What Is ITIL (And Why Should You Care)?

As a business manager, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and as if you’re drowning in acronyms, particularly when it comes to IT. However, the right IT systems can make or break an operation and so ITIL, in particular, is an acronym that you definitely need to learn. If you’re implementing new technology, ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) can help you run an efficient operation.

In today’s world, business relies heavily on IT to deliver their products and services, but there is often a miscommunication between the two sides. Business management gets frustrated with the apparent inability of IT to support their initiatives, and IT in turn feel that the rest of the business don’t understand their problems – constant change, new technologies, increasing demands and reduced budgets.

ITIL is designed to resolve this conflict and bridge the gap between these parts of the business. As part of IT Service Management (SM), ITIL provides a set of standard processes which ensure that companies don’t need to re-invent the wheel with unique, bespoke solutions. A good SM application will incorporate ITIL as standard and be flexible enough to meet the company’s needs with a minimum of configuration and adaptation.

ITIL has actually been around since the late 1980s, but research from analyst firm Forrester has found that it has gained significant traction over the last 12 months, suggesting businesses are keen to establish common guidelines and best practices when it comes to operational activities such as change management, problem resolution and service delivery.

What is ITIL?

ITIL provides a practical, no-nonsense framework for identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT services to the business. As a result, it is the most widely adopted approach for IT Service Management in the world.

ITIL advocates that IT services must be aligned to the needs of the business and underpin the core business processes. It provides guidance to organisations on how to use IT as a tool to facilitate business change, transformation and growth. Ultimately, it acts as a mechanism for translating business needs into technical implementations.

The first version of ITIL was seen as a breakthrough, providing a template that all organisations could use to implement best practice. Version 2 developed this theme and has been widely adopted. The most recent iteration, version 3 was launched in 2007 but has not had the same uptake as its predecessor, with many organisations staying with their version 2 focus but cherry picking elements, such as Service Catalogue, from version 3.

Tips for Implementing ITIL

When you compare how different organisations have fared when implementing ITIL, it is apparent that those using a phased approach do better than those that try a big bang. There are two common starting points; Service Desk or Configuration Management Database (CMDB). However, as a starting point CMDB has been less successful as it provides little benefit in itself.

Instead, the benefits of CMDB materialise with its utilisation in other disciplines, such as Change or Release Management. On the other hand, those organisations that start with Service Desk can see a quick win, with improved internal communications, better prioritisation and greater end user satisfaction with lower call resolution times.

As with all projects it is vital to consider the overall objective and quantify the benefits that are expected. Strangely, many of the organisations we have surveyed report that this never happens, despite the fact that these benefits were used in the original cost justification of the purchase!

So, for Service desk, consider the measurements most appropriate for you at the outset – perhaps measuring call volumes per end user head, and average resolution times by priority – and compare them with those achieved after the implementation.

Similarly, a key metric for Problem Management may be reduced incidents over time and with Change Management, reduced incidents after major changes and increased service availability. These systems allow many common functions – password reset, service request and customer communication, to name but a few – to be automated, thereby freeing up IT staff to focus on enhancing the business in other ways.

Forrester’s research shows that most IT departments will be spending 75 per cent of their budget on the operation and 25 per cent on innovation and expansion. If your IT department is not achieving this balance then ITIL will help, and can even bring the slider further over to innovation and expansion.

Choose Your Partner with Care

Choosing the right partner is crucial. Each and every business is unique, but many of the operational challenges they face are almost identical. ITIL provides a framework that offers improvement through standardisation – so avoid the partner seeking to line their own pockets with a fully bespoke, unique offering, tailored to the nth degree to your ‘unique’ requirements. Going down the bespoke route invariably leads to costly ongoing maintenance and vendor lock-in, hindering the possibility of negotiation or going elsewhere if circumstances change.

Why Should You Care?

The correct adoption of ITIL will increase your efficiency, boost both user and customer satisfaction and save time and money. An additional advantage of full ITIL adoption is increased visibility to the business about the IT process. Consequently, IT no longer has to justify its spend as the benefits become obvious across the organisation. ITIL lifts the veil on the black art that is Service Management.

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Christine Headford is Product Director at RMS Services. Much of the built-in headroom in RMS products is down to Christine, whose vision tends to see far beyond the customer's immediate requirements. Christine has 30 years' experience in IT, all of it at the leading edge covering most aspects of service support and delivery. Christine has provided consultancy to numerous organisations on the implementation of IT products and processes within the ITIL framework.

  • Very interesting, I have just written some great ITIL Training Exam Tips, I hope you could find them very useful.

  • RMS User

    I love how this article is written by RMS when their own solution makes adhering to ITIL best practices extremely difficult and nigh on impossible using their web GUI