An Overview of a Joint Research Project from HDI and Global Knowledge

by Cinda Daly
Date Published - Last Updated May 11, 2016

In 2010, HDI and Global Knowledge cosponsored a research project to understand more about the state of ITIL implementation, the benefits companies have actually achieved, and the key success factors. While there are many ITIL benefit surveys out there, what sets this survey apart is that it comes from people who are actually practicing ITIL. Thus, this ITIL benefits survey provides an objective and realistic examination of what you can truly expect from following ITIL good practices, as reported by your peers.

The data were collected from August 15 to September 10, 2010. During this period, 358 surveys were completed via an online survey, by respondents from across the nation and around the world. Over half of the respondents (52%) have a primary position in the IT service management (ITSM) area; 60 percent are in IT managerial or supervisory roles, most from firms with national and global presence; 40 percent come from firms with more 10,000 employees; and over 50 percent come from the more regulated areas of government, education, health services, law, and financial services—a true cross-section of ITIL practitioners.

Key Findings

The survey results challenge some of the ITIL community’s commonly held beliefs, modify others, and create new paradigms for success, answering provocative questions like:

  • Is C-level management commitment required for ITIL success? (No. It has a small impact, but it dramatically changes what you need to do to be successful.) 
  • Is ITIL just a service/help desk practice? (Not at all. In fact, the highest growth area in ITIL is not the service desk, or even change management.) 
  • Is cost reduction the chief benefit of ITIL? (No, it’s not, and you need to be careful since cost reduction is not even one of the top three benefits.)

Service management professionals are more likely to take a leadership role in areas of strategy/service definition, operations, and transition/implementation. Those individuals also report a greater incidence of v3 certification; they are “following” a greater number of the ITIL disciplines; they utilize more internal groups to drive their ITIL strategies; they are more likely to have C-level support for their initiatives; and their organizations, in general, behave more positively toward ITIL than the organizations of their counterparts. These are just some of the eye-opening findings in the Global Knowledge/HDI “ITIL Benefits to the Business” special report.

Top ITIL Disciplines

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that incident and change management are the ITSM growth areas, since IT is so “immature.” However, this study reveals that many firms already have established incident (63%) and change (53%) management disciplines. One of the most significant findings is that, of the top three ITIL processes, problem management—a process that requires organizational maturity and commitment—is the ITIL process most firms are either implementing (24%) or plan to implement (24%). Furthermore, 43 percent currently follow ITIL problem management processes, reflecting a 91 percent adoption rate among this group of respondents.

Even more interesting is that while problem management is the leading growth area among the top three implemented ITIL processes, the highest growth in terms of current implementations is in service request management (27%) and the service catalog (26%), processes that relate to customer satisfaction and the standardization of IT service delivery.

While ITIL incident, change, and problem management top the chart, each ITIL process is in use throughout the respondent population. Availability and capacity management are the other areas that are most likely to be on the planning horizon. The survey shows 38 percent of respondents plan to implement availability management and 37 percent plan to implement capacity management. This is fascinating, since industry pundits typically single these out as areas only a few very mature organizations implement.

The key takeaway here is the further indication that ITIL seems to have “grown up.” What may not be as obvious is that ITIL incident and change management—done right—set the stage for problem, availability, and capacity management. By stabilizing IT service delivery, allowing the firms that follow it to mature and freeing the resources required to shift from running and reacting to building and transforming, ITIL appears to have crossed a bridge.

C-Level Support

Almost half of respondents reported they had C-level support for their ITIL initiatives, with the CIO or CTO serving as a champion for the initiative. Having senior management commitment was not required for success, but it did make the path easier. According to respondents, it is easier to attain the benefits of ITIL when senior management is committed, but it also comes with a change in the focus of the benefits. Having C-level commitment means a greater focus on improving service performance, satisfying the end user, reducing the cost of IT service delivery, and improving the likelihood that IT projects will succeed.

Contributing Success Factors

Contributing success factors are those that successful practitioners found to be the most helpful. While C-level engagement is not a critical success factor, it is important to note that 71 percent of respondents report that executive support is, in general, the most critical factor for success. In other words, management commitment is critical to success, C-level commitment is not. When asked to assess the importance of several factors, the six items in Figure 4 rose to the top.

There is a difference between practicing IT service management and using software to solve an IT problem. The benefits you get from a tool are not the benefits you get from practicing ITSM. Tools facilitate a strategy and allow a team to complete tasks; tools alone do not make a strategy. As expected, respondents overwhelmingly conclude that support tools aligned with ITIL are very important, and 51 percent cite software (e.g., incident, knowledge, CMBD, etc.) as a success factor.

Top Benefits of ITIL

This research uncovered that the top three benefits of ITIL are:

  1. Improved IT responsiveness,
  2. End-user satisfaction, and
  3. Workload improvements.

The top two benefits revolve around transforming IT into an organization that is responsive to its customers—in other words, evolving IT into a true service provider. The ability to show improvement in IT service responsiveness is the key measure of success in those organizations with C-level engagement.


The results speak for themselves: ITIL is relevant and ITIL delivers value. With or without C-level support, you can be successful in shifting resources from “keeping the lights on” (KTLO) to innovation by practicing ITIL. ITIL appears to be fully in the mainstream, and perhaps questions around its usefulness are the result of unrealistic expectations, especially regarding cost reduction. Given the depth to which core ITIL processes are in place, it may also be the case that IT managers need less assistance from vendors and consultants. ITSM in general, and ITIL in particular, are simply “how we do things” in IT today. Simply put, the results of this survey show that successful IT organizations have absorbed ITIL into the fabric of their operations and have seen significant benefits from doing so.

To learn more about the results—areas of importance to ITIL initiatives, critical success factors, the various groups involved in ITIL initiatives, the role of third-party services, the scope of ITIL certification, and more—visit and download the HDI/Global Knowledge special report “ITIL Benefits to the Business,” by Hank Marquis with Cinda Daly, Jenny Rains, and Greg Timpany. We invite you to visit to discuss these results.


For more than twenty-five years, Cinda Daly has managed teams, written dozens of industry articles and thousands of pages of technical documentation, developed training courses, conducted sales and service training, and consulted in the technical support and customer service space. In her current role, as HDI’s director of business content, she is responsible for HDI’s virtual events, research, and print and electronic publications.

Tag(s): framework and methodologies, process, research


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