Project Management

10 things you should know about ITIL

These days, you're likely to hear the term <i>ITIL</i> bandied about in many IT circles--yet a lot of IT managers don't know what ITIL really is. Tom Mochal has created a list of key facts to help you get up to speed on ITIL concepts.

This article is also available as a PDF download.

Five years ago, no one outside the United Kingdom had heard about ITIL. Now, it seems like you can't pick up a trade magazine without someone mentioning it. But despite all the buzz, many IT pros don't fully understand what ITIL is all about. Here are the highlights.

#1: ITIL stands for the Information Technology Infrastructure Library

ITIL contains a comprehensive set of best practices that are used to develop and execute IT service management. It offers a number of benefits, including increased competitive advantage through cost reduction, growth, and agility; more business efficiency through streamlining of IT processes; enhanced IT value through business and IT operational and goal alignment; and improved internal customer and user satisfaction.

#2: The organization body that supports ITIL is located in the United Kingdom

The overall ITIL approach has been available since the late 1980s and has been published on the Internet for years. However, it was largely unknown in the United States until a critical mass of large companies and media publications started to take notice. More than 10,000 organizations worldwide have now adopted ITIL.

#3: ITIL consists of a series of books giving guidance and recommendations

ITIL is undergoing some updates and restructuring to reflect technology changes. The books now encompass the following areas:

#4: To be successful, ITIL stresses the need for a strong executive sponsor

Implementing ITIL practices is a culture change initiative. People are going to complain about having to do things differently than they did in the past. You need a strong sponsor to push the change. If you don't have one, don't attempt the implementation--or look for limited success.

#5: ITIL is not project management

ITIL does not focus on creating things like projects do. Instead it focuses on delivering IT services to the company.

#6: Despite its popularity, little content is available on ITIL

ITIL is a set of approaches and best practices. It is a model for IT service delivery. It does contain some processes and templates, but it is not a methodology and does not contain all the implementation details. Companies that want to use ITIL can follow the overall guidelines and then develop the more detailed processes that make sense for the individual organization.

#7: ITIL is not a tool

You can implement many aspects of ITIL using tools, but tools are not required. If your organization is small, simple templates and spreadsheets may be all you need. If your organization is large, you may need to find appropriate software tools to help.

#8: ITIL is not an all-or-nothing proposition

Since ITIL is a series of approaches in different areas, a company can implement some or the entire overall model. There is no rule that you have to implement everything.

#9: You can implement ITIL in stages

There is also no rule that you have to implement the entire ITIL model at once. Many organizations implement ITIL in phases over a period of time.

#10: You can be certified in ITIL

There are three levels of ITIL certification:

  • Foundation. This level means you understand the terms and have a basic knowledge of the ITIL model.
  • Practitioner. This level means that you understand the model to a degree necessary to apply the specific and correct ITIL processes where applicable.
  • Manager. This level is available for practitioners who will be managing ITIL service management functions.
15 comments
Matt Larson
Matt Larson

This is a good summation and introduction to ITIL. You know, I always find it interesting that America broke ties with the UK so that we could be free of their control, yet they continue to direct our course with their musical invasions, stronger currency, and IT "how to" volumes one through ten.

robin.yearsley
robin.yearsley

As we all know the long awaited ITIL 'refresh' that takes us to version 3 is now due for launch at the end of May. If you need learn more about whats in ITIL v3 or get the background on all the authors - then visit: - http://www.ITServiceBlog.com - and click on the V3 link. You can also download a free Mindmap of the outline structure of the Five new ITIL Version Three books too. If you need to learn more about how to actually implement ITIL in the real world - including free practical advice and strategies - then you can download free resources here:- http://www.AskTheServiceExpert.com Regards, Robin. http://www.ITServiceSuccess.com Free Resources for the ITSM Community.

JodyGilbert
JodyGilbert

Has your organization jumped on the ITIL bandwagon? What has your experience been implementing ITIL practices?

thejendra
thejendra

PRACTICAL IT SERVICE MANAGEMENT. Some self promotion by a techie author:-) Visit my web cave http://www.thejendra.com to buy this popular book used by several organizations worldwide to understand how to successfully implement ITIL.

ITSM Consultant
ITSM Consultant

First, ITIL is never "implemented." ITIL, as you mentioned, is merely as set of books that we call a "Library." This library of books includes guidelines for managing, supporting, and designing IT Services. The Service Management processes can be implemented across an organization using ITIL Best Practices as a guideline. Second, Service Management processes can (and should) indeed be implemented as a project with multiple phases. There is no need to implement all processes at once. As a matter of fact, doing so will only lead to "ITIL fatigue" and ultimately, failure. Third, implementing Service Management requires a huge organizational shift in thinking. Trying to do so without considering this very important point will probably go nowhere. I always recommend to my clients that creating buy-in (at all levels of the organization) from the very beginning is critical to the success of the program. This should include input from HR. One of the most important factors of organizational change is the reward and incentive system within the organanization. Ultimately, people are motivated by how they are rewarded. If they are not rewarded for adopting the new process strategy, they will not follow. Lastly, as the ITIL approach to Service Management is a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself, the rationale for moving toward the adoption of ITIL best practice must be clearly aligned with the overall goals and objectives (strategy) of the organization. This enables the ability to creat meaningful measurements of the progress of the effort. These measurements help to mark progress toward achieving the goals and help to demonstrate to all involved that the effort has been beneficial to the organization. For more discussion on this topic, please email me directly at bakerdanij@yahoo.com

woomyse
woomyse

I think Skip has said it best, in fact nailed it. It's a methodology. Starting from scratch or an existing 'malfunctioning' IT structure, the excutives and Directors can not just pay lip service to the concepts or any methodology is doomed, ITIL included. In fact, those 'malfunctioning' service desks malfunction mainly because the average customer does not know or care what is or is not going to happen with their problem unless there is a frame of reference to show them. To make it work, you need to market the methodology as much as map and manage the processes.

twohills
twohills

- There is no evidence for ITIL - CMDB can't be done, not practically, not as defined in the blue book - ITIL is the opinion of a select few - There is no public feedback or contribution mechanism for ITIL - ITIL may or may not be "best" - You cannot certify a tool or an organisation in ITIL, only individuals - Formal SLAs may or may not be a healthy way to relate to the business - ITIL tries to be more than it really is: a set of Service Desk practices - ITIL is not public domain, or free - There are a number of alternatives to ITIL, some of which are public domain See The IT Skeptic

scashwell
scashwell

Hello Tom, As one of your 50-first subscribers, back in the day when you introduced the 10-Step PM methodology, I am a bit taken aback by this article's limitations and immaturity. You and the Ten Step folks are much better than this! ITIL, a library of process definitions, forms a framework for organizations to follow in aligning the IT departmental culture with the needs of the busines. As such, the challenges faced by most corporate and USA Federal Government organizations is to establish a common "language" to communicate needs: business and IT. To this end I offer the following thoughts: 10. Define your environment Using the ITIL definitions the processes for common agreement on policy and procedures is established 9. Define USER requirement and Needs What is the business and IT communicational motivation for using the definitions? Detail and document customer investigatory results 8. Consensus on Needs Review with client sponsers and key personnel findings from both the business and IT-Service Delivery sides; establish a common "language" for future discussions 7. Mapping IT capability to the Business Research and Document the various infrastuctures that are extant which support the consensus; establish infrastructure gaps that impede implementation of proceses not currently in place as business needs that IT may close 6. People Impact is Key to Success Any process change can (and will) be dramatic within the organization. Establish clear communications beyond the sponser level to accomplish two goals: 1) communicate the proposed changes to the wider user organization and 2) solicit earnest and honest feedback to enable refinement of the plan 5. Gap Analysis and Needs Assessment At this step the project management skills are most in play. Guide the User personnel to understand and refine current processes to express a future state that aligns with and wil be defined as an ITIL Framework environment 4. ITIL Service Delivery and Management Now we focus upon establishing and documenting the going forward steps to achieve compliance with management supported policies that can readily be identified as a part of the ITIL-based framework definitions. Here is where the "rubber meets the road" as new processes are engineered to implement procedures that follow the ITIL definitions, such as Change Management and/or Release Management. 3. Select the Tools There are a number of software tools that have been designed, arhcitected and developed to compliment the processes defined within the ITIL Framework. At this step one can evaluate or test the many tools available from software providers in the Srvice Management arena - evaluate, test and when convinced, decide. #2. Communicate, communicate, communicate Selection of the software (and hardware, if necesary) tools and environment needs to be published to every User in the environment. It is especially important that the question, WHY?, be answered and distributed thoughout. This is the final step before project completion - make final Release tests comply with User and Sponser needs - obtsin acceptance from same. 1. IMPLEMENTATION OK, ITIL is neither a tool nor an Architecture - we all know and accept the Library's profile. On the other hand in this project we have redefined processes, established the new procedures that are needed to support the Business-IT common goals amd selected vendor solutions that most closely match the Client's requirements. If we have carefully utilized the Information Technology definition library in our peole, process and technology alignment quest - the implementstion is successul. Clients pay well for this type of project - and, opportunity exceeds current qualified PMs, Architects and Consultants to meet demand. Regards, Skip

spdmarine
spdmarine

Thanks for the excellent summary! I've been slowly steering my organization towards ITIL processes for a year and a half. I can't overstate the importance - to implementation - of two of the ten points listed: --> You need executive sponsorship and buy-in. Otherwise you won't be able to... --> Change the culture! Most IT organizations (mine is medium-sized) have folks who are set in their ways and abhor change, even change for the better. Anyone tried to implement ITIL and failed? That's where the real lessons lie, in my humble opinion.

cm005
cm005

The organization that I work for has implemented some of the ITIL processes. Service delivery in terms of IT consumers and users has tremendously improved. The implementation was not easy as we had to begin to do things differently,however all in all, I do recommend ITIL practices.

Lost_in_NY
Lost_in_NY

My first experience in implementing ITIL was with a large (>35,000) publically traded corporation whose main focus was on SOX compliance - they figured deploying a many ITIL processes as possible using an integrated software solution (HP) would achieve this goal. Although we did well on the audit, what we achieved really missed the mark on whole point of ITIL, which is achieving a more business-focused/partnered IT organization - instead, delivering solutions to the business took longer, quality wasn't improved, and IT was perceived more as a disabler than an enabler. Now I'm doing it again in a different organization, but this time without any SOX compliance constraints and with a much clearer understanding of how to do it right. Regardless of whether a business is regulated or not, I think ITIL provides an excellent framework. The most important thing to keep in mind is that it is a framework and not a religion and you've got to tailor it to meet the needs of your particular businss - what works in one company may or may not work for another.

areynolds51
areynolds51

I agree with your position. Our IT operations is moving toward ITIL based processes and it has been a challenge to implement some of the processes - understanding that we were moving from silos to cross functional operations was a challenge by itself. Product Line managers have begun to embrace the changes in process and the accountability (metrics/KPIs) that are assigned. Our service continues to improve and we obtained out ISO 20000 certification this past August. Critical to remember is ITIL is a framework and each process has to be reviewed and adopted to work with the organization - remember every process requires the Plan (Plan/Policy), Do (implement), Check (metrics/monitor) and Act (improvements/reviews).

a.evans
a.evans

This is an argument I am oh so familier with. having provided Direction to large multinationals on 12 implementations, we always reach the question; of how much of ITIL can we tailor at the local level? My first point is that when we talk of implementing ITIL we really mean IT Service Management, not the whole set of books. Implementing Service Management is for most, transformational change. This underpinned by a standard set of integrated processe, enabled by tools. When we customise these processes we must also customise the tools that support them. This means expensive development effort and long term maintenance issues. My main point is that implementing ITIL is implementing a standard approach to Service Management. So that we dont have 20 different change managment processes accross the organisation with 20 different supporting tools, we only have one, with one support tool. This is where the main benefit come from in terms of cost saving and efficencies. So should you customise? Cutomisation should be avoided at all costs. The only things that should be customised are the metrics i.e. the KPI's agreed in SLA's and the process KPI's that support the delivery of SLA commitments. The other things you customise are the work instructions that support specific environment. Do not customise the process model, definitions and activities within the processes. This is a recipe for disaster. Hope this is of help Regards Andy

Vawns
Vawns

I think it depends on the organisation. ITIL itself is a framework which can be used to provide a solid foundation for IT Service Management. It's not perscriptive and in order to work effectively should be tailered to the needs of the organisation ; it also needs buy in from all levels to ensure a sucessfull implementation.