Canadian woman leads ITIL refresh

A new version of the popular Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) set of best practices has been released, promising more solid tie-ins to real-world business issues and a greater number of practical examples for implementers to follow.

The result of a two and-a-half-year development process, ITIL Version 3 looks to build on the thorough set of guidelines presented in previous releases by concentrating on the management of the lifecycles of IT services, rather than merely the execution of processes.

This means “looking at things like the capabilities and resources you have within a service portfolio — both those delivered today and what you have the capability to deliver in the future,” says Sharon Taylor, Ottawa-based chief architect of Version 3.

When compared to version 2, “there is a much broader focus on the planning elements and looking to see what markets as a service provider you should be in, which you shouldn’t be, and what capabilities and resources you want to develop,” she adds.

This new lifecycle orientation to ITIL allows all involved parties to get a firm idea of how the guidelines are affecting the organization and the return on investment in technology, Taylor says.

A smaller library

One of the most recognizable changes from the previous version will be a reduction in size, from eight books to five. The new volumes cover service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement. Another recognizable new feature is the number of real-world examples that have been included to give practitioners meaningful comparisons to their own environments.

The inclusion of such features was, in part, the result of a six-month consultation period that kicked off the refresh effort in November 2004.

“We went to all stakeholders and talked to them about what they felt truly reflected best practices of today and what would make ITIL better,” says Taylor. “The entire structure is new, and it reflects a move by the public to take a more business-centric approach.”

One outfit that knows a thing or two about ITIL is the IT Services group for the Ontario Ministry of Government Services. It is an amalgamation of eight previously decentralized “clusters” that provided IT services to various ministries. Bringing eight separate groups together, each with their own level of best practices utilization and their own way of doing things, has hardly been a snap-of-the-fingers task, according to Wynnan Rose, the group’s director of service management.

“It’s a huge undertaking with lots of complexities and challenge,” she says, but adds that ITIL, on which the government standardized in 2000, has been invaluable in making the process go as smoothly as possible.

“It has really allowed us to put some discipline and methodology into a very chaotic environment,” Rose says.

Her group, which has used version two, is charged with three primary objectives: to consolidate all service desks; to set up an enterprise-wide order desk for infrastructure services; and to set up five ITIL services that the group thought were most important, including incident management, change management, release management, service level management and configuration management. The project is slated to be completed next March. “A standard, consistent process for delivering services through the service desk is now in place and followed,” she says. “ITIL is very powerful. I have metrics that are enterprise-wide and I can see how we’re doing and demonstrate to the clients how we’re doing.”

Good reflection

Forrester analyst J.P. Garbany believes version three is a good reflection of the technological times. Some processes included in version two have simply proved themselves outdated because many software offerings have made them redundant, he says. “[Today’s software products] provide more intelligence than the products we had 10 years ago. This changes the process because they may completely skip a step in the previous (ITIL) process, as the product provides more intelligence right out of the box,” Garbany says.

For those contemplating an ITIL implementation, Taylor advises that it involves cultural change and has to be done with a careful amount of planning and forethought.

“You can’t ram and refine ITIL,” she says. “Some organizations have taken the path of saying, ‘We are adopting ITIL and thou shalt do this or that,’ but when you don’t deal with the cultural sensitivities around ITIL, you tend to lose traction because people are your strongest success factor.”

Rose agrees and adds that the right kind of leadership is essential to ITIL success.

“It’s hard work and you’re getting beat on all the time because you’re turning people’s worlds upside down. People will resist change, and you need someone with a thick skin and a bit of a bulldozer attitude to go in and make things happen.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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