Project Management

See benefits for your organization using "ITIL Lite"


You work for a smaller business and have been hearing a lot about ITIL. Maybe you've heard how it can cut your costs, or you've seen evidence that it can improve service delivery. But then you take a closer look.

At first glance, it looks like ITIL is only for the very large organization. But take heart. ITIL can be implemented in any size organization in any number of ways.

Let's say you have fewer than 100 desktops to support, your Help Desk is located within the organization and you're not going to be able to hire anyone new.

You need "ITIL Lite." Though scaled for your needs, ITIL Lite is still a process. It takes time and effort to complete. The first step? Talk to your Help Desk.

Ask what kinds of tickets come in on an average week? How about an average month?

Now, have them sort them according to two types:

  1. Transitory. These are things that can be managed with a minimum of effort and are not resolvable through additional user training (password resets, for instance).
  2. Root Cause. Those things that can be solved by finding and resolving the root cause. These are things like the inability of users to reach a server that they normally reach without trouble. The causal event isn't the user trying to access but rather something that has occurred with the server-- generally a change.

Database management

The second step is to take a pass through your configuration management database (CMDB). You don't need all ten roles to do this. In fact, with a smaller organization, you probably are all ten roles. Or close enough to matter.

So here's what you need:

  • MS Access or other relational database -- at least a viewer on every desktop if you expect people to input and use the finished tool.
  • A database guru who (a) understands database structure and (b) knows what "third normal form" is.
  • A high-level view of what the data will look like.

Start with asset tracking -- what computers talk to your network? How about peripherals? Move from there to software tracking -- what computers have XP?  Do I have those licenses?  hat computers use core office? (Core office is Outlook, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint). Do I have licenses for these?  Who has Visio?  Or Access?  Are they licensed?  What other software is being used?

Now connect your software licenses to the hardware they run on. Now connect the hardware to the user.

You can stop here. Or you can keep going.

At this point, you need to establish a process that requires that this database is updated every time a change occurs. Upgrade the software? Update the database. Replace a user's desktop?  Update the database. (You can even go more granular -- Replace a user's hard drive? Update the database.)

Why would you keep that kind of information? If the hard drive crashes once, you may assume normal wear. But what if it crashes every month? This tool will give you visibility to that and be an indicator that there is a larger issue.

Adding to the database

Okay, you have the database constructed. You know what user is at what machine. You decided it would be a good idea to add cube location to the list so you can now walk up to any desk and know the user, the hardware, the software, and possibly, a fix history. You have established a process to keep this information updated. Maybe you even made it accessible on the corporate Intranet. Now we'll start adding to it.

What are your servers, what runs on them, where are the licenses? This is basically what you did with your users. Ask yourself the same questions. Now add in what they connect to. Now add what users connect to them. Don't forget to add a maintenance history.

Congratulations, you now have a bare bones CMDB. You can walk up to any piece of equipment and know how it connects and what it connects to. You know who uses it and you can also now know what a change impact would be.

Now you can decide what else it needs to do for you. I like storing end-of-warranty information. That way, I can more easily tell if I have a warranty obligation or not. If I have a service contract on a piece of equipment, I store that too, along with contact information for that service contract.

If I have it on the Intranet, I want to put an ordering mechanism on it. That way, my end-users can order what they need from a pre-approved list. I may add the functionality to let the user order on-line and have the system automatically route the request to the Manager for that cost center for approval. Then add the ability to have the order routed to me after it has been approved.

One final thought. As you use this tool, you'll think of a hundred different things it can do. And likely a hundred things it can do for you. Resist the temptation to let it grow too fast. Start by linking your users to the hardware/software/network and make sure that your process includes updating and change. Then use it for a while until you know what makes sense for your organization to add on.

Doing this as a small organization will enable you to implement a fuller ITIL as your organization grows.

25 comments
richardw
richardw

Oh dear me! This looks very scary. We are talking about a (Good Practice) Framework... Take whats relevant and apply it... and don't get hung up on the CMDB. The CMDB is like a complete distraction but something the ITIL junkies are hooked on... Get away from the technology!!!

gynt.schoeman
gynt.schoeman

ITIL in any form will assist you business, The OGC have got it right. If you are interested in improving your service delivery and want to do it the "Best Practice" way then I have no doubt ITIL will get you there. Other methodologies to look into that I would recommend are Prince2 and Management of Risk also from the OGC. (TOM: OGC = Office of Government Commerce, ITIL = Information Technology Infrastructure Library and if all else fails = ask google)

tom
tom

I was wondering if there any chance the writers of all these articles could stop assuming everyone knows what every acronym means? It seems to me that every acronym should be spelled out at least once early in the article. Simply type the words out the first time the acronym is used, then put the acronym in parenthesis. Sorry, I'm a sys admin at a small company, and I've never seen the acronym ITIL.

Tig2
Tig2

Many people in smaller organizations would like to use the ITIL model but feel that the whole thing is way too big for a small shop. I disagree. While you don't need the horsepower of a large system that integrates ITIL like Remedy or Peregrine, you can still use ITIL in a smaller way that will still enable you to see the benefits. Separating your help desk so that tickets are seen as belonging to one of two distinct categories helps you to differentiate your traffic into transitory issues such as password resets and things that require root cause analysis (RCA). By doing that RCA, you more permanently fix the things that go wrong. Creating a CMDB or Configuration Management Database gives you visibility to what is out in your environment and what impact a change will have. While the initial stages of creating this tool are somewhat tedious, the reward is a clear understanding of what will really happen if a server goes down. It will help you to sensibly schedule system changes and updates. And it becomes your primary asset management tool. If you work in a smaller shop, ITIL Lite could be the thing you need.

robert.stroud
robert.stroud

Richard, correct! Absolutely, take what you need in your organisation, adapt it and use it, that is the secret. If you get caught in the technology often the focus of business and IT integration is lost. Rob

Lost_in_NY
Lost_in_NY

ITL - Information Technology Infrastructure Library - this is a set of books originally published by a British government department that sets forth a set of 'best practices' for IT to follow. Covers a LOT of ground. The ITIL Community Forum has lots of links that explain lots more about in great details (http://www.itilcommunity.com/index.php) TiggerTwo mentioned (and also explained/spelled out) CMDB, the Configuration Management Database which is an important ITIL component. Can't recall any what others are in this thread so please post back if any others weren't explained/spelled out.

heavener
heavener

Tom described exactly what they taught us in journalism school (j-school) and what we applied when I was a daily newsaper reporter. Now I'm a web admin and I still edit copy with this in mind. Thanks. BTW, what DOES ITIL stand for?

johnreiling
johnreiling

When looking at a methodology like ITIL, we are not acting logically unless we 'right size' our initiatives. We need to apply a methodogloy like ITIL logically. ____________________ John Reiling, PMP www.pmtrainingonline.com

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

This is an excellent follow-up article to the "10 roles" column you linked to. I thought that was overkill for most SMBs. I'm doing most of the hardware, software, and user tracking in an Excel spreadsheet, using the cell Comments feature to record hardware history. It's a lot easier than learning to use a DB app for one database, especially since I don't have a clue what a "third normal form" is.

robert.stroud
robert.stroud

ITIL is a framework! As a framework you only use only the elements and components that make sense. There is no requirement to implement all the processes therefore, If you are a small organization then a base incident management system, connecting to alerts etc is appropriate. One of the major benefits is that when you automate a process and deliver it repeatedly and consistently your response time improves as well as consistency and quality. Robert Stroud

Tig2
Tig2

I try to spell out acronyms the first time I use them but truthfully, it never occurred to me to spell out ITIL. I will make sure that I don't miss that going forward. I appreciate you steeping up with an explanation! Thanks!

robert.stroud
robert.stroud

ITIL was formerly known as the IT Infrastructure Library. It is a collection of good practices for IT Service Management. Rob

gynt.schoeman
gynt.schoeman

OGC = Office of Government Commerce, ITIL = Information Technology Infrastructure Library and if all else fails = ask google

MarkE
MarkE

Its an on-demand IT Asset Management service designed specifically for SMBs, there is no software or hardware required, its all available over the web and you can use it to easily manage your hardware and software assets online. You can track software licenses and IT contracts, detect risks to your assets (both IT risks as well as compliance risks), and they have a free 30-days trial - check it out at www.samanage.com

dobrien
dobrien

I do not have a database expert either. I found that Spiceworks provides most of this for me. (I have about 250 PCs spread over 10 locations.) See http://www.spiceworks.com/product/. It discovers your devices, catalogs hardware components, software, user profiles found on the PC, service tag, etc. I just had to spend time afterwards categorizing the devices and filling out additional details I wanted to track. It has a ticket system so that I can pull up tickets associated a device. I can search on user ID and usually find the associated PC. Best of all, it is free!

Lost_in_NY
Lost_in_NY

If you do have a process by which planned changes (and subsequently their outcome) are documented via some on-line system you can then link those changes back to the records that represent the hardware or software that got changed. This can provide a really good basis for troubleshooting (e.g., 'did something change on that server') as well as providing a handy basis for assessing how often particular hardware has to be replaced or some software requires patching as input for future purchasing decisions. And you can create linkages between the different records (aka 'configuration items') to show dependencies between them (e.g., what is impacted if I take this router offline for maintenance, what application relies on this server so needs to know if I'm upgrading the OS, etc.) There can also be other benefits if you group the Configuration Items (CIs) into 'Services' if you're looking to measure how IT is fulfilling expectation for particular services and so on. I agree with the prior comments regarding ITiL being a framework from which you can take the parts that make sense for your business. Unfortunately I've seen too many people treat it like a 'true faith' and think they're damned if they don't do it all...which usually creates an unholy mess. The ITIL Community Forum has some good posts on structuring a CMDB that maybe useful if you want to build a database and I can also share with you the CMDB data model that came delivered with the CMDB vendor products I've used and well as what I leaned and did differently in my own experiences in more detail if you have any further interest to pursue this.

tuomo
tuomo

You are absolutely correct. The problem is that ITIL (or any framework) is seen as technology which it isn't! And you are correct in automation - I would just add that it is not expensive (for other replies), automation of any process or even more, technology, is easy, one time cost when done right.

kingmail53
kingmail53

Rob is right, automating a process is best. But, for those smaller companies that cannot afford the expensive automation tools, taking a Lean Six Sigma approach works best. Define your process, make each step Measurable, regularly Analyze for Improvements, keep the process under Control. The automation piece comes when you can drive the activities within the process repeatedly and consistently.

Lost_in_NY
Lost_in_NY

I've heard there were some decent free tools available but since I've only done implementations in large organizations that wanted to go with a big vendor integrated solution for stuff beyond ticketing and CMDB, never really checked into that. But if I find myself in an SMB will definitely keep this one in mind to check out.

Lost_in_NY
Lost_in_NY

If you can track everything on a spreadsheet, have sufficient visibility into changes and issues, and the business users are feel well-supported, then certainly no need to do ITIL or anything other than what you've got in place just for the sake of being able to say you've done it. Like an early boss of mine used to say when something different would be proposed 'what problem are we trying to solve' and if you nothing comes to mind, you're likely better off without it.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We've got a couple of people already working on a new db solution. I think my point was that the tool used to track changes isn't as important as the actual record keeping. For a small shop you can effectively manage change without having to learn database skills.

aachour
aachour

I agree fully with these comments but I'd like to add few more items that could increase the cost further. These are: 1- Implementing Process changes 2- Adopting tool processes could lead to limitations or reduction of services 3- Customisation (could be required for every new upgrade) 4- Learning curve (limited to 1st year only) 5- Interfaces with other tools 6- Rejection of new tool could downgrades productivity, quality, services etc... The list is by no mean finished but we have to look at indirect costs as they are usually surprisingly high. Dahmane

tuomo
tuomo

Of course you are correct that there always are some maintenance, enhancement, etc costs in any system and process. And there is the cost to use the system, hardware and people. What I meant was to create an "open" system once and go with it. Agreed with old, overlapping software but why was it designed that way? And are the new systems designed better? For example ITIL and SOA give good starting points (not really new ideas), unfortunately the implementations are often "hardcoded" and changes all over even after a small change in process. If the company doesn't fall into a "vendor trap" it is possible to create systems with 20-30 year lifetime and which can be gradually upgraded. Some operating systems are perfect examples of that - the hardware and application requirements have changed a lot but the basic OS architecture lives.

kingmail53
kingmail53

When I write of automation, I'm referring to software tools that can do work. In many cases the software can act on clearly defined business rules and fix the problem. These tools are never one-time costs. There's the cost of implementing. Then there's the approximately 20% annual cost of maintenance. Then, there's the cost of semi-annual upgrades. And, the cost of maintaining the integrations. All that, which often amounts to 35% - 50% annually of the initial cost - and that usually doesn't get any additional functionality. One of the reasons costs continue to spiral up in IT is because we don't retire old, overlapping software.

robert.stroud
robert.stroud

This is indeed an excellent approach to improving processes implemented. ITIL itself is indeed common sense and the secret whether you use a tool or not is documenting the process. Rob

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