ITIL will get the job done

Haydn Pinnell, MD, Gallium (an EOH company), says IT Service Management (ITSM) is a journey; a quest to deliver improved service. Unplanned journey’s can be fraught with the unexpected, but those that are well deliberated and supported by expert guidance can deliver exceptional experiences. And, exceptional customer experiences are after all what business is all about today.

He says that since ITSM is an approach to IT management, there isn’t and cannot be a single path to its adoption. Regardless of the path chosen, an organisation should understand that the road to ITSM success demands a structured approach and responsiveness to shifting priorities along the way.

“The demand for business-critical systems to run at peak performance, enable strategic changes, and drive revenue are escalating. Now CEOs are crunching the numbers while trying to prove IT’s value to the business. Evolving IT into a true business partner requires the adoption of an ITSM framework, investment in the right types of technology, development and implementation of the correct IT processes, and training people to apply these technologies and processes properly. It is also crucial that this framework is able to adapt to changing business needs without sacrificing service quality.”

While there is no “one size fits all” approach to fine tuning service management practices, Pinnell says that most IT departments are now applying ITSM best practices and standards to make lasting enhancements to their operations. The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is the proven way for IT organisations to align with the business, control costs, improve quality, and balance resource allocations. Trends indicate that there has been a dramatic increase in ITIL adoption over the last few years as businesses actively seek out means to secure that all-important competitive edge.

ITIL is the industry’s bible; the ultimate handbook on how to manage IT as a business in order to deliver competitive advantage. Its guidance spans all IT activities from strategy to operations, and the purpose of its comprehensive direction is to deliver on four primary goals:

  • align IT activities and projects to business requirements
  • control IT costs
  • improve IT service quality and
  • balance resource allocations
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    While achieving goals these may seem like a tall order, Pinnell says ITIL has the experience to deliver. “Once of interest to a minority of businesses, implementation of ITSM best practices is now main stream. One thing is clear – businesses that are not in the process of implementing these or using them to improve current operations will be at an inherent disadvantage compared to their competitors.”

    Quantifying the benefits of ITIL

    Allan Dickson, Consultant at Compass Management Consulting

    The Information Technology Infrastructure Library, more commonly known as ITIL, is currently in its third iteration, offering a common language as well as best practice guidelines for IT service management processes.

    ITIL is designed to help organisations achieve the execution of strategy and improve performance, and many organisations have made significant investments into such initiatives. However, while following recommended

    guidelines according to ITIL may produce benefits, the majority of enterprises that have implemented these practices struggle to quantify the benefits in terms of cost savings and improvements in quality.

    This is a major challenge in today’s business environment, where accountability and demonstrating the impact of various initiatives is of paramount importance due to factors such as King III and the new Companies Act.

    A successfully implemented ITIL initiative can deliver significant improvements in efficiency, which can translate to cost savings, especially in areas such as service support and systems delivery. This makes it

    possible to improve internal customer service (in other words service to people working within the organisation), which in turn helps to improve external customer satisfaction, as employees are able to better service customers.

    For organisations with multiple IT locations, especially those which are expanding internationally, ITIL also provides a common language and vocabulary to help pull IT operations together into a coherent force.

    One of the reasons that these benefits are difficult to quantify is the traditional strength of IT in articulating the costs, but not the benefits of projects. Business cases are presented that emphasise cost but are at

    best ‘woolly’ when it comes to benefit analysis – and as a result the benefits of an initiative are difficult to measure and often left unknown.

    The benefits of an ITIL implementation are not necessarily purely in terms of cost but rather in terms of how the customer has been affected and how service has been improved. IT departments therefore need to focus not only on delivering projects on-time, on-budget and according to specifications, but also need to have effective metrics in place to judge whether the stated business benefits are being delivered.

    One of the traditional ways of measuring the benefits of ITIL and IT service improvement is to take a tower-specific approach. However, this is by its nature a technical approach that does not take the users into account, which makes its flaws in the instance of ITIL immediately obvious. Optimising one specific tower may give an improvement from a technical perspective but this is not necessarily a process improvement and may not improve the end ‘product’, which should be the customer experience.

    Another method of measuring improvement in services with ITIL is to take a pilot approach -in other words launching a test or ‘pilot’ in a specific area of IT. This can be effective if it is deployed in an appropriate area

    of the business, since ITIL offers many best practices and not all of these will be relevant and appropriate for all organisations.

    The best way to conduct a pilot is to focus on the pain points of the business, specifically something with a tangible internal customer touch point, and launch a pilot on one of these. A good place to start is to look

    at incident management and how the experience can be improved by applying ITIL in this area. Other areas such as change management and the cause and effect relationships between problems can also be effective.

    Narrowing the focus and delivering quick wins such as improving incident management or handling change management is an effective way of proving the success of an ITIL initiative, something which is important for buy in from the entire enterprise.

    In order for ITIL implementations to be effective the application of metrics is essential. There are three broad areas that can be measured, namely cost, productivity and quality, and metrics in support of each of these need to be built.

    Cost can be measured in terms of the impact to unit costs, for example; whereas in terms of productivity, the increase in the number of incidents handled per day and the impact on overall productivity can be measured.

    Service quality too can be measured, for instance measuring how long it takes each agent to resolve an incident, highlighting skills level deficiencies, which if addressed can further improve service delivery.

    ITIL is a proven methodology for improving services, customer satisfaction, productivity and ultimately the bottom line. However, in order to obtain and maintain buy in from the enterprise it is vital to measure the benefits of an ITIL implementation. And in order to measure implementations it is necessary to have metrics in place that are developed and put in place from the start.

    Not only will this help with buy in, it will also keep the implementation on track and it will be possible to see if the stated benefits are being achieved or not, which can only make the project a greater success and lead to greater returns for the organisation.