ITIL (the IT Infrastructure Library) is a standard. Like everything else in business, it takes time and money to build a case for its implementation. Before implementing ITIL, you need to devise a plan to ensure its success. Every IT organization has problems. Based on my experience, the biggest value of implementing an ITIL standard is finding and exposing all the problems you may not know about. This column discusses ITIL in general, how one organization successfully implemented it, and what methodologies were developed to measure ROI for an ITIL implementation.
ITIL differs from traditional standards because it isn’t a database or operating system standard—it is a process management standard. ITIL is an integrated set of bestpractice recommendations that use common definitions and terminology. You decide which elements to implement so you can reach your objectives. ITIL attempts to solve problems such as:
- You met your SLAs, but the application owners still aren’t happy.
- You skipped a discussion because the DBA on that project is out of the office.
- After you spent hours fixing a problem, a major application was in trouble.
Business vs. Technology IT culture without ITIL doesn’t have a business focus—it has a technology focus, which is often viewed as a cost of doing business rather than as an asset. Many organizations provide for a service focus or an end-to-end focus of a particular application, but each entity in the end-to-end path works in isolation. For example, an online banking transaction begins on the Web, passes through WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere MQ, CICS, updates an IMS database, and then goes through each piece in reverse. Each of these entities is working in isolation. How can you manage this service as a single entity?
Implementation Your first stages of ITIL implementation will be rationalizing ITIL as a concept, substantiating small-scale initiatives with modest investments, and most important, making sure everyone involved is speaking the same language. With success in these initial stages, your next task is to make a sound business case for more significant initiatives and investments.
Best practices from organizations that have successfully implemented ITIL include:
- Create a baseline. Measure and document what you now have.
- Stick with service support and create a service catalog— one application service at a time. Fix a problem with a short-term deliverable (less than one year).
- Make sure you have good people with some enthusiasm. Don’t alienate anyone who wants to participate when you’re getting started.
My favorite example of a company implementing ITIL was a food company that considered the company’s trucking application as their most important service. The major application was their food delivery service, but it had many related applications. The company stayed focused, got a baseline, created a service catalog, and focused closely on this first application that bridged many different technologies.
In phase one, the company implemented a change management process for change requests. In phase two, they refined the process, created a change advisory board, assigned process owners and a coordinator, and began to prioritize and categorize based on the business need. However, when they justified their effort, they went back to their old IT ways. Their goals were met. With the incidents going through a single point of contact, they reduced incidents by 97 percent in one year. They reduced the number of help desk calls by 2,500, and handled 1,400 of them without escalation. They estimated they saved approximately $250,000. The business owner noted that he had more trucks on the road, more of the time, showing up at customer sites when they were supposed to. The company saved on spoiled goods, saved on truck maintenance, made more customers happy, and gained a greater market share because of it. The business made millions. This is the purpose of ITIL—to use IT as a tool for business, not just a necessary cost of doing business.
Like anything new, implementing ITIL will be a challenge and will require a slow, methodical approach. However, there’s a need for change because nothing is getting smaller or less complicated. Using all your company’s technical assets just makes sense—and it should not only save you money, but make you money as well. Z