Once committed to the ITIL framework, companies must decide which technologies will best support their process re-engineering road map. Despite ubiquitous vendor claims of “ITIL compliance” and “ITIL compatibility,” the framework is technologically agnostic -- it stops short of prescribing technology standards. In fact, a basic level of ITIL can be implemented with almost any technology, even spreadsheets and -- believe it or not -- paper. “There’s no rocket science here,” says Ram Duraiswamy, vice president of IT Governance Strategies at Mercury Interactive.
Microsoft’s Pizzo concurs: “It’s about the processes, not the products. For example, whether they have any communication mechanisms in place in the datacenter to alert all the stakeholders that a change is in the pipeline, what the approval stage is, etc.,” she explains, emphasizing that you “don’t necessarily need to buy anything.”
Nonetheless, vendors have plenty to sell. In an attempt to ride the wave, they are building the ITIL taxonomies, workflows, and language into their products and reference models, while touting pre-built integration as an ITIL enabler. Microsoft, for example, has created the MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework), its own ITIL adaptation, and IBM and HP have similar schemes. “Our angle is to bundle these processes in with our tools and products, instead of expecting people to do stand-alone process improvement projects,” Pizzo says. In theory, an MOF deployment could automatically catch an error in Exchange Server, generate a trouble ticket, and automatically transfer that ticket to a Remedy help desk system.
But customers say they’re far from achieving full ITIL automation. “There isn’t just one tool that does it all,” Don McGinnis, an IT staff manager at State Farm Insurance says. State Farm implemented several ITIL processes using a variety of tools, including HP OpenView Service Desk, HP Network Node Manager, and a legacy mainframe automation tool called CA-OPS/MVS.
But McGinnis wishes there was a single tool, citing incident management as an example. “With incidents, you try to recover whatever’s not running, then go to a review group that looks at it from a problem management point of view and digs down into the root cause,” he explains. “Then you go into change once you’ve identified the problem, schedule it, get agreement, and then pass it on to release. That’s how they all work together, that’s why you need the tool. … The more ITIL processes you can put under one tool, the better off you’re going to be.”
Nationwide’s Probst recommends assessing your current and desired processes before selecting tools, as some do better than others at supporting the nuts and bolts of industry-specific, highly customized business processes. “If you select the tool before you have your processes down, you’re hosed,” he says.
CMDB: The black belt of ITIL
Unlike Six Sigma, ITIL doesn’t have a “black belt”-level designation for its most advanced practitioners. But if it did, it might very well go to those organizations that have successfully implemented ITIL’s configuration process utilizing a tool called the CMDB (configuration management database).
The CMDB, which the ITIL framework describes only conceptually, is a comprehensive master database describing all IT infrastructure components in a given environment and how they relate to each other, who owns them, what incidents are related to them, and so on. In its most sophisticated incarnation, a CMDB is similar to what a nerve center might look like for truly autonomous utility computing.