5 reasons to start using ITIL and ITSM

The IT Service Management (ITSM) and ITIL frameworks are powerful ways to improve the efficiency of your IT operations. Here are five ways to get the most from these governance tools.

ITSM best practices can help IT provide business value, improve service quality and reduce costs. But the sometimes misunderstood frameworks, including the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), cause some CIOs to shy away, fearing complexity and cost. Finding the best ways to maximize these goals while putting forth the least amount of resources is crucial to getting the most out of your IT Service Management (ITSM) and ITIL initiatives.

Here are five tips to ensure success once you start using ITIL and ITSM:

1. Select ITIL-compatible tools to better interact with your global partners.

When selecting an ITSM solution to use with global partners, looking in a universal location with an established list and set of standards makes decisions easier and supports confidence between the partners. In addition, sticking to strict ITIL standards from a single vendor can help process integrations go seamlessly and ensure all parties are speaking the same technical language.

It is always an advantage to understand what types of ITIL tools your global partners are working with and how they rate them. Knowing that the tools your global partners choose to work with have been verified by a third party as being compatible with ITIL frameworks is another way to keep a homogenous IT environment and ease interactions with other global companies using similar preapproved tools.

"We're dealing with customers who have made decisions based on similar results. It's strategic -- we're going to make sure all the tools we use are ITIL-compatible so we all speak that same language," said Larry Granger, former CIO and current senior executive for business development at TechTeam Global Inc.

2. Spell out what your help desk has to offer.

Managing staff, providing services to customers and creating efficiencies for less money can be daunting tasks for any IT organization. Couple that with an unclear idea of what the help desk's services are, and it can be almost impossible to be efficient. "It's selling blue sky," said Lee Root, IT division manager for Tulare County. "No one knows what you have to offer, so they want everything."

According to Root, identifying and cataloguing the services his help desk offers allows his team to focus on those priorities while leaving some built-in availability to work "other" customer requests. Using ITIL and ITSM tools, in conjunction with an established set of best practices, provides a way to track services and customer satisfaction while keeping the team focused on priorities.

3. Concentrate on processes, maximize ROI.

For quick ROI, focus on processes over tools and technology. While focusing on cost and risk reduction is important, developing and using ITIL and ITSM best practices within the IT department will outlast the current economic recession and position the company for greater project success in the future.

According to Ryan Ballmer, principal consultant at Cadence ITSM LLC, all ITSM implementations need to be "tuned in" to the strategic direction of the company -- driven by business and not just the technology aspect.

"There is a general belief in IT that saving the company money usually starts with a tool or technology investment," Ballmer said. "It's true that many organizations are holding back on these investments due to the economy, but this presents IT with an opportunity to 'circle the wagons' and focus on an area which is often ignored -- processes."

Investing in ITSM processes and best practices can provide maximum ROI for tools and technology purchases made previously, by improving operating efficiencies and cutting costs with little capital investment.

4. Consider the Software as a Service (SaaS) ITSM option.

When Root was faced with merging two IT departments, doubling the staff from 60 to 120, he needed a way to combine the two strategic philosophies without breaking the bank.

After spending six months investigating, comparing and establishing an aligned set of best practices and processes, Root invested in Service-now.com's SaaS-based ITSM tool.

"There was no equipment, no man-hours to administer and we had a soft cost savings in the administration process," Root said.

Although licensing costs can be expensive (Service-now requires a minimum purchase of 40 annual licenses, at $1,100 per license), the overall implementation saves time and money.

"We strive for 70% first-call resolution in our help desk," he said. "We can organize our ticket status in real time, utilize our knowledge base and prioritize without involving field technicians and taking the ticket further."

The savings can add up. One credit union estimated an ROI of 110% in one year and a 170% ROI in years two through five.

5. Spread ITSM know-how across other departments.

A successful service desk can become cross-functional, allowing other departments to utilize the services. Unitus Community Credit Union in Portland, Ore., has been able to reduce a 32-step process to onboard a new employee from 30-plus days down to two or three days. The IT department created a workflow in its IT Service Management software allowing human resources to launch the workflow approval process with one click.

Saving time and money while creating efficiencies is what using ITIL and ITSM is all about, after all.

"It doesn't have to be a huge investment," Ballmer said. "It's working smarter and looking at how your organization functions, finding value without sacrificing service."

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