A new ITIL for the integration age

The revised IT Infrastructure Library will offer the enterprise an up-to-the-minute framework for maximising business value of IT-based services

The revised IT Infrastructure Library will offer the enterprise an up-to-the-minute framework for maximising business value of IT-based services

For years a common theme for consultants, analysts and others has been the need for business-IT alignment, without it ever seeming to be achieved. Maybe one of the reasons is because it is the wrong goal. We should be striving for integration, not alignment.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as an “IT service” any more; rather there are business services, which are wholly or partly enabled by technology.

This means that those responsible for managing technology components need to understand exactly what end-to-end business processes are underpinned by them, and the scale and importance of those processes to the overall business operations and goals. Only then can the appropriate management approach be decided, which is where service management comes in.

Service management is about having the right mindset and a focus on delivering value to the enterprise. One key aspect is having the right processes. This is where the set of best practice volumes known as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) comes in.

Originally produced by the UK government body the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (now part of the Office of Government Commerce) in 1990, ITIL has been adopted by enterprises from all market sectors across the globe as the basis for their service management solutions. It is important to remember that ITIL is only an enabler, not a solution in its own right. Enterprises need to adapt and adopt the guidance for their own requirements.

Enterprises that have successfully introduced quality service management solutions based on ITIL have seen real benefits in terms of improved quality, greater customer satisfaction and reduced support costs. All of which translate into hard business value and a real return on IT investments.

In order for an approach to be recognised as best practice, it needs to be kept fresh and relevant. ITIL has undergone one refresh during its lifetime, which removed much of the civil service jargon, reduced the amount of repetition and overlaps, and updated the technology contexts. In 2004, it was decided that the time was right to revisit the material.

Working closely together, the OGC and the IT Services Management Forum (itSMF) embarked upon an exercise to find out the global community’s thoughts on ITIL and how it could be improved.

An independent consultant, Sharon Taylor, was selected to lead a scoping exercise. Various stakeholder groups were identified, and via a series of workshops and surveys a large amount of  data was gathered.

The responses from all around the world were fairly consistent in endorsing ITIL’s strengths. One of the clearest messages was, “It is not very broken, so please do not fix it too much.” So nothing is being changed simply for the sake of it.

Taylor has taken on the role of chief architect for the project, and assisted by an International Advisory Group (IAG) of about 30 service management luminaries, she has scoped the future volumes to be included in ITIL.

The core volumes will be reduced from seven to five. The new core volumes will be organised in more of a lifecycle approach, with working titles as follows: service strategies, service design, service introduction, service operation and continuing service improvement.

Information about individual processes, previously contained within a specific volume, will now be found across several volumes, reflecting the relevant aspects at the particular stage of the lifecycle.

In addition to these core volumes, there will be supporting books, brochures, documents and other information. Much of this will be aimed at specific target audiences such as business managers or CIOs, and provide the appropriate messages about value propositions.

The authors of the material are currently being selected following an open tender process, which saw 46 valid offers received from a wide range of countries and market sectors. Authors will work in pairs, supported by the IAG, with quality checks built into the development process.

The itSMF will provide the quality assurance audience and the final sign-off of the content will reside with the itSMF International’s Publication Committee. This process will ensure a much more timely delivery of a quality product.

It is expected that aside from core material, further complementary material will be generated. Much of the complementary information will be quite dynamic in nature, requiring regular updating. To ensure that the latest information is available to the community, much of this material will be web-based and freely available.

There is also a sub-project to review the associated examination scheme, to see how that, too, can be improved to make it truly meet the needs of the market place.

For enterprises that have invested, or are investing, in ITIL-based improvement programmes, the refresh should have minimal impact. Most of the core process definitions will not change at all.

Aidan Lawes is chief executive at IT membership organisation the IT Service Management Forum

Read more on Data centre hardware