ITIL defines IT value as a service

End users just want the IT service they need to do their jobs, not some dry statistics on server and network availability, said an IT service management (ITSM) expert.

But IT departments aren’t catching on to that because they continue to measure the things they deliver – infrastructure, networks, applications – in their own system terms, said Barclay Rae, global head of services with U.K.-based ITSM vendor Axios Systems.

Telling end users that the IT organization aims for a 99 per cent server availability is pointless, said Rae. “Customers may just see it has the e-mail or payroll service,” he said.

Take the airline industry as an example, said Rae. Passengers really only care for performance in terms of plane arrival and departure times. “You wouldn’t publish the efficiency of the baggage handling guys,” he said.

For this reason, a global survey of IT executives by Axios Systems found that 39 per cent of respondents felt that business decision makers did not understand the value that IT brings to the organization.

“ITIL is not just about how we run a help desk, it’s about how we manage our IT in total,” said Barclay Rae

Rae said the issue is not only that IT professionals can’t convey what they do in relevant service terms, they don’t exactly have the tools to measure their own value.

The survey found that 64 per cent of respondents were unable to provide real-time quantifiable metrics to the business that demonstrates IT’s value.

“A lot of organizations hate their IT departments and go on about how hopeless they are,” said Rae. “It’s a shame.”

Such challenges could be overcome by applying ITSM, a process-focused approach to managing IT, said Rae.

While investment in ITSM does happen and is continuing, Rae said the issue is that as most companies grow, their IT organizations evolve organically with no one really questioning operations from a service point of view.

“Nobody has sat there and said what kind of model should we operate from?” said Rae.

According to Sharon Taylor, president of the Aspect Group Inc. and former chief architect of ITIL, although ITSM is widely adopted on a global level, the issue is that adoption tends to happen at the grassroots IT level.

“The value of (ITSM) has never really been communicated or demonstrated in a tangible way to the business,” said Taylor.

But things are changing, said Taylor, as IT gets better at articulating itself in the boardroom and demonstrating service proficiency in quantifiable business value terms.

Since the release of ITIL v3 several years ago, Taylor said the framework’s more strategic slant did play a role in moving ITSM beyond the realm of IT, although that trend had already begun prior to the revision.

One external catalyst that directly impacts ITSM practices is the economic downturn, said Taylor, “because there is such an economy of scale in standardizing process use and practice rigour.”

The new version of ITIL was both a guiding light for some organizations and a reflection of what was already happening in others, said Taylor. For instance the emergence of service strategy, she said, was based on proven experience reaped by innovative companies.

The Axios Systems survey also found that 63 per cent of respondents reported cost reduction as the main driver behind IT initiatives over the next 12 months. In particular, projects included configuration management database (CMDB), change management, and service catalog. “All those things combined give an IT organization a lot more control,” said Rae.

Having a service catalog will allow IT departments a better view of service offerings, said Rae. Especially if costs must be cut, then knowing the subcomponents of each service can help with deciding which can be eliminated.

Rae envisions that ITSM will move beyond the operational and help desk aspects of IT and become more accessible to a broader spectrum of people within IT.

He said other groups like application developers don’t necessarily build applications with service in mind, meaning that more time must be spent on support in the aftermath. “ITIL is not just about how we run a help desk, it’s about how we manage our IT in total,” said Rae.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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