“Best practice” and “benchmarking” don’t have to be nebulous buzzwords that you don’t know how to apply to your IT department.
Around the world, a set of best practices is catching on: the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). The framework emerged from Britain originally, published by the British government’s Stationery Office between 1989 and 1992. In an article in InfoWorld, David Margulis defines ITIL as a set of best practices and standard methodologies for core IT operational processes such as change, release and configuration management, incident and problem management, capacity and availability management and financial management for IT.
“Although the datacentre is ITIL’s primary target, its best practices templates apply across almost every IT environment, from the service desk to the corporate desktop,” Margulius says.
“The framework can be implemented in stages and most experts recommend a phased deployment.”
According to another article in Network World, US organisations are now using ITIL to help “slash IT spending by tens of millions of dollars and boost IT service delivery."
The article by Denise Dubie says Forrester Research has predicted that this year will be the one when ITIL goes mainstream and Gartner has said fully adopting an IT service management strategy can cut an organisation's cost of IT ownership by about 50%.
Dubie gives the example of Zurich Life as one ITIL success story. ITIL has helped Zurich Life reduce the number of contracted IT staff needed to service 2,500 end users in two buildings from 30 to 10.
Dubie also quotes a vice president from another organisation as saying that getting 1,100 IT workers to use the same set of processes has been challenging but worthwhile.
“Making IT staff understand that their actions set off a series of other actions across the large enterprise network helped them adjust to using new management methods.”
Another organisation singing ITIL’s benefits (and quoted in Margulis' InfoWorld article) is Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. When it re-evaluated its IT operations processes it realised they desperately needed overhauling, says Margulius. It re-engineered key processes based on the ITIL framework and estimates downtime decreased by 50,000 user minutes.
“What ITIL did … was help standardise the language, process and workflow of key operations.”
ITIL is overseen by the IT Service Management Forum and Dubie says part of the reason for its increasing uptake is large vendors like Computer Associates and HP talking about it at their user shows.
In the InfoWorld article, Margulius says the adoption of ITIL is “growing like a weed”.
“Four years ago, ITIL was already in high gear in Europe, but almost no one in the United States had heard of it. Today a rapidly growing North American industry of consultants, conferences and training resources is spreading the ITIL gospel and helping customers implement it.”
One ITIL consultancy in Canada, Pink Elephant, says it can’t keep up with the demand from organisations which include large airlines, government departments, banks and insurance companies.
Margulius believes the reason it’s taking off in the US after being virtually ignored for years is that companies are in need of its two big benefits — improving service and reducing costs. Also, corporate mergers and outsourcing have made it more important for IT shops to speak the same process language.
“ITIL provides a common language so you can work more effectively with your outsourcers for end-to-end service delivery.”
If you think you want to give ITIL a go, Network World has a set of steps to get started. The advice comes from managers and consultants who have experience with the framework.