Disney ITIL adoption journey casetudy


ITIL, a service management standard developed by UK’s OGC (Office of Government Commerce), is the most accepted and adopted standard in the world. Since the ITIL is service-oriented, it is composed of five main categories namely service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continuous service improvement (Rouse, 2014). By adopting ITIL for managing IT, businesses are able to use IT not simply as a back-end solution but rather as a service provision partner to the business.


Disney is one of the largest organizations to adopt ITIL, the others in the US being the IRS, NASA, HSBC, IBM, Microsoft and HP. By aligning IT-related assets, costs and tasks to business objectives, organizations are able to offer better services at lower costs and improve efficiency. Additionally, by adoption ITIL, organizations are able to match changing business objectives with IT service management and delivery.

This makes ITIL well-suited to large organizations in manufacturing, IT, retail, pharmaceuticals, finance, entertainment and finance due to its IT infrastructure-centric nature in relation to business goals. Some of the goals organizations have when adopting ITIL include increased ROI from IT, increased customer engagement and satisfaction levels, easier management of IT especially the relationship between various aspects like assets, costs and returns, improved morale and higher employee retention rates and improved service delivery and performance.

Disney’s ITIL adoption

The adoption of ITIL by Disney began in 2008 and was spearheaded by a then recent hire, Glen Taylor, hired to spearhead the organization’s monumental undertaking. The goal of the effort was to adopt an integrated and holistic approach to IT service management. Given the scale of Disney, the adoption of ITIL for IT service management was not only a good match but also crucial to business operations (ITIL Training, n.d.). This is due to ITIL origins as a way of dealing with distributed, decentralized and heterogeneous computing architectures and assets.

IT service management is critical to Disney as it accounts for around 30% of the company’s revenue and is the only part of the company that deals directly with customers each minute. The scope of IT infrastructure, operations and other IT-related factors of Disney’s TP&R is huge given it handled over 118 customers each year and has 42 resorts, two cruise ships and parks and over 36,000 rooms all over the world.

For Disney, some of its most important goals in adopting ITIL were to improve service delivery, increase customer engagement and increased ROI from the company’s IT infrastructure and assets. In particular, increased reliability, availability, maintainability and scalability of IT services were the reasons Taylor pushed for the implementation of ITIL in management of IT services. By ensuring 100% availability of IT services, Disney’s TP&R could ensure that they delivered on their promise to provide their perfect experienced visitors with the perfect experience.

There are some great results that have been achieved since the as a result of Disney adopting ITIL. For one, Disney’s IT services are now integrated and managed using the ITIL standards. This has resulted in major improvement in the performance and efficiency of IT infrastructure. Using ITIL, Disney is better able to manage the services it offers its customers using the service portfolio management process concerned with service pipeline, catalog and retirement. This provides better insight and easier management on how to identify, evaluate, implement and retire services provided.

The adoption of ITIL has enabled management to understand and affect customer demand better using models such as user profiles and business activity patterns. This enables the company to identify how a certain demographic responds to a given service and how they use the service over some given time. Combined with the financial management process which allows for more transparent understanding and easier management of IT-related costs and opportunities, it has reduced IT service costs and better ROI.

There are many challenges that large organizations like Disney face in implementing ITIL adoption. For one, the decentralized and distributed nature of IT architectures in different locations makes it hard to standardize IT services. Disparate architectures, hardware, protocols, languages and standards must be harmonized in order to offer integrated IT services management. Additionally, adoption of any standard in a relatively large organization is a big challenge in itself since not only are there technical challenges to the project but other challenges like employee indifference, cultural resistance to change and the scale problem of implementing a service management standard in such a large organization.

There are several reasons why Disney was successful in its ITIL adoption and implementation. For one, given the scale of Disney, it was not possible to adopt ITIL within a short period of time, which required phased-out and incremental implementation. Secondly, to ensure successful and widespread adoption of ITIL within the company, one of the first thing Disney did was to market ITIL to the employees. This included a top-down marketing approach which went down the executive level dubbed Lunch ’n’ Learn and a bottom-up approach using methods such as Disney’s internal social network named BackLot which enabled employees to hold discussions and share documents.

The third reason the adoption of ITIL within Disney was successful was due to an education program initiated in the company. This saw 250 people get ITIL Foundation training from the executive level of the CIO downwards. After the training, the buy-in policy used in ITIL adoption and implementation resulted in more than half of those who underwent the education programme voluntarily undergoing a certification examination. Additionally, 20 people were selected in order to increase and cement organizational commitment and buy-in to ITIL adoption, who were put on an Expert level path. Having an experienced ITIL expert spearheading the adoption of ITIL also greatly helped the success of the undertaking.

When looking at various standards and frameworks to use for integrated IT services management, it is important to consider the appropriateness to the problem at hand. Another highly regarded and widely adopted ISO/IEC 20000, which has some key similarities and differences with ITIL (IT Governance, n.d.). For one, both ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000 are meant to make it easier for organizations to manage IT services. Secondly, they are meant to provide a framework to integrate IT services in order to improve efficiency and align business needs to IT resources and constraints.

There are some key differences between ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000. For one, although ITIL is considered a standard, it is more of a set of best practices that organizations should enforce for integrated IT services management. In contrast, the ISO/IEC 20000 is a standard that organization enforces to be certified for IT services management. This means that ISO/IEC 20000 is auditable and certifiable for organization while the ITIL is not auditable and is certifiable for individuals.

Furthermore, ITIL can be viewed as a stepping stone for organizations who later plan to enforce the ISO/IEC 20000 standard or some similar standard. Organizations first seek to address an immediate concern such as a failed or underperforming service then implement the ISO/IEC 20000 standard to see if they have implemented and comply with the ITIL standard. This means that had Disney adopted the ISO/IEC 20000 standard, it would still have achieved the results it has although it would have faced even greater challenges in implementing integrated IT service management.


IT Governance. (n.d.). ITIL® — IT Infrastructure Library® — and IT Service Management. Retrieved from https://www.itgovernanceusa.com/itil

ITIL Training. (n.d.). How and why ITIL was adopted by Disney. Retrieved from https://www.itiltraining.com/blog/2017/04/11/disney-itil-adoption/

Rouse, M. (2014, October). ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). Retrieved from http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com/definition/ITIL