Get Out of Reactive Mode
The current version of ITIL, version 2, consists of eight books, each offering a framework for a specific IT operational process. Most organizations use just two — the Service Support and Service Delivery books — in a tactical way, to improve their help desk operations through better incident and problem management.
Some organizations also use the books to improve their change-management efforts, notes Ed Holub, a Gartner research director. Although these are natural areas for IT to try to fix, especially organizations mired in constant fire fighting, something more substantial has to happen before IT can become a business enabler rather than a back-office support organization, says John Sansbury, head of practice for service management at the Compass consultancy. IT organizations should prevent the problems from occurring in the first place, Sansbury says: "About 70 percent of incidents [problem reports] are caused by poorly controlled change. ITIL helps create the control."
Independent ITIL consultant Malcolm Fry agrees. "Looking for root causes is now important — you just can't keep fixing things," he says. That's why Rich Taliani, vice president of IT at Guardian Life Insurance, has promoted the use of ITIL. "We're trying to get out of the reactive mode." He notes that ITIL helps create a consistent level of process across the organization by creating a standard methodology to apply within IT (including language). However, many organizations have missed or ignored ITIL's other aspects, such as financial management (such as determining the cost of implementing a change), capacity management, software asset management, lifecycle configuration management and licence change management, says Fred Broussard, a research manager at IDC, a sister company to CIO's publisher. One reason: The current ITIL presentation, says Fry, is "more focused on projects than on the lifecycle".
Recognizing that many organizations view ITIL tactically, in a limited fashion and often at a lower organizational level than the CIO office, the UK Office of Government Commerce (ITIL's creator) has revamped ITIL. The updated version, composed of five core books, integrates more material and presents a more IT lifecycle-oriented framework that further emphasizes ROI and other business values. It should make ITIL's broad applicability more obvious.
But organizations already have to view technology from a lifecycle perspective to make the connection, notes SLM's Hayes. "If you don't have horizontal thinking, you will have a very difficult time adopting ITIL," she says.
The new library will also have more real-world examples and best-practice models, as well as metrics. These changes should help overcome previous ITIL books' general guidance, which many companies found difficult to translate to their specific needs, says Compass's Sansbury.
"The current ITIL tells you what but not how, which is pretty important," notes IDC's Broussard. "It lacks a lot of detail; it's very descriptive but not prescriptive," says Hayes.
And the new version will cover how to apply ITIL principles in outsourced operations, something the current version gives scant attention to, Sansbury adds. That's critical for companies like GM that outsource much of their IT operations, and for companies that rely on vendors to develop key processes in their applications rather than do this work in-house.
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