ITIL Update to Cover Security, Outsourcing

Users eager to try new version of IT services spec

After the IT department at Raymond James Financial Inc. implemented best practices from the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), the number of calls to the company’s help desk dropped as much as 25% within 18 months.

Fewer phone calls means IT workers are free for other assignments, said Brian Miller, manager of IT monitoring services and availability management at St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Raymond James. He credited ITIL’s set of disciplined processes — such as finding the root cause of a problem — for the drop in help desk calls.

Miller said that by using ITIL’s best practices, “you get everybody in every department playing by the same rules,” which delivers big benefits in many IT areas, such as change management.

Getting Buy-in

Tips for getting senior executives to support ITIL:

•  Focus on a couple of high-impact incidents and how they might have been avoided by sharing knowledge and adopting ITIL best practices.•  Gather metrics on how ITIL reduces the number of incidents and/or shortens the length of outages.•  Celebrate ITIL successes, and learn to market those success stories.

Source: IT Service Management Forums Princeton, N.J., chapter

Miller and other IT managers are eager to get their hands on Version 3 of ITIL, which is due in April and will be the first new release since 2000. A lot in IT has changed since Version 2 became available.

Security processes, which users say are lacking in the current ITIL version, will get more attention in the new release. According to Sharon Taylor, ITIL’s chief architect, Version 3 will also cover an area that has exploded as a major IT management concern since 2000: outsourcing.

Version 3 will also provide guidance on the related issue of knowledge transfer. In a data center relocation, for example, knowledge transfer means ensuring that new employees or outsourcers know how to run the systems.

Roman Albrecht, an IT manager at DHL Worldwide Network SA/NV’s data center in Prague, said he wishes he had had ITIL guidelines for knowledge transfer in 2003 when, as part of a wider facilities consolidation, the company moved its London data center to Prague. “There wasn’t any existing process that you could take and [use] — you had to develop it yourself,” said Albrecht.

DHL is growing partly by acquisitions, so ITIL helps the delivery company ensure that its global IT operations follow one set of IT processes. “If you are big company and you don’t have ITIL, you will be dead very soon because your cost will be too high,” said Albrecht. “Without defined, measured processes, you can’t optimize — this is a key thing.”

ITIL, which was developed by the British government in the 1980s, has become increasingly popular in the U.S., especially following passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002.

Vendors are also jumping into the ITIL services market. Hewlett-Packard Co., for instance, provides ITIL training for DHL employees, and CA Inc. does ITIL consulting work with Sprint Nextel Corp. The vendors are also producing tools intended to help automate ITIL processes. But David Taylor, CIO at the Florida Department of Health, said he looks at some of the products warily.

Cultural Change

Vendors claim that their tools are “based in ITIL” or “ITIL-compatible,” Taylor said, but “we have avoided purchasing these products in favor of modifying and federating our own existing systems as we learn the fundamental principles and practices of ITIL.”

Taylor said it’s important for staffers to internalize how the ITIL framework works. “If you skip this step by initially purchasing a tool that masks some of the process, the culture change needed to sustain the buy-in for service management is compromised,” he said.

Users agreed that the major barrier to implementing ITIL is cultural. “The adoption of best practices is met with resistance right upfront, and so buy-in is an evolutionary process,” said Kirk Frost, who heads the Princeton, N.J., chapter of the IT Service Management Forum U.S.A. “To even get the finances approved, you get tested at all levels from the senior CIO level down.” Frost is implementing ITIL at a financial services firm he declined to identify.

Sprint Nextel invested heavily in ITIL training and also focused on communications, said John Montross, its vice president of managed network operations.

“We found that once employees learn about ITIL, they are eager to implement [it] because they see the value it brings to their work and how it can improve the customer experience,” he said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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