How to Get More Out of ITIL with Version 3

Advice from users who have been around the track.

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3. Look at the tools. As ITIL has evolved, a variety of IT vendors have developed tools that support its premises. Tampa's Claypool says his early work with ITIL v2 was slowed by a lack of automated software to support vital elements such as a configuration management database. "Now," he says, "you can actually go out and buy a product that matches up with the ITIL structure. That helps tremendously."

Cassidy hails the better integration of topics in v3 and says that's aided by a similar advance in support tools. She says Progress Energy in August will begin using Service-now.com, a Web-based utility that supports ITIL v3 practices. "It has much more integration between different [ITIL] processes," Cassidy says. "You could be in problem management but want to update a change ticket, and it's very seamless."

In fact, Cassidy challenges the mantra that companies going into ITIL should get their processes down pat before looking for tools that fit them. "We got into ITIL, and by our third year, we realized that our tools were not allowing us to do some of the things we wanted to do," she says. "In hindsight, we could have made much faster progress had we had better tools."

4. Prepare for culture shock. "Our No. 1 challenge is changing our culture," says the city of Tampa's Claypool. The difficulty, he says, lies in changing an IT mind-set that believes current practices are good enough when they could be much better.

In nearby Sarasota, Fla., ITIL has been in place eight years -- long before it gained popularity elsewhere in the U.S. "Gartner didn't even have it on the hype- cycle chart in 2000," says Bob Hanson, CIO for Sarasota County. Now the county has mastered the basics of ITIL v2, but "it hasn't been easy," Hanson says. "It's not the process itself; it's the human side. The traditional model is that the IT person doesn't mind playing the hero role" -- that is, swooping in to save the day when processes run amok. "And ITIL usurps the hero role by putting structure in place."

Hanson's advice: "You have to tell your people what's in it for them. Getting them out of hero mode does simplify their life in the long run."

Tampa is just getting started on ITIL but is not reaching out to pricey consultants. Says Claypool, "We are working with Sarasota County. We are looking at their processes and saying, 'County and city are pretty similar; let's just photocopy their processes and see if they are different from our own and should be tailored.'"

5. Don't expect to find everything in v3 -- or like everything you find. Cassidy acknowledges that v3 doesn't do everything. For example, she says she failed to find information about how to set up an IT architecture review board. Cassidy also considers v3 to be weak in its treatment of project management. "It's mentioned in several of the v3 books, but the integration between project management and the ITIL processes is still kind of squishy," she says.

While many people praise v3's broader scope, at least one user is not impressed with the book on service strategy, a topic new to v3. "It's my pet hate," says CSC's Humphrey. "There isn't a lot of process in there. It lacks the practicality you get in the more mature areas."

Humphrey says v3 is weak in its treatment of business continuity as well. "Unless you have sorted out business continuity, IT service continuity has no anchor," he says.

He adds that it also falls short on governance, but a coming supplement will better address linkages between ITIL and things like the audit-oriented Cobit (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology).

HP's Cannon says current work to enhance ITIL v3 -- perhaps for a Version 4 -- is focused on expanding the framework's scope beyond data center operations to other areas of technology, such as telecommunications and mobile devices. That will become increasingly important as computing continues its long trend toward decentralization, he says.

For example, a future version of ITIL could help an insurance company whose IT services include capturing and processing claims data and photographs from field agents via handhelds.

Cannon says the authors of v3 decided not to address specific technologies, such as iPods, and adds that new, rapidly evolving processing approaches, such as service-oriented architectures, were also deliberately omitted. But that will change. V3 is intended to have a shelf life of eight to 10 years, but it will be accompanied over time by topic-specific "complementary guides," he says.

Sarasota County's Ott speculates that now that ITIL has been broadened to embrace business concepts more rigorously, it may be applicable even outside of IT, to any situation where a team of people is providing a service to customers. It could be applied in a call center, for example, and not just to those parts of the center that are strictly IT-based. "We've all talked about the loss of service in the U.S.," Ott says. "I think this is a way to structurally put it back in place."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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