Project Management

Cheat Sheet: Itil

Update: The methodology for better IT...

Start off by telling me what Itil stands for.
But of course - IT infrastructure library.

And what does that mean?
It refers to a set of best practices for delivering quality IT services within public and private sector organisations. It was developed in the late 1980s by the UK government as a way of improving the efficiency and fiscal performance of IT. Now the domain of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), Itil is the most widely accepted standard in this area and is used by organisations from multinational corporations all the way to small businesses.

The 1980s were a long time ago. Has it been updated?
It has been. The most recent update, version 3, launched in spring of 2007.

What does it cover?
Publications are currently available on all the key areas of enterprise IT. The core version 3 Itil volumes are on: service design, service operation, service strategy, service transition and continual service improvement. Plus a glossary has been launched online which will be frequently updated.

How is version 3 different from version 2?

Version 3 focuses on the alignment of technology and the business and includes more than previous versions about bottom-line topics such as return on investment - a sign of these cost-conscious times.

Tell me more...
Version 3 also provides information specific to certain vertical markets, such as financial services and retail, and improves on its relevance to small organisations.

So why would I want to use it?
There can be lots of benefits to taking advice based on decades of real-world experience. One that Itil promoters tout is lower IT costs because of the greater efficiency and productivity and better control of projects which it can bring about. Another is higher quality IT services through introducing consistent processes, setting up solutions to former problems, implementing shorter resolution times and so on.

Sounds pretty good.
It can be. Itil should also ease the pain of switching infrastructures and outsourcing tasks because theoretically your processes will be similar to those at many other organisations.

Want more on Itil?

Still got questions? Read Quocirca's Straight Talking: All about Itil for an overview of how best practice IT services management can help your organisation.

I've heard something about Itil certification...
You're catching on. Itil is not just a set of best practices. It's also developed into a qualification IT workers can acquire. This is meant to ease staffing so, for example, if you're an Itil shop you know an Itil-certified helpdesk worker should be able to get up to speed quickly because he or she should have some familiarity with your processes already.

The phrase 'too good to be true' springs to mind...
Well, yes. One must take all such claims with a pinch of salt. How much an organisation can reap the benefits depends on how well it incorporates the best practices into its daily processes. This is not always easy - theory doesn't always match real-life practice and so some organisations will need to alter their habits significantly. We might add that the Itil publications do tend to be on the dry and technical side.

So how can I make sure I do it right?
Consultants are always available for hire and several vendors - such as BMC, CA, HP and IBM - have recently embraced Itil and offer tools and other assistance to customers who want to standardise on these processes.

Anything else I should know?
The OGC promises the transition from version 2 to version 3 should be smooth. But it's good to check with vendors to see whether they've upgraded their Itil-related products to version 3 - or when they will. As with any upgrade, it'll take a while for all parties to get on the same page but with some time it should work itself out.

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