Second, corporate mergers and outsourcing have made it more important for IT shops to speak the same process language. “ITIL provides a common language so you can work more effectively with your outsourcers for end-to-end service delivery,” Gartner Research Director Steve Bittinger says. Bittinger thinks that ITIL was slower to take off in the U.S. because American corporate culture is more entrepreneurial and less process-oriented than Europe’s.
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Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, one of the early U.S. adopters of ITIL, is a case in point. In 2001, Nationwide revaluated its IT operations processes and realized they desperately needed overhauling. Incident and change management were major pain points. Poor communication and fragmented “tribal knowledge” were widespread. “It was borderline crisis,” explains Doug LeMaster, director of IT program management. “Processes were ad hoc [and] customer expectations weren’t being met.”
After re-engineering key processes based on the ITIL framework, Nationwide saw major improvements in systems availability, Nationwide’s IT Process Officer Jack Probst says, estimating that downtime decreased by 50,000 user minutes. What ITIL did, he explains, was help standardize the language, process, and workflow of key operations. “ITIL provided the behavioral disciplines necessary to make it happen,” Probst says.
Getting started with ITIL
At its core, the ITIL framework is a set of 44 books originally published by the British government’s Stationery Office between 1989 and 1992 -- available on the IT Service Management Forum’s Web site -- each dealing with a different operational process. The framework can be implemented in stages and most experts recommend a phased deployment (see “Nationwide Drinks the ITIL Kool-Aid”).
Many companies have also turned to larger consulting organizations such as HP Services and IBM Global Services to provide training and packaged ITIL offerings, including suggested workflows, to help customers quickly get up to speed. These consultants also provide needs assessments and benchmarking to help customers determine how they’re doing. “There are no metrics police in ITIL, no independent British government-sponsored metrics for how good you are,” notes Pink Elephant’s Ratcliffe. But there is an official, all-or-nothing ITIL certification process called BS 15000, overseen by the British Standards Institute.