The 'version 3' updates of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, released in the spring of 2007, have breathed new life into ITIL. Certainly, it has sparked renewed interest from CIOs.
By applying a common language and best-practice guidelines for managing basic functional processes, ITIL goes beyond a basic focus on infrastructure cost efficiency and personnel productivity. As such, it is especially popular within organizations that are committed to performance improvement and seek to take their strategies to the next level.
Increasingly, however, many executives are questioning the payback of investments in ITIL. It's not that ITIL has failed. Indeed, evidence shows that a vast majority of executives involved in ITIL initiatives believe that the guidelines have produced benefits. However, few can quantify those gains in terms of cost savings or quality improvements.
This gap between perceived gains and actual results should be of particular concern in today's difficult economy, when demonstrating a direct impact on the bottom line is essential, and when initiatives limited to soft returns are likely candidates for elimination.
Today, top-performing organizations are reassessing their approach by focusing on concrete results and quantifiable returns on investment from ITIL and other process improvement initiatives. Many of these efforts aim to identify discrete processes within the organization that need fixing, and take a more discrete approach to defining potential benefits and gauging results on an ongoing basis.
Challenge in gauging benefits
By design, ITIL process guidelines cover a broad range of functions that impact performance in a variety of areas across the enterprise. This wide reach presents a challenge in terms of gauging the benefits of ITIL. Specifically, how do you assess the impact of a specific process change when that process spans the entire IT organization, which in turn is influenced by a number of dynamic factors? Moreover, how do you determine where to begin in terms of developing and implementing a plan to adopt ITIL principles throughout the organization?
Another challenge of quantifying cost benefits from ITIL adoption is that the benefits often relate primarily to quality of service rather than to costs. For example, while change management and problem management may reduce the number of calls into the Service Desk, incident management can make the Service Desk more efficient in fixing calls. This increases user confidence in the service, and encourages users to call the Desk for simple problems they would otherwise try to fix themselves. The net result: the number of calls remains constant, as do costs.
However, the benefits are undeniable -- better service, higher user satisfaction, and higher productivity -- since end users spend less time fixing IT problems and more time doing their jobs.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.