An effective IT organization aligns itself with the business that it supports by delivering an optimal level of service at a justifiable cost. Achieving this level of best practices requires a framework that the IT organization can build on. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standards for service can provide exactly this sort of framework to your client’s organization, regardless of industry or size. This approach, which outlines the relationships among all IT processes, emphasizes communication and monitoring for continuous improvement.

Through your consulting role, you have a prime opportunity to introduce your clients to ITIL. Let’s take a look at ITIL’s advantages, its use, and how you can introduce this framework to your clients.

Information Technology Infrastructure Library

The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) of the United Kingdom (UK) government developed ITIL in the late 1980s. Never heard of ITIL? You’re not alone, especially if you’re from North America, where it is relatively new but gaining in popularity and acceptance.

There are several advantages to adopting the ITIL framework over other products or methodologies offered by various firms. First, the ITIL framework has been publicly available since its inception. Any organization can obtain the publications that make up the library and begin utilizing the framework. The fact that it is in the public domain makes ITIL very attractive to organizations.

When you use another company’s proprietary methodology, such as Meta Group’s Operations Excellence model, you’re almost guaranteed to return to Meta for implementation and consulting advice. ITIL is not affiliated with any specific vendor or firm.

Best practice
ITIL is also a best practice. When the CCTA originally began work on these standards, it approached several different organizations to learn about their methods for managing IT. It took all the information, determined what was most applicable for the organizations’ business needs, and compiled the results in what became known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library. When it published the library, other organizations saw how beneficial it was and began to utilize it as well. ITIL has continued to evolve and mature as the CCTA and, more recently, the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) have ensured that it continues to reflect current best practices by researching and updating the framework. Today, the OGC describes ITIL as the world de facto standard for service management because of its widespread use—especially in European countries.

Quality focus
ITIL has a quality focus, primarily through improvements to the delivery of IT services. The quality of service is directly linked to client and IT expectations as well as financial considerations. Every process is integrated with the others so that each one meets its goals. ITIL clearly defines the links between each of the processes, so it takes the guesswork out of determining how they are related.

All the stakeholders are identified and are aware of their roles and responsibilities in the delivery of IT service. To deliver a service, you have to identify who is accountable and who is responsible. ITIL also suggests measurable performance indicators for each specific process to ensure that service is delivered as agreed upon.

In the service level agreements (SLAs) that I currently have in place with my clients, there isn’t much in the way of corrective action if IT misses a service target. Soon, when we implement our improved service level management process, we’ll be including a requirement for IT to activate a service improvement plan to get things back on track when IT misses a service target. Having a service improvement plan as part of the process flow is an ITIL best practice and one that my clients are looking forward to.

How to introduce ITIL to clients
As a consultant, you can introduce your clients to ITIL in the following ways.

Read the books
First, you can read the ITIL publications so that you’ll become familiar with the terms and concepts. Included in each chapter are relevant examples or humorous anecdotes to help you avoid IT service blunders. Then you can begin to talk about the ITIL framework with your clients.

Take the classes
You might consider attending a training class on ITIL. If you choose to take a class, I suggest you enroll in the Foundations of IT Service Management course, which presents the core fundamentals of the service support and service delivery processes and is the perfect “introduction” to ITIL. Several training providers teach just the class or offer the class with a certification exam.

My advice is to complete the course and take the exam to earn certification. By demonstrating your willingness to expand your knowledge, sit for the exam, and earn the Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management, you can demonstrate your acceptance and knowledge of the ITIL framework.

Take it to your clients
Once you have mastered the basic concepts, you might offer to perform an audit of your client’s IT organization compared with best practices. Since ITIL is public domain, you can download free self-audit materials from the Web site. The audit kit will enable you to analyze your client’s IT processes and determine whether those processes are in a control state or merely ad hoc.

Finally, you could join a local user’s group. When I contacted the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF), I learned that there were no user’s groups in my region, so I applied to start one. (To find an itSMF local interest group in your area, contact itSMF.)

The Canadian and U.S. chapters of itSMF continue to expand and are good places to start talking with other people who are interested in ITIL. You might even take a client to a user’s group meeting with you. There, the client will have an opportunity to meet others who may be facing the same IT challenges and discover the value that other organizations have garnered from service management best practices.

Final thoughts
The overall implementation of ITIL best practices isn’t something that can be adopted overnight. In most cases, accepting these best practices will require a culture change for your client’s organization. Expect resistance, but persevere: Your clients will be glad you did.