What is it?
Among the steadiest performing skills of recent years is ITIL, the IT Infrastructure Library, an approach to IT service management (ITSM) developed by the UK government and now adopted by public sector and commercial organisations around the world. ITIL is used throughout Europe and the USA, and is growing fast in developing economies such as India, China and Brazil.
Major suppliers such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard both use ITIL internally, and include it in ITSM offerings such as IBM's Tivoli. Although it mainly affects administration and service management roles, developers in organisations that use it are also expected to be aware of it.
The emphasis on professionalism, adherence to standards and best practice has benefits for individuals, because it is supposed to make sure their skills and experience are used to the full. If you are at all involved in service delivery, whether as a database administrator or taking calls on the helpdesk, ITIL could make the difference between a career of steadily increasing responsibility, and a succession of unfulfilling jobs.
Where did it originate?
ITIL began with the UK government's Central Computer and Telecommunication Agency in the 1980s, and was taken over by its successor, the Office of Government Computing. IBM claims to have provided many of the key concepts. ITIL was developed in parallel with BS15000, which became the ISO 20000 international standard for ITSM.
What's it for?
In its current form, version 3, ITIL consists of five books describing the processes and roles which ensure service delivery meets customer requirements and expectations. The five core subjects are service delivery, service design, service transition (long-term change management), day-to-day service operation, and continual service improvement.
Up to ten key roles have been identified in ITIL implementation, from requirement analyst, process engineer and configuration management architect to database administrator and tools support, and of course, the trainer. This may suggest that ITIL is only for organisations with big IT departments, but the OGC also provides the ITIL Small-Scale Implementation Book.
What makes it special?
Once you have worked in an ITIL role in one organisation, you should be able to transfer your skills reasonably easily to another.
How difficult is it to master?
Gartner Group says the majority of organisations begin by focusing on incident management, problem management or change management. Taking an approach based on your own role may help you navigate through the official ITIL books and web resources, which do not make many allowances for people new to ITIL -the current focus of the official website being on people moving from version 2 to 3. However, there are a number of third-party sources offering toolkits to help you.
Where is it used?
Big commercial ITIL users include Microsoft and a number of banks, airlines and manufacturers.
Rates of pay
From the low £20,000s for helpdesk analysts and "problem managers" to more than £40,000 for operations and change managers.
There are four levels of qualification: Foundation, Intermediate, ITIL Expert and ITIL Master. There are many authorised ITIL trainers around the country. Going this route will cost you around £750 for the three-day Foundation course, plus the exam fee, so look instead for online courses, which cost from about £200. The exam fee is £160 some trainers offer discounts.
There's a public collaboration site for ITIL practitioners. See also the OGC's best management practice guide.