As the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) continues to gain acceptance around the globe, its implications for each area of IT service delivery are being examined carefully. Most of the focus has been on the internal operations, but the ITIL approach can be just as effective when services are outsourced, even when there are multiple vendors involved. It has been stated that ITIL is a customizable framework of best practices, not a recipe book of policies and procedures. ITIL doesn’t offer guidance on how to actually apply those best practices. Each organization must design its own processes based on ITIL principles.Text

ITIL is used to denote one of the more comprehensive (and non-proprietary) sets of guidelines for “best practice” IT services management, owned by the British Office of Government Commerce (OGC). Each library module provides a code of practice intended to improve IT efficiencies, reduce risks and increase the effectiveness and quality of IT services management and infrastructure.

The tasks and processes needed to improve service quality are the same, whether the service is internal or outsourced.

At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, major construction projects, involving more than a hundred IT vendors, provided a glimpse at multi-vendor outsourcing in an ITIL environment.

Shortly after moving into the role of vice-president of information technology and telecommunications at the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) in 2000, Jim Burke established ITIL as the standard for the airport’s IT services.

It has been stated that ITIL is a customizable framework of best practices, not a recipe book of policies and procedures. ITIL doesn’t offer guidance on how to actually apply those best practices. Each organization must design its own processes based on ITIL principles.

The GTAA quickly worked ITIL into all aspects of its service management. Open standards were applied wherever possible, documentation was brought into line, and training in the ITIL framework became an essential part of IT staff development.

One of ITIL’s guiding principles is that IT services must be aligned with business objectives and processes. This clearly defines IT’s value to the enterprise, and its role in achieving those objectives. Without this step, the IT organization may be seen as a technological island, not a core business function.

According to Scott Kirkwood, consulting principal at Santa Clara, California based International Network Services (INS), IT services must be clearly defined and then mapped against the business processes they support.

Then the interfaces between each IT service and corresponding business process are encapsulated in effective policies and procedures. At these interfaces, performance indicators can be established and service levels measured.

The GTAA spent a lot of time, early on, carefully documenting these interfaces in schematics, as well as in words. Jim Burke recalls that ITIL drove them in this direction. The effort was rewarded with easier project management, and more effective vendor management.

When it came time to specify service requirements in RFPs and service level agreements, the GTAA already had a pretty good map of where they wanted to go. It was easier to slot vendors into those interfaces they had already defined.

In negotiations, the GTAA worked with bidders to establish partnerships that had a good chance of holding together for the current project as well as future projects. They tried to get vendors who shared the same standards they had adopted, which favoured the largest IT vendors.

With vendors that were also ITIL compliant, the GTAA found that communication was easier and more straightforward. It provided what Jim Burke called “a common approach.”

Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co. in Mississauga, Ont. was one of the vendors selected for a major role in building Pearson International Airport’s IT infrastructure.

The company is a major proponent of ITIL as a practice methodology, and contributes to the development of current ITIL standards. According to Jerry Coffey, HP’s director of custom solutions, his company even helped write some of the books that are part of ITIL.

INS’s Kirkwood warns that, even with vendors working within the ITIL framework, vendor interfaces must be carefully mapped to the enterprise’s internal processes, and through these, to its business objectives.

Then interfaces between multiple vendors need to be specified. These can be many and complex, but if the enterprise has already gone through a full ITIL process design, inter-vendor transactions can be also be brought into line with the goals of the project. Vendors will at least have a clear understanding of the business priorities and processes of the enterprise.

Vendor management processes and project governance must also be carefully designed.

At the GTAA, these elements were brought together in the organization’s change management process. The Airport Authority created rigid change management rules, supplemented by weekly meetings that included vendors, and published upcoming changes daily.

The GTAA encourages vendors that have not adopted ITIL standards to do so. Jim Burke noted the growing importance of ITIL to their internal processes and suggested that out-of-step vendors may be exposed. By getting on board, they may not only improve their own processes, but also get more business from their clients.

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