ITIL Moves Upscale

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library was developed by the U.K. Office of Government Commerce to describe a standard set of IT management processes. ITIL originally focused on the processes required to operate IT infrastructure effectively, such as incident management and change control. Version 3 of ITIL (commonly referred to as ITIL v3), which was released this summer, has an expanded scope. With v3, ITIL now includes definitions for the services IT provides (PC installation, software application training, employee mailbox creation and so on) as well definitions for the associated delivery processes.

Rodrigo Flores, founder of service-catalog software company NewScale Inc., uses a restaurant analogy to describe the expanded scope. In this analogy, ITIL v2 functioned as an operating manual for the kitchen staff of a school cafeteria. With a captive student audience, the cafeteria staff had relatively little concern for customer service. ITIL v3 functions as the business plan for an upscale restaurant. The restaurants management team wants the restaurant to be profitable; consumers are looking for quality food, excellent service and fair prices (menu choices are provided in the ITIL service catalog); and the restaurant staff is focused on meeting customers expectations. ITIL v3 provides definitions and proc­esses to support all these sets of objectives.

With this expanded scope, ITIL v3 will become much more important and useful to IT organizations. Heres why:

V3 facilitates business trade-offs. A new v3 book from the ITIL Lifecycle Core Library, Service Strategy (TSO, 2007), describes a framework for making effective business trade-offs as well as trade-offs between cost and levels of service. The section on service portfolio management offers approaches for determining which services should be funded and which should be retired. This process facilitates decision-making within the IT organization and at the executive level.

V3 provides greater detail. Earlier versions described general characteristics of recommended IT processes. ITIL v3 provides expanded process definitions and also recommends specific implementation steps for most IT processes. In addition, v3 specifies the roles required to support IT processes, such as business relationship manager, service owner, product manager and service catalog manager. As a result, v3 requires less customization and is easier for organizations to implement.

V3 addresses multiple audiences. Previous ITIL versions were written for IT technical staff. ITIL v3 addresses the needs of these additional groups:

Business executives, known as customers in the ITIL vernacular. V3 addresses concerns that senior business executives might have about tasks such as allocating resources, making business trade-offs and measuring results.

Consumers of IT services. ITILs new service catalog provides a menu of services for IT users. Menu items can be as simple as password resets or as complex as modifications to major systems.

Outsourcers. They are leveraging the service catalog to standardize their offerings and pricing and to provide consistent definitions for communicating with their clients.

Standards bodies. V3 lays the groundwork for industry operating standards. IT service management is relatively young and does not yet have widely accepted standards (such as GAAP for finance). ITIL v3 represents a step toward them.

Users of other frameworks. ITIL v3 provides linkages to Six Sigma, Cobit and so on. This ability to integrate with other frameworks enables IT organizations to adopt ITIL without compromising previous investments in different models.

V3 provides standard definitions for IT services and the processes that manage them. Standardization helps organizations reduce the delivery costs of IT services and provide customers with consistent definitions and pricing. With wider adoption, ITIL v3 will provide a solid foundation for standards across the IT industry.

Bart Perkins is managing partner at Louisville, Ky.-based Leverage Partners Inc., which helps organizations invest well in IT. Contact him at BartPerkins@LeveragePartners.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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