What is ITIL?
The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a library of volumes describing a framework of best practices for delivering IT services. ITIL has gone through several revisions in its history and currently comprises five books, each covering various processes and stages of the IT service lifecycle. ITIL’s systematic approach to IT service management can help businesses manage risk, strengthen customer relations, establish cost-effective practices, and build a stable IT environment that allows for growth, scale and change.
ITIL 4 contains nine guiding principles that were adopted from the most recent ITIL Practitioner Exam, which covers organizational change management, communication and measurement and metrics. These principles include:
Focus on value
Design for experience
Start where you are
Keep it simple
The newest version of ITIL focuses on company culture and integrating IT into the overall business structure. It encourages collaboration between IT and other departments, especially as other business units increasingly rely on technology to get work done. ITIL 4 also emphasizes customer feedback, since it’s easier than ever for businesses to understand their public perception, customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
How do I put ITIL into practice?
ITIL is a collection of e-books, but merely going on a reading binge won't improve your IT operations. First, you have to wrap your brain around the concepts and then get staff buy-in. Getting some IT personnel to adopt new procedures can be like herding cats, but there are tools that can help.
Before implementing ITIL at your organizations, there are several questions you should answer, such as what problems your organization is trying to solve and what is your route to continual service improvement.
What is ITIL certification and is it worth it?
The ITIL v3 certification scheme previously consisted of five levels: Foundation, Practitioner, Intermediate, Expert and Master. Each level required a stronger depth of knowledge and understanding of ITIL. The certification scheme under ITIL 4 has been streamlined to include the ITIL Foundation and the ITIL Master exams. The ITIL Foundation exam has two paths, ITIL Managing Professional (MP) or ITIL Strategic Leader (SL), which each have their own modules and exams.
The ITIL Managing Professional (MP) exam is designed for IT practitioners who are involved with technology and digital teams throughout the organization, not just in the IT department. This path will teach professionals everything they need to know about running successful IT projects, teams and workflows.
ITIL Specialist – Create, Deliver and Support
ITIL Specialist – Drive Stakeholder Value
ITIL Specialist – High Velocity IT
ITIL Strategist – Direct, Plan & Improve
The ITIL Strategic Leader (SL) exam is designed for those who deal with “all digitally enabled services,” and not just those that fall under IT operations. This path focuses on how technology directs business strategy and how IT plays into that.
ITIL Strategist – Direct, Plan & Improve
ITIL Leader – Digital & IT Strategy
Both paths can lead to the ITIL Master exam, which is the highest level of certification you can achieve with ITIL 4.
How can ITIL improve my company's business performance?
A well-run IT organization that manages risk and keeps the infrastructure humming not only saves money, but it also allows the business people to do their jobs more effectively. For example, brokerage firm Pershing reduced its incident response time by 50 percent in the first year after restructuring its service desk according to ITIL guidelines, allowing users with problems to get back to work much more quickly.
ITIL provides a systematic and professional approach to the management of IT service provision, and offers the following benefits:
reduced IT costs
improved IT services through the use of proven best practice processes
improved customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery
standards and guidance
improved use of skills and experience
improved delivery of third-party services through the specification of ITIL or BS15000 as the standard for service delivery in services procurements
According to Axelos, ITIL can also help businesses improve services by:
helping businesses manage risk, disruption and failure
strengthening customer relations by “delivering efficient services that meet their needs”
establishing cost-effective practices
building a stable environment that still allows for growth, scale and change.
What will ITIL cost?
Getting started involves the purchase of the ITIL either as hardcopy, PDF, ePub or through an online subscription directly from Axelos. Then there's the cost of training, which fluctuates each year. The course leading to the initial Foundation Certificate typically runs for two days, and courses leading to higher certifications can be a week or more.
Add to that the inevitable cost of re-engineering some processes to comply with ITIL guidelines, and adjustment of help desk or other software to capture the information you need for tracking and generating metrics.
There is, by the way, no such thing as "ITIL-compliant" software; the ITIL is a framework, not a standard. Some help desk and management software has been engineered with ITIL practices in mind, however, and so will lend themselves better to teams working within the framework.
Examples of software and services designed with ITIL and ITSM in mind include:
Samange: Offers service desk automation with the ITIL framework in mind
InvGate Service Desk: A web-based ITIL-ready service that boasts a user-friendly interface
ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus: Web-based help desk and asset management software that is available in an ITIL edition
Vision Helpdesk: A multifunction service desk solution with ITIL integration
How long will an ITIL project take?
ITIL is not a "project"; it's an ongoing journey to improve IT service management. Best practices have to be baked into everything, and they have to evolve as the enterprise evolves. With IT staff buy-in, changes can begin once staff are trained, and some results should be apparent within weeks or months. Process changes do take time, however, as entrenched bad practices are rooted out and modified (and, potentially, staff changes occur), but many companies have reported substantial savings after their first year.
To get a better idea of what it will take to adopt and implement ITIL, you can browse through case studies on the Axelos website. Recent case studies include companies like Sony and Disney — two companies with massive IT operations to manage.
What savings to expect?
Corporations and public sector organizations that have successfully implemented ITIL best practices report huge savings.
For example, in its Benefits of ITIL paper, Pink Elephant reports that Procter and Gamble saved about $500 million over four years by reducing help desk calls and improving operating procedures. Nationwide Insurance achieved a 40 percent reduction in system outages and estimates a $4.3 million ROI over three years, and Capital One reduced its "business critical" incidents by 92 percent over two years. After three years of ITIL implementation, forest products company MeadWestvaco claimed to have eliminated more than $100,000 annually in IT maintenance contracts and recognized a 10 percent gain in operational stability thanks to ITIL.
Other criticisms include the fact that it’s impossible to plan for every failure, event or incident so it’s not an exact science. In reality, you won’t know the exact ROI on ITIL until you implement it within your organization and use it effectively. Ultimately, since ITIL is a framework, it can only be as successful as corporate buy-in allows. Embracing certifications, training and investing in the shift will help increase the chances of success and savings.