ITIL V3 is almost here: What should you expect?

ITIL version 3 promises to improve alignment between IT and the business, as well as enhance efficiencies and cut costs. What are the other pros and cons and how quickly -- or if at all -- should users upgrade to version 3 of the ITIL framework?

If you haven't heard of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) by now, chances are you'll know quite a bit about the ITIL framework by the end of the year. The noise around version 3 of the ITIL framework has been building -- and will likely reach a crescendo once it goes live in the next few months.

The big promise of ITIL is its adoption can lead to dramatic improvements in business efficiency and customer satisfaction, as well as costs savings across all business operations, principally service support and delivery systems. Version 3 of the ITIL framework will refine the standards and processes developed by V2 and V1.

"ITIL V3 will add more clarity and consistency to IT processes, and it will help companies to achieve better alignment between business needs and goals and IT processes," said Mike Tainter, IT service-management practice manager at Forsythe Solutions Group Inc., a unit of Skokie, Ill.-based technology provider Forsythe Technologies. Forsythe uses the ITIL framework internally and has implemented many ITIL projects for clients.

"V3 should help IT organizations reduce their amount of unplanned work, transforming them from reactive into innovative groups," he said.

Tainter added that CIOs who have yet to embrace the ITIL framework or are V2 users can adopt V3 at their leisure, as the new version will not contain a lot of substantive changes.

V3 will focus more on the business value of IT, showing users what needs to be done and why, said David Pultorak, CEO, Pultorak & Associates Ltd., a Seattle-based service management consulting and training firm.

Pultorak, an individual contributor to the ITIL framework whose firm acted as a reviewer of V3, also noted that V3 has many stakeholders with a variety of concerns, including the U.K. Office of Government Commerce (OGC), and The Stationery Office (TSO). Other parties include the IT Service Management Forum; certification examination vendors Examination Institute for Information Science, ISEB and The APM Group Ltd.; consulting, training and product vendors, and end user organizations. Given the variety of involved parties and their concerns, one risk for V3 is the potential for end users' interest to get lost in the shuffle.

"While much of V3 is designed to be useful to organizations, many of our clients won't be looking at it seriously until next Q1 2008," Pultorak said. "They are hard at work leveraging V2, and already experiencing what I call initiative overload."

ITIL was developed by the OGC in 1988 as an integrated, best-practice method for managing IT services in the British government. That first iteration, a loose collection of 42 books, quickly gained popularity within commercial organizations in Europe. Its popularity mushroomed into a global affair in 2000 with the release of V2 -- a 10-volume collection that sharply focused on IT processes by editing down V1's broad-brush coverage of nearly every facet of computer technology.

ITIL V3, which will be released in stages, is part of a process to enhance and improve ITIL best practices, helping organizations compete to meet the evolving demands of customers. A significant portion of ITIL V2 content will be refined and included in V3. The structure and content of ITIL V3 are based on extensive public consultations and contributions from industry leaders.

The core books (strategies, design, transition, operation and improvement) will be published together by TSO in the late spring of 2007. ITIL is releasing them as a set because they form a lifecycle management approach and each book complements the rest and is meant to form a single service management practice suite.

Also, as IT services are more closely aligned and integrated with business operations, V3 will help bring a business management approach and discipline to IT Service Management. From that perspective, the five core volumes of ITIL V3 emphasize the complementary aspects of running IT like a business.

"ITIL is a progressive development," said Fran Findley, IS project management analyst at MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Wash. "We look forward to working with V3, which promises to fill in some holes left by V2."

MultiCare, a not-for-profit network of hospitals, clinics and physicians, implemented ITIL V2 about two-and-a-half years ago, and has seen dramatic improvements in IT services and organizational productivity. For example, the ITIL framework enabled MultiCare to reduce its usual backlog of trouble tickets from 700 to 50 within six months.

"We are looking forward to working with V3 because we believe it will allow us to more closely integrate IT and business," said Robyn Brooks, MultiCare's IS user support manager. "We don't foresee any problems with V3 -- it will just be work as usual."

Still, Pultorak cautioned that companies in the early stages of V2 implementations should not rush to update to V3 until its kinks are ironed out.

About the author: Herman Mehling is a freelance writer based in San Anselmo, Calif.

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