How to Get More Out of ITIL with Version 3

Advice from users who have been around the track.

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So is it time to get on the ITIL v3 bandwagon? Experienced users offer the following advice:

1. Don't abandon your Version 2 efforts. Companies that have patched and supplemented ITIL v2 over the years may feel little urgency to use v3. Phyllis Drucker, director of consolidated services at AutoNation Inc., says the car retailer filled some gaps in v2 with Microsoft's MOF and some homegrown processes. The result is a "very robust" and integrated set of processes for change, capacity and service design management, she says.

Will she scrap v2 and MOF? "No," Drucker says. "We'll lay v3 over our processes and see if there are any gaps."

Progress Energy Inc. has been working with ITIL v2 for six years. "But there's still a lot we haven't implemented," says Sheri Cassidy, manager of process engineering services.

According to Cassidy, whose unofficial title is ITIL program manager, "To someone just getting into v3, I'd say don't view it as a replacement for v2; view it as a wrapper or a supplement."

She'll continue with v2 and some extracurricular efforts that were under way before v3's arrival but are now included in the refresh, such as a more prescriptive approach to knowledge management, service catalog management, transition management, continuous improvement and templates for things such as service-level agreements.

Alan Claypool, manager of business applications for the city of Tampa, Fla., has been getting into ITIL v2 for the past 18 months. He's starting with mostly old legacy applications running on old legacy operational procedures.

"We have a framework for operations, and in many ways, it's successful," he says. "But it's not a structured framework that can guarantee the quality of outcome each time and [allow us to] do continuous improvements."

Claypool plans to get further into v2 before going headlong into v3, but he and his staff have already begun working their way through the v3 service strategy book. He explains, "We started into design and realized we didn't have our strategy on solid ground, so we stepped back into strategy. What's so nice about v3 is that it really takes you back to the basics of business, and then you design your service to meet those."

2. Do get started on v3. It's worth it.

Users say that the most important advance in v3 is its firm linkage of IT services to the business side of the organization.

Hewlett-Packard Co. uses ITIL for its internal operations and the services it provides clients. David Cannon, IT service management practice principal at HP and co-author of the Service Operation book in ITIL v3, says that to the extent v2 talked at all about return on investment, it was always in terms of cost savings, and that a focus on the cost of an IT service says nothing about the value of that service to the business. "But v3 focuses instead on what the service specifically is trying to achieve," he says.

Cannon says v3 helps match IT service costs not with "outputs," such as the number of invoices produced, but with "outcomes" -- the value of improved cash flow, for instance. "V3 gives you a lot of guidelines as to how to break down your services, how to map them to outcomes and how to cost the services," he says.

Dale Ott, director of service management for Sarasota County Government and Schools in Florida, says the best thing about the new ITIL is its expansion from service operations to include the phases of service design and rollout, as well as the linkages of those to the business. He said v3 has already provided a new framework for helping his department review some applications recently put in place, like an intranet for the county.

"We can look at these and say, 'I don't think I really asked all the right questions before I launched this thing.' We have several things, like Vista and [Microsoft] Office '07, on the horizon, and how to do those well is what v3 offers us," Ott says.

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