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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 will this cost?

Getting started involves the purchase of ITIL, in hard or soft copy either from ITIL directly or from many other book resellers. Then there's the cost of the training. The course leading to the initial Foundation Certificate typically runs for two days, and courses leading to higher certifications can be a week or more.

Add to that the inevitable cost of re-engineering some processes to comply with ITIL guidelines, and adjustment of help desk or other software to capture the information you need for tracking and generating metrics. There is, by the way, no such thing as “ITIL-compliant” software; ITIL is a framework, not a standard. Some help desk and management software has been engineered with ITIL practices in mind, however, and so will lend themselves better to teams working within the framework.

How long will an ITIL project take?

ITIL is not a “project”; it's an ongoing journey to improve IT service management. Best practices have to be baked into everything, and they have to evolve as the enterprise evolves. With IT staff buy-in, changes can begin once staff are trained, and some results should be apparent within weeks or months. Process changes do take time, however, as entrenched bad practices are rooted out and modified (and, potentially, staff changes occur), but many companies have reported substantial savings after their first year.

What savings can I expect?

Corporations and public sector organisations that have successfully implemented ITIL best practices report huge savings.

For example, in its Benefits of ITIL paper (PDF), Pink Elephant reports that Procter and Gamble saved about $US500 million over four years by reducing help desk calls and improving operating procedures. Nationwide Insurance achieved a 40 percent reduction in system outages and estimates a $US4.3 million ROI over three years, and Capital One reduced its “business critical” incidents by 92 percent over two years. For example, after three years of ITIL implementation, forest products company MeadWestvaco claimed to have eliminated more than $US100,000 annually in IT maintenance contracts and recognised a 10 percent gain in operational stability thanks to ITIL.

Without buy-in and cooperation from IT staff, however, any implementation is bound to fail. Bringing best practices into an organisation is as much a PR job as it is a technical exercise.

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