ITIL upgrade will cover security, outsourcing

Version 3 of the IT infrastructure library will emphasise aspects that weren't so important when version 2 was released in 2000

After the IT department at Raymond James Financial implemented best practices from ITIL, the number of calls to the company’s helpdesk dropped as much as 25% within 18 months.

Fewer phone calls means IT workers are free for other assignments, says Brian Miller, manager of IT monitoring services and availability management at Florida financial services firm. He credits ITIL’s set of disciplined processes — such as finding the root cause of a problem — for the drop in helpdesk calls.

Miller says 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.

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 datacentre 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’s datacentre in Prague, says he wishes he had access to ITIL guidelines for knowledge transfer in 2003 when, as part of a wider facilities consolidation, the company moved its London datacentre to Prague. “There wasn’t any existing process that you could take and [use] — you had to develop it yourself,” says 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,” says Albrecht. “Without defined, measured processes, you can’t optimise — this is a key thing.”

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

Vendors are also jumping into the ITIL services market. Hewlett-Packard, for instance, provides ITIL training for DHL employees, and CA does ITIL consulting work with Sprint Nextel. 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.

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

Taylor says it’s important for staffers to internalise 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 says.

Users agree that the major barrier to implementing ITIL is cultural. “The adoption of best practices is met with resistance right up front, and so buy-in is an evolutionary process,” says Kirk Frost, who heads the Princeton, New Jersey chapter of the IT Service Management Forum’s USA branch. “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 declines to identify.

Sprint Nextel invested heavily in ITIL training and also focused on communications, says 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 says.

SIDEBAR

Revised framework aims to help CIOs demonstrate ROI

Sharon Taylor, ITIL’S chief architect, says Version 3 of the framework will help CIOs demonstrate a return on investment from implementing ITIL best practices. She talks to Computerworld US about it.

What’s prompting the need for ITIL Version 3?

The landscape of IT, and indeed IT service management, changes at a very rapid pace. When Version 2 was released, some of the landscape was different than it is today. An example is that the use of outsourced partnerships was not the rule of the day during that time.

How will Version 3 help with outsourcing?

[It will] deal with the strategies about outsourcing: When is it right to consider, in what form should that take, through to the design of how you actually execute an [outsourcing] decision or strategy.

How do you know that you’re giving good advice?

The content of ITIL itself has not been developed in a vacuum by any means. Our philosophy has been to use the experience and the best practices of what’s going on in the industry, in a diverse client base.

How many people contribute to this?

We’re talking upward of thousands.

What else is new in Version 3?

One of the gaps that evolved was that the focus on service management became very operationally-based. The big change that we’re introducing is to take a broader viewpoint of what service management encompasses, [including] strategic considerations, the design implications, [and] the cultural and organisational change implications. So the major shift is to introduce service management from a life-cycle perspective, as opposed to just a process-based view.

What’s going to be the takeaway for CIOs?

One of the things that is most difficult to do with the current version of ITIL is develop a solid business case for return on investment. IT organisations face competition through outsourcing service providers; they are being required to operate and manage themselves as businesses and produce value. From a CIO perspective, the biggest benefit that this [new] version of ITIL brings is that we have added guidance that allows senior executives to be able to demonstrate, measure and produce a return on investment for supporting a unified best-practice framework for service management. It helps them to demonstrate why investing in good service practices gives them a solid return on investment.

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