't need any software to start. At Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, we started with only the cost of a Foundations' course. And I paid for the ITIL Manager's course myself. And we sent all I.T. management to free ITIL overviews by vendors and sponsors.