BCS Editorial

Changing to ITIL

Tony Collins, Business Development Director, Intasoft Ltd, looks at the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which provides a framework of best practices designed to help organisations implement high quality IT services.

ITIL was developed to help organisations that are dependent on IT order to meet their corporate aims and business needs. It gives guidance on how to provide quality IT services, and also covers the wider picture, focusing on the facilities needed to support IT.

Now commonly regarded as the world standard for IT Service Management best practices, organisations can draw from ITIL, taking those aspects that they consider appropriate to their needs and then building upon them according to their specific requirements.

ITIL covers:

Service Delivery including:

  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Change Management
  • Release Management

Service Support including:

  • Service Level Management
  • Financial Management
  • Capacity Management
  • IT Service Continuity Management
  • Availability Management
  • Helpdesk/Service Desk
  • Security Management
  • Disaster Recovery Planning

What is ITIL and why do I need it?

ITIL is not a standard or a method as such, but can be considered a combination of the two, an approach which enables business to technology communication, because it formalises and integrates related processes using a common language that anyone else using ITIL can understand.

A common language might not seem very important to some but it is vital to accurate and efficient communication and without excellent communication systems your business will waste vast amounts of resource trying to get the work done.

For example: Let’s take a simple change that has been reported by phone to IT support. A monitor has developed a fault.

One process might be to raise a trouble ticket that describes the fault, to pass it to an engineer who does the site visit who creates a Maintenance Report describing the work performed.

Sounds simple, but only if you know what a “trouble ticket” is and what a “maintenance report” is and who is allowed to complete them under what circumstances and then, of course, what happens to them.

Many organisations (and many software vendors) use different terminology to mean the same things and the same terminology to mean different things.

For example: Change, Problem, Error, Bug, Defect, Incident, Engineering Change Request, Change Request, Request for Change, Maintenance Report, Maintenance Request and so on.

ITIL takes this language and suggests terminology to suit:

  • An incident is reported
  • One or more incidents creates a Problem
  • A Change is identified to resolve the Problem
  • A Request for Change (RFC) is created
  • RFC’s are bundled together for
    Release

ITIL also suggests the processes that should be used at each step.

ITIL processes also give you the security that they are industry recognised and therefore provide you with an excellent foundation on which to build. This also saves you the trouble of having to construct your own processes and then wonder if they are as effective as they need to be and also reduces the costs involved with creating your own processes.

Remember though, ITIL processes are not set in stone, but provide a framework which can be adjusted to suit your specific needs.

For example, if we take the Change management aspect of ITIL, we can draw up a process chart representing how an organisation might handle a “Request for Change (RFC)” according to ITIL.

This process chart is composed of a series of status which represents specific points in the workflow. See the diagram below.

Request for change ITIL process diagram

Notice that the first state is that a change is “submitted”. That is, it is documented and put into the process for consideration. How the change is handled from here depends upon how your own organisation wishes to work.

ITIL suggests that if the change is a standard change in that, it is common and has an easily recognisable solution; a “Change Manager” should review the change and initially prioritise it deciding impacts, resources required and whether it should be fast tracked.

Your organisation may not have a “Change Manager” dedicated to this activity or even anyone nominated as such but the concept of what ITIL suggests is still sound for you. It may be that a number of people are involved and are responsible for various aspects of what ITIL suggests the “Change Manager” should do.

ITIL also recommends that a close relationship is maintained between Project and Change Management which, if you think about it, is a very much a common-sense approach.

What do I need to do if I want to use ITIL in my organisation?

Getting yourself trained and qualified in ITIL is always a good start but many organisations don’t have the training budget and even if they do it is not always convenient for you to go off on training courses. The job needs to be done now.

So there are many things you can do without training because ITIL is really a reflection of common sense.

Let’s start at the beginning. You think you need ITIL so there must be a reason why you think that way.

So, the first thing to do is document that reason and see what other people around you think. Identify the people in your organisation that may be impacted by adopting ITIL and involve them as much as possible in the following steps:

Weaknesses

Identify current weaknesses, actual and perceived. Don’t forget the perceived ones because they are just as real to people as the actual ones and they need to be resolved just the same. Prioritise the weaknesses in terms of business benefit, should they be resolved.

Solutions

Propose solutions to the weaknesses that you have identified. Use your experience and the ITIL suggestions such as the recommended process flows, to come up with your initial solutions in conjunction with the stakeholders you identified at the start.

Costs

Identify costs and other resourcing issues (including timescales, process changes, cultural impact on the organisation, people and the skills and supporting tools they will require) that are impacted either directly or indirectly by your solution

Benefits

Identify the benefits. A vital but tricky part, in that you are not going to get sign-up by others in your organisation unless they can see that it is going to be of benefit. Quantifiable benefits (such as man hours saved) are fairly easy to identify. Unquantifiable ones (such as Process is improved) are much more difficult but just as important, so use all of the stakeholders to help you. Consider measuring the impact a change currently has:

  • How long does it take
  • How much of the usual service has been lost and for how long whilst the change is in progress
  • Who is aware of the change and who should be aware and is not and what is the impact of the difference between the two
  • Could you take on a significant amount of change or is this one particular one stretching you to your limits
  • What will the reduction in re-work be if you put steps into place to improve your process such as extra quality assurance or longer testing times
  • If we are talking about software changes we might be able to identify the number of incidents that are reported following a delivery of the software.
  • Find software tools that:

    – Cover the areas that are appropriate to you;
    – Help you implement your processes;
    – Enable you to use your terminology;
    – Provide the necessary links between Change and Project Management

Sounds like a lot of work.

There is a lot there but if something is worth doing we should at least try to do it properly and that is also what ITIL is about.

What problems might I face in implementing ITIL?

Here are some of the more common problems we have faced when helping people implement ITIL in the change and configuration management arena. We suspect they are common to more than just this arena and more than just ITIL but they are problems none the less.

  • Top Down Commitment
  • Resistance to change
  • Where to start
  • Lack of training
  • Lack of resource – people
  • Lack of planning
  • Lack of existing software support tools such as change and configuration management tools
  • Vendor influence – in that the software does it this way so you have to as well.
  • Cost justification
  • Exception planning
  • Culture shock
  • End users by-passing procedure

Obviously these are topics all to themselves and we don’t have enough room to go into them now but one important point we can bring up is how you can get the help and support you need. We can look to the software vendors here.

Naturally, to be successful you need the support of your organisation at all levels but you also need the support of the software vendors as you search for software that can help you.

The best vendors realise that:

  • Only by working closely with their clients can they gain the correct understanding of the client’s requirements.
  • Only by understanding their client’s business can, those all important requirements, be put into their correct context.
  • Only by correctly identifying the context can they really provide the support and the service levels that their clients deserve.

ITIL Philosophy

ITIL, as a philosophy, still has some way to go but it has the wholehearted support of everyone and anyone that wishes to provide a common approach to high quality IT Service Management.

Implementing an ITIL framework can and will involve a lot of hard work. You are bound to face problems but nothing that you can’t overcome and nothing that won’t lead to future benefits for you and your organisation.

As more and more organisations, software vendors included, become increasingly dependent on IT services, it is surely to everyone’s benefit, to work within a common framework that has a common goal of providing unified, integrated and consistent IT Service Management for our customers whoever they may be.

 

Tony Collins, Business Development Director, Intasoft Ltd.

 

Tony Collins is the Business Development Director at Intasoft Ltd. Tony has extensive Change and Configuration Management experience gained whilst working on several large government projects when with the Department of Employment and the Department of Social Security. This provides him with the ideal background to assist large organisations to implement CM. He has worked in IT development for 15 years and has both IT design methodology and project management method certifications.

Intasoft specialises in developing change and configuration management software that is used in some of the world’s largest companies, across a range of industries. They also offer consultancy and training on a wide range of related issues, including ITIL.

For more information about Intasoft please email them at info@intasoft.net or view their web site at www.intasoft.net

 

First published in the British Computer
Society Review 2005.