From Inception to Implementation — IT That Matters

From Inception to Implementation — IT That Matters

ITIL Goes Strategic

The new update to the IT Infrastructure Library could help you improve IT-business alignment and change your focus from fire fighting to service delivery

ITIL is an acronym that some CIOs don't understand well. If they're aware of the IT Infrastructure Library, it's in the context of two of the library's books that provide guidance on improving help desk services (such as handling support requests) and on improving IT operations (such as managing software changes within the data centre). In other words, ITIL is something that the operations staff uses. But the IT Infrastructure Library — the set of practices and service approaches outlined in a series of guides and supported by a host of toolkits, certifications, consultancies and user groups — can do more than serve as a best-practices framework for solving specific operational needs.

To date ITIL has come under some fire for telling IT departments what to change but not how

A growing number of CIOs are using ITIL to achieve better business alignment. For them, ITIL helps create operational consistency across multiple departments and locations, as well as with contractors and suppliers. It helps IT focus on delivering service to business units and customers, not just delivering technology. "The old model is that success is fulfilling a requirement or delivering on schedule. ITIL says success is based on whether the business value is where it needs to be," says Jo Lee Hayes, vice president of enterprise technologies at SLM, the US mortgage lender known as Sallie Mae.

As Rudy Wedenjoa, director of enterprise operations management at General Motors, puts it, "ITIL cares about how to organize the chaos of operations." GM saw the use of ITIL as critical to ensure both operational consistency and a focus on service delivery when the company sought to move from a single IT contractor model (involving its former EDS subsidiary) to a global, multiple-supplier outsourcing model to handle its IT needs. GM realized that the various suppliers, as well as GM's own IT staff, would need a common language and viewpoint to deliver consistently, Wedenjoa says.

To date, however, ITIL has come under some fire for telling IT departments what to change but not how. And its independent volumes have caused many organizations to apply ITIL only to a few operational areas, missing the larger benefits possible. An updated version, due by June, promises more real-world examples, best-practice models and metrics — and emphasizes the entire IT lifecycle and ROI issues, as opposed to narrow operational issues. CIOs say the change is welcome.

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