ITIL upgraded

The constant pressure on IT organisations to provide reliable, high-quality services has sent many practitioners in search of ‘best practice’ guidance – and the bible of that is the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). As ITIL’s popularity has grown, so too has its scope and aims.

The latest iteration of the ITIL guide-lines, released in May 2007, promises a roadmap that will propel the practice of merely managing the IT environment to ensure good service to the alignment of services and business goals.

The central theme of ITIL is service management – the idea of operating IT functions as internal, shared services to ensure greater cost control, transparency and manageability.

According to Sharon Taylor, ITIL’s chief architect, the avowed intention of ITIL version 3 was to bring that theme to a wider, more business-oriented audience. A lack of understanding from the business over ITIL’s aims was frequently cited as hampering implementation.

To overcome this hurdle to successful service management, says Taylor, it is important to “engage the business actively in the design and development of services, in order to better understand business requirements and business value”. ITIL v3 makes explicit recommendations for how this can be achieved.

Some critics believe that, in trying to broaden the scope and audience of ITIL, the new version has sacrificed utility. “The loss of clarity of ITIL v3 messaging has, quite frankly, been a huge disappointment,” says Barclay Rae, professional services director for the Help Desk Institute. “The format of the books is over-elaborate and academic, when simplicity and clarity would have been much more effective.”

That might explain the results of a survey conducted by IT training provider ILX. Out of 100 IT managers questioned, only one said that they had the resources available to learn and adopt new the practices within the next six months.

But that was not because of a lack of enthusiasm for the framework: 62% said they believed their businesses would benefit from adopting the guidelines. Marv Waschke, senior technology strategist at systems integrator CA’s business service optimisation unit, argues that ITIL v3’s complexity is its strength.

“IT is complex,” he says. “The challenge is to face that complexity and make it simple to manage. ITIL v3’s strength is that it takes a deep look at the complexity of IT and proposes practices that include the entire lifecycle of a service.”

It took more than 20 years for the ITIL guidelines to build the reputation they hold today. It may take a while for the IT and business communities to get their respective heads around the recommendations of v3, but past experience with “the world’s most widely accepted approach to IT service management” would suggest it will be worth the effort.

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Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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