As IT services have become an integral means of conducting business and governing, user expectations for availability, reliability and stability increase. The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework of best practices for IT management has helped organizations advance those goals.
ITIL was updated earlier this year when the third version was published. Launched in 2004, the V3 refresh project involved extensive consultations, surveys and focus groups with thousands of global IT service management practitioners from across the industry. If you’re thinking about deploying ITIL in your state or local government organization, it’s helpful to understand the new structure of ITIL and get insight into where to start and how to achieve the greatest gains.
ITIL V3 has a much stronger focus on business results and thinking in terms of services and not just processes. Because of this major shift from a process-centric view to a service life-cycle view, the refresh became more of a rewrite.
ITIL is no longer an “IT only” reference — the business will need to understand the service life cycle and be actively involved in setting service strategy for successful business-IT integration and creation of business value.
The core of ITIL V3 comprises five books that sequentially cover each stage of the life cycle:
- Service Strategy
This core book looks at the overall business aims and expectations, ensuring that the IT strategy maps to these.
- Service Design
Service Design begins with a set of new or changed business requirements and ends with a solution designed to meet the documented needs of the business.
- Service Transition
This book looks at managing change, risk and quality assurance during the deployment of service designs so that the services and infrastructure can be managed in a controlled manner.
- Service Operation
Service Operation is concerned with business-as-usual activities of keeping services going once they transition into the production environment.
- Continual Service Improvement
Continual Service Improvement provides an overall view of all the elements from the other books and looks for ways to improve the overall process and service provision.
There is a significant amount of new content in ITIL, with an additional 14 processes and three functions to consider. The previous processes were all retained but were enhanced to reflect up-to-date best practices and activities. Therefore, existing investments in ITIL training and process improvement are preserved.
So, where to start? The answer to this question is not much different than the answer for V2.
Just because ITIL V3 is based on a service life cycle approach does not mean that you have to start your ITIL journey by implementing a service strategy. It is necessary first to examine the pain points, challenges and opportunities that your organization is encountering regularly.
Conducting an initial baseline assessment will enable you to define where to start, identify return-on-investment opportunities, as well as have something to measure improvements against. V3’s Continual Service Improvement book provides the following model illustrating the recommended path for continual improvement.
Most organizations are capturing data in some format or another; however, processing and analyzing the data is rarely done. It is never too early to begin collecting data once you develop your measurement framework. Even if you find that you have bad data, this should lead to key questions around why this is so, and this could become the first improvement opportunity.
Pink Elephant, an IT service management company based in Burlington, Ontario, recommends starting with customer-facing processes such as Incident, Service Level and Change Management, which have daily interaction and visibility with the business. Here are descriptions of some of these processes:
Incident Management and Service Desk
Incident Management is responsible for restoring service and is considered a data- gathering process that is critical to supporting other ITIL processes. The Service Desk is a functional group that plays a major role in Incident and Knowledge Management. It is also responsible for communication to end users and the business.
Change Management presents a single view of all changes affecting an organization daily. The process is also responsible for properly assessing and authorizing changes based on change type criteria. Implementing a strong Change Management process will help strengthen the Release and Deployment process, because it defines certain requirements as a change moves through the life cycle.
Service Catalog Management
One of the cornerstones of ITIL v3 is the importance of understanding the business and how IT services and processes support the business. In order to see this integration, one of the first steps is to define IT services in the form of a Service Catalog. Service Catalog Management provides detailed guidance on this activity.
One of the easier processes to implement that can have some quick wins is Problem Management. Simply compiling a “top 10” incident list on a monthly basis will provide opportunities to identify recurring incidents that cause downtime or user dissatisfaction. Problem Management is responsible for conducting root cause analysis and finding a permanent solution.
Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM)
SACM is essential for supporting and improving the efficiency of the other ITIL processes, but it is also one of the more challenging processes to implement. One of the keys is to properly define the level of Configuration Item detail. Implementing Incident, Problem and Change Management will help define the level of detail required for these key processes. It is important to have Change Management in place before Configuration Management, as Change Management is the control process for updating and modifying the Configuration Management Database. SACM can therefore start fairly soon, as long as the scope is limited and managed.
While most of the above processes can be found in Service Transition and Service Operation, you will also find opportunities to use the guidance from Service Strategy and Continual Service Improvement as you go through your ITIL journey.
Where to Get Quick Wins
Implementing ITIL does not happen overnight, and can sometimes run into several years or longer. To learn how the state of North Carolina made some improvements that quickly brought benefits, see here.
Following are some recommendations on changes that can bring the greatest impact.
- Begin logging all incidents and service requests.
- Service Desk retains ownership of incidents throughout the entire Incident Management life cycle. ·
- Define escalation and assignment procedures.
- Create a Change Advisory Board and begin holding meetings to assess changes.
- Develop a change type model that provides for an authority model for authorizing changes based on the change type.
Service Catalog Management
- Begin developing an IT Service Catalog.
- Begin conducting internal service review meetings.
- Begin conducting external review meetings with the business.
- Perform trend analysis on most recurring incidents.
- Create a priority model that is shared and used by Incident, Problem and Change Management.
- Move toward a single tool.
- Begin capturing and sharing metrics and measurements.
Implementing ITIL will be a journey over many months and years depending on how many processes an organization wishes to implement. ITIL V3 is a framework, and organizations need to adopt and adapt the most appropriate parts of the framework that meet their needs.
Never overlook the importance of the organizational change that will be required — this is considered one of the biggest implementation challenges. ITIL will require employees’ behaviors, values and beliefs to change. Developing and implementing a communication strategy and plan along with adequate ITIL training is a must for a successful implementation.
Case is co-author of Continual Service Improvement, one of the five new ITIL V3 core volumes. An IT Service Management consultant at Pink Elephant, Case specializes in providing strategic guidance on the delivery of IT service management, process consulting, project management and ITIL education.
In 2006, North Carolina’s Office of Information Technology Services made some improvements with ITIL in less than three months by starting with Incident and Change Management. Joe Lithgo, director of ITS’ operational excellence program, led the tactical quick-win efforts targeted in tandem with a training program and awareness campaign.
Here are some highlights of the results:
- ITS improved its ability to resolve incidents within their target timeframe by 32 percent.
- ITS improved its ability to resolve service requests within its target timeframe by 20 percent.
- Change Management process compliance increased more than twofold, resulting in fewer incidents and reduced downtime.
As with most organizations, a change and incident process already existed, but ITS started showing immediate improvement before any formal improvement program was implemented simply by identifying and communicating the key metrics. Staff began following their existing process and these measures were discussed among senior managers. Not only were these discussions held, but there was also clear evidence that the performance measures had to improve.
Initiating a more formal improvement program, ITS continued in 2006 with Problem and Service Level Management, which together with Incident and Change composed Phase One. Since the implementation of Phase One, ITS’ incident resolution within service levels has improved by more than 69 percent and the ratio of planned changes has increased by 226 percent.
Phase Two, currently in progress, includes Release and Configuration Management. Phase Three will begin in early 2008 and will cover Availability and Capacity Management.