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ITIL 101: An Executive Guide to the IT Infrastructure Library

ITIL 101: An Executive Guide to the IT Infrastructure Library

ITIL is a framework of best practices for delivering IT services. What's the big deal about it, and why is it considered so important in corporate computing? We explain the basics before you hunker down with the books.

What do I do with ITIL?

ITIL is a collection of books, but merely going on a reading binge won't improve your IT operations. First, you have to wrap your brain around the concepts and then get staff buy-in. Getting some IT personnel to adopt new procedures can be like herding cats, but there are tools that can help.

Along with ITIL comes a whole suite of consulting, training and certification services. You won't, however, see the same company delivering the whole thing; certification has been deliberately separated and is in the hands of one of two independent bodies: EXIN and ISEB, depending on your location. The two bodies formed an alliance at the end of 2006 to further IT service management.

The starting point, typically, is the Foundation Certificate. That initial certification gives the holder an understanding of basic ITIL concepts, provides the necessary vocabulary and introduces core areas.

This certification, or at least the course of study leading to it, can prepare IT staff and management to use the practices described in ITIL. It provides the basic vocabulary (a “problem” and an “incident” are two different things in ITIL-speak, for example) that lets staff communicate accurately and resolve issues more quickly.

The common vocabulary alone is often worth the price of admission. Think how often miscommunication delays or torpedoes solutions to problems when two parties — both convinced that they understand the same instructions — head off in opposite directions.

When, for example, you're merging IT departments and infrastructures after an acquisition or dealing with a foreign outsourcer, getting all staff to comprehend what you want — and to understand each other — is half the battle.

How can ITIL improve my company's business performance?

A well-run IT organisation that manages risk and keeps the infrastructure humming not only saves money, but it also allows the business people to do their jobs more effectively. For example, brokerage firm Pershing reduced its incident response time by 50 percent in the first year after restructuring its service desk according to ITIL guidelines, allowing users with problems to get back to work much more quickly.

ITIL provides a systematic and professional approach to the management of IT service provision, and offers the following benefits:

  • reduced IT costs

  • improved IT services through the use of proven best practice processes

  • improved customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery

  • standards and guidance

  • improved productivity

  • improved use of skills and experience

  • improved delivery of third-party services through the specification of ITIL or BS15000 as the standard for service delivery in services procurements.

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