IT can no longer deliver services based on technology fiefdoms or silos as it has in the past. This practice is dead. Organizations that refuse to accept it will either dissolve, get outsourced, or end up being controlled by external entities such as CFOs, business units, and so on. IT needs to rethink the ways in which it contributes to the business -- and how it manages itself.
The ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and ITSM (IT Service Management) practices provide a pathway for this to happen.
Back in 1989, it dawned on the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in the United Kingdom that IT was becoming increasingly important to business -- and that there was still a lot of confusion about how IT services should be delivered and managed. Shortly thereafter, the OGC published ITIL: 44 volumes of dense prose that attempted to provide an integrated set of best-practice recommendations for managing IT. Version 2, published in 2001, reduced the library to nine volumes that integrated the practices, but none was exactly light reading. (Version 3 is expected in April 2007.)
The processes embodied in ITIL and ITSM have evolved greatly through the years and are poised to become a worldwide standard embodied as ISO 20000. At present, ITIL is both a glossary and a set of conceptual processes intended to outline IT best practices.
The rapid pace of business change, technology advancement, regulation, and services that must be delivered across an ever-flattened global economy is forcing IT to organize and manage itself more effectively. For all its promise, ITIL is still a tremendous undertaking. So, here’s a head start: the 10 most important things you need to know about ITIL right now.
1. What can I do with ITIL that I couldn’t do before?
Implemented properly, ITIL raises customer satisfaction, reduces waste in the IT organization, and lowers operating costs. Three quick examples:
* In 2000, target response time for resolving Web incidents at Caterpillar IT was 30 minutes -- but it hit that goal only 30 percent of the time. Then Caterpillar implemented ITIL. Now its IT providers hit the mark more than 90 percent of the time -- and Caterpillar has been able to grow its business exponentially in the past five years with only 1 percent increase in its IT budget.
* Two years ago, IT administrators at Liberty Mutual discovered that a critical network application was down only after users called to complain. Then they deployed ITIL. Today, they’re steps ahead, monitoring applications for slowdowns or abnormal activity before trouble occurs, usually fixing problems before users notice anything is wrong.
* Proctor & Gamble -- with 5,000 people employed in IT -- implemented service management processes outlined by ITIL and saved $125 million, according to company officials.
2. Do I have to read all nine volumes, or are some more important than others?
Good news! Two volumes, Service Support and Service Delivery provide the core knowledge. The other books are supplementary.
The Service Support volume introduces five key processes: Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, Release Management, and Configuration Management. Although considered a function, not a process, the Service Desk is included here as the central point of contact where customers of IT services can report incidents, make requests, and communicate with the IT infrastructure and the business.