IT staff learn their ITIL lines at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Parks & Resorts, the largest division at the Walt Disney Company, is rolling out the IT service management methodology ITIL to help the business give visitors to the Disney resorts the best possible experience.

Parks & Resorts, the largest division at the Walt Disney Company, is rolling out the IT service management methodology ITIL to help the business give visitors to the Disney resorts the best possible experience.

ITIL - Information Technology Infrastructure Library - is a set of processes and best practices to support and manage IT. Through an extensive training and education process, 700 IT staff are being trained in ITIL and how it applies to the Walt Disney Company.

"Nearly 45% of the entire company's applications are dedicated to Parks & Resorts. We have more than 800 applications and 1,800 servers. The pressure on reliability and availability is enormous," says Glen Taylor , vice president of technology, architecture and security at Parks & Resorts.

Demand on systems and on "cast members" - as all employees are called - is significant. The IT department employs nearly 1,000 people globally, manages contractors and consultants and works closely with Walt Disney's enterprise IT team on outsourced services, such as datacentre management provided by IBM and service desk operations delivered by ACS. "Each park is like a city in itself," Taylor says.

Although it had been using ITIL version 2 for change management since 2004, the company launched a full ITIL programme in 2008 to improve service delivery. "We were experiencing an unsuccessful request fulfilment process and we needed to clean up our configuration management."

Education programme

For the deployment at Park & Resorts, Taylor wanted to go back to basics, using what he describes as "an out of the box" toolset, rather than heavy customisation of ITIL. From his previous experience of ITIL in the UK at a major bank, Taylor decided to roll out an ITIL education programme for its IT staff.

However, before embarking on the education programme, Taylor needed to generate interest in ITIL by marketing it to the executives to the resort floor and using forums, like the company's "Lunch 'n' Learn" sessions and manager meetings. The sessions were used to raise awareness of both the issues Parks & Resorts faced and how ITIL could help to address them more effectively.

People would undertake the formal training in their own time. To train all the staff on ITIL would normally require three days, which is considerable given that in the US staff only get 10 days' holiday. From his previous experience Taylor introduced foundation classes in ITIL, which could get people started in two days. The foundation course is run every five to six weeks at Walt Disney World with 25 attendees.

He says, "We trained 250 people in ITIL foundation and they elected whether or not they wanted to take the exam. We are pleased that 50% of people opt to get certified."

Taylor believes staff gave up their own time because ITIL is recognised by senior management within IT and is an industry certification. "There is potential to move up through the company."

Parks & Resorts wanted to integrate some Disney-specific tasks into ITIL. The foundation class covered change management along with elements of ITIL that worked at Disney along with those parts that did not work. For specific groups of IT staff, such as software developers, Taylor offered break-out sessions covering topics like agile methodology and the Open Group architecture framework.

Along with the education programme Taylor selected 20 champions from across Parks & Resorts to act as ITIL champions. These people agreed to undertake further training. "We have put them on the path to expert level, working through online training from ITSM Solutions. It's vital that we have a mix of people on the programme, so there are people with differing levels of responsibility."



Choosing ITIL experts

ITIL experts are chosen according to four characteristics:

  1. They need to be able to articulate the vision for the processes they manage or work with.
  2. They need to be able to learn and understand the considerable amount of information that ITIL V3 comprises.
  3. They need a personality which can persuade and influence people, be able to work collaboratively and fight resistance.
  4. They need to be able to leverage ITIL best practice and have an understanding of what is practically do-able.

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