IT Library lets us all speak the same language; read from the same page

Across enterprise and information technology (IT) processes, you may find that while people are working within the same structure, they are speaking different languages. One of the best ways to eliminate communication barriers is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a framework of best-practice approaches intended to facilitate delivery of high-quality IT services.

11/01/2007


Across enterprise and information technology (IT) processes, you may find that while people are working within the same structure, they are speaking different languages. One of the best ways to eliminate communication barriers is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a framework of best-practice approaches intended to facilitate delivery of high-quality IT services.

ITIL outlines a set of management procedures intended to support businesses in achieving quality and value in IT operations. According to David Cannon, ITSM practice principal for Hewlett-Packard (HP) and a board member of ITSFM USA, an IT services management forum that promotes IT best practices, “ITIL looks at what people are doing in the industry, and then documents the best of what is found.”

The perceived value of ITIL is spreading. U.K.-based Axios , an IT service management (ITSM) provider, says a survey performed earlier this year indicates 34 percent of IT professionals have adopted the ITIL framework, while another 34 percent plan to roll it out within a year.

One reason, says Axios, is the adoption of ISO/IEC 20000, the international standard for ITSM. While just 2 percent of respondents to an Axios survey in 2006 mentioned this as a driver for adoption, 18 percent of this year's respondents say it's a driver now.

Respondents cite a need to bring people, processes, and technology together, saying ITIL—with ISO/IEC 20000 accreditation—is a key enabling tool. Other reasons include enhanced business service from IT; and service-desk consolidations that lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction.

“We see [more ITIL adoption] across industries, and in the private and public sectors,” claims Ed Holub, a research VP with industry analyst firm Gartner 's Houston office. “In fact, we see it as becoming the de facto best-practice process, specifically in the area of IT infrastructure and operations. Of course, the larger the organization, the greater the propensity to want to invest in it.”

HP's Cannon first became familiar with ITIL in 1993, and has been advocating it ever since, including as a consultant and trainer. Cannon cites two main reasons for HP's involvement in ITIL.

“First, we are a huge IT company with about 150,000 users, and all kinds of tools and services that need to be managed,” he explains. “ITIL is an excellent way for us to improve the way we manage all this.” For example, ITIL was instrumental in reducing the number of HP data centers worldwide from 83 to six.

Second, HP bases a number of its services and tool sets on the ITIL principle, so customers using ITIL receive consulting and training support from HP, and also can purchase HP's ITIL-based tool sets.

For HP, one of the most important cost savings related to ITIL is less duplication.

“We had entire processes and tools sets that were duplicated, working in completely different departments, and often not even talking to each other,” says Cannon. “When we implemented ITIL, we got people to speak the same language and recognize the duplication. This is the first step toward eliminating the duplication.”

Cannon says the key to ITIL is people. “None of this would have worked unless the people in the organization supported it,” he emphasizes. “It is important to ensure senior IT executive management [buy-in] because ITIL requires some changes in how things are done.”

But Cannon also stresses that HP didn't try to do too much too soon. Gartner's Holub agrees.

“One question we ask in our ITIL surveys relates to [perceived challenges] in adoption,” says Holub. “The biggest challenge is the significant change in culture required.”

Even though ITIL provides guidance on processes, it can have implications for tools and technologies. That's why ITIL should be viewed as a people-change initiative more than anything else.

“Companies that underestimate the amount of time it will take to get their people to understand and support the repeatable process rigor that ITIL advocates are the ones that struggle the most with implementation,” cautions Holub. “They need to explain why ITIL is important and useful, and what metrics will be in place. Otherwise people will view it as bureaucracy, with more forms to fill out and processes to follow that will slow them down.”



Version 3: The latest and greatest ITIL

ITIL Version 3 (V3), published in mid-2007, includes six volumes: 1) Introduction to the ITIL service life cycle; 2) Service strategy; 3) Service design; 4) Service transition; 5) Service operation; and 6) Continual service improvement.

The main difference between ITIL V3 and ITIL V2 is Version 3 has adopted an integrated service life-cycle approach to IT service management, as opposed to organizing itself around the concepts of IT service delivery and support.

“Version 3 is an extension of Version 2, and everything in Version 2 continues into Version 3,” says David Cannon, ITSM practice principal for Hewlett-Packard and a board member of ITSFM USA, an IT services management forum that promotes IT best practices. “ITIL is not a piece of software that you have to discard and replace with something completely new. Version 3 is simply an evolution of Version 2.”

There is an additional benefit to V3, according to Ed Holub, a research VP with industry analyst firm Gartner . “With Version 3, the scope is broadened a bit, so we expect to see ITIL gain even more interest in organizations, including at higher levels, such as the CIOs.”



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