New certification will enable ITIL-ready products

The body behind ITIL has launched a certification program for IT service management software.

The United Kingdom's Office of Government Commerce (OGC), which owns the IT Infrastructure Library trademark and intellectual property, recently launched a certification program for IT service management software.

 The OGC's seal of approval designates that certain management software products are IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) process compliant, meaning that the tool uses the terminology and prescribed best practices of ITIL v3. That tool could be described as ITIL out of the box.

"Software standardization is important in the community because we have a proliferation of software claiming to be ITIL-compliant," said Sharon Taylor, the chief examiner for ITIL and president of the Aspect Group.

"Each week, new ITSM products are coming into the marketplace," Taylor said. "The challenge for the consumer is understanding which of the products align to the best practices. Unless you understand the product, you don't have a way -- aside from the vendors' marketing claims -- of understanding what it does. Having product assessments against an OGC certification allows a consumer to have confidence that a product has met a basic certified standard."

The new OGC -certification offers that stamp of quality and conformance. "It helps customers wade through the variety of products available in the market," Taylor said.

Benefits of ITIL process-compliant software
How does ITIL software certification benefit data center managers? The logic is that the closer ITSM software workflows and terminologies match the processes in the ITIL books, the easier it will be for organisations to build standardised ITIL disciplines.

Organisations can implement ITIL more quickly if they don't have to build custom workflows from scratch, and everyone in the IT department can share a common terminology.

BMC Software Inc.'s Remedy Service Desk 7.0.3 was the first software product to get OGC certification. Paul Avenant, BMC's vice president of enterprise service management products, said across the board, BMC sees a trend going to standard-based, out-of-the-box tools. "Customers want to actually see the ITIL process in the product."

Brad Lytle, the director of service operations and support at the University of North Carolinais a BMC Remedy user and ITIL practitioner. He said the standardised language and processes have been a real benefit in getting ITIL buy-in at his organisation.

"We've been working under the ITIL umbrella for a couple years, and we're a strong believer in the set of best practices," Lytle said. "As we teach our staff and clients about the ITIL processes, it's much easier to have a tool that matches those processes and terminology."

Lytle got his start with ITIL while at a previous company. He learned the discipline and got certified under the ITIL Foundation, with a base-level IT service management certificate.

"That's one of the reasons I was sought out by UNC Greensboro," Lytle said. "At the first organisation I was with, I had a challenge getting buy-in on ITIL from my upper management, which to me is a complete show-stopper. Ironically, I speak to folks from that organisation, and now they've completely embraced ITIL five years later."

Lytle said UNC Greensboro was already using the BMC Remedy suite when he started there five years ago. He said the software was already on its way to fully matching the ITIL processes, "Now I think they've arrived at a suite that is the perfect match."

"ITIL forces us to look at everything we do from a customer-service perspective," Lytle said. "IT teams by nature get tunnel vision on servers or network equipment, and without encouragement otherwise, they look only at their small silo. ITIL forces you to look at how you affect business processes. It also aligns people to the language: Change management, known errors, request for change -- it's understood across the organisation what's being discussed."

Concerns about OGC ITIL software certification
While some in the ITSM community are cheering this OGC ITIL software certification, it's primarily the folks with the most to benefit from it: BMC, currently the sole company with an OGC-certified ITIL software product, and Ken Turbitt, former BMC exec and head of U.K.-based Service Management Consultancy (SMCG) Ltd., a third-party consulting firm appointed to assesses whether ITSM software meets the OGC criteria.

ITSM book author and blogger Rob England wrote, "OGC are issuing a 'standard' that the public is totally unaware of[, with] zero public discourse about its content. Without any public discussion or any selection process whatsoever that I can see, OGC have endorsed a commercial 'standard' from a one-man band. Equally without any public announcement or discussion, [ITIL accreditor APM Group Ltd.] have awarded the first rights to assess software products against that standard to the author of the standard, SMCG."

ITIL consulting firm Pink Elephant was the de facto organisation for certifying ITSM software as ITIL compliant, providing its PinkVerify seal on products. For a good explanation of how that process came about, see the blog of Pink Elephant President David Ratcliffe.

The proponents of the new standard have been strongly critical of PinkVerify of late. "The Pink Elephant certification is a survey," BMC's Avenant said. "This new certification actually tests the product and surveys the customers that it serves ITIL processes out of the box."

"Certifications that existed before were not based against a formal standard," said Taylor.

But Robert Sterbens, the senior director of product marketing at CA, is currently in the process of certifying CA's tools with the OGC. He said the PinkVerify and official OGC processes are similar.

According to Sterbens, the established players in the ITSM community were caught off guard by the OGC standard, but he said CA is making the best of the situation.

"Because the OGC is adopting this standard, eventually this will become the de facto certification companies are going to look for," Sterbens said. "It's not a matter of if but when PinkVerify will be replaced. CA is still betting on both horses for now."

Executives from Pink Elephant declined to comment.

Read more on Regulatory compliance and standard requirements