IT by the book

ITIL’s guidelines bind infrastructure and costs to business objectives

Can something that’s been kicking around for more than 15 years qualify as an overnight success? It certainly feels that way with ITIL, a collection of nine books that lays out a blueprint for IT service management. In the United States, at least, ITIL has recently catapulted itself from a respected, if somewhat obscure, treatise for governance geeks to a mainstream discipline.

For those not yet conversant with its philosophy, “Getting a head start on ITIL,” by Randy A. Steinberg and Michael Goodwin, pulls out 10 things you need to know about ITIL. “IT has come to realize that it cannot manage itself the way it has been for 20 years,” says Steinberg, a longtime IT infrastructure management consultant. In today’s resource-constrained environment, IT procedures must support the company’s business objectives. ITIL provides a framework to make that happen.

If such grandiose schemes sound a tad daunting, don’t worry; managers needn’t swallow ITIL whole. They can start small, picking and choosing specific procedures — change management, for example — that address particular organizational weaknesses. 

Steinberg suggests you begin by figuring out, from a business viewpoint, what services IT is providing to the company, things such as e-mail or sales support. Then map your IT infrastructure and costs to those services, enumerating, say, all the services and apps that enable your sales team’s efforts.

“Then you can walk into the executive suite and say, ‘Here’s what this is costing us, and here’s what sales brings in to the company,’ ” Steinberg explains. “It can be a great justification for further investment — and much more effective than just walking up to the CEO and asking for more money.”

The bottom line: ITIL gives IT managers instant credibility in the boardroom — which could turn anyone into an overnight success.