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How to hit pay dirt when overhauling IT processes

IT managers share tips for deploying ITIL and other best-practice frameworks.

By , Network World
September 20, 2007 06:47 PM ET

Network World - CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There are plenty of reasons to streamline IT processes using best-practice frameworks such as the IT Infrastructure Library. But that doesn’t make it any easier to do.

"You hear a lot of people talk about how standardizing processes and adopting best practices in IT is just common sense. And it is,” said Rafael Rodriguez, associate CIO of academic and infrastructure services at Duke Health Technology Solutions, part of Duke Medicine in Durham, N.C. “But it's hard for me to follow a good, healthy lifestyle. It's not because I don't know what to do, [but because] it requires cultural change and that can be the hardest thing to effect."

Rodriguez was among a number of IT managers who spoke this week at the itSMF USA Fusion 2007 conference, where close to 2,000 attendees gathered to hear how companies such as Mary Kay Cosmetics, General Motors and Wells Fargo made IT service management improvements happen in their environments. Here are some of the lessons these companies learned along the road to success.

1. Get upper management support. It’s a common refrain, but the need for support from upper management is critical in a project that could involve nearly all aspects of IT. Until a new, supportive CIO came on board, David Farris said for five years he hit a cultural roadblock with management and staff while working to get ITIL processes in place.

"A single ITIL champion cannot succeed alone," said Farris, who is manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, in Riverdale, Md. To keep momentum on such a project going, champions must "spend time and effort to convince and motivate others to participate,” he added.

2. Tie best practice adoption to specific business goals. Configuration management meant nothing to business leaders until Joseph Kennedy explained that adopting better processes around this IT discipline would ensure applications at State Street in Boston were available when needed.

"I had to take everything I know about the technology and translate into something relevant to the business," said the vice president of technology architecture and R&D. "The discussion became about resource improvements, fewer outages, more transparency and better responsiveness from IT to the business."

The same goes for Steve Moore, technology leader at Mary Kay Cosmetics in Dallas, who said explaining to business managers how consolidating systems, applications and processes would streamline IT operations wasn't as effective as telling them how the move to better processes would enable Mary Kay to more quickly open a location in Bangalore, India, for example.

"The business is growing fast and having a master version of the truth would make it easier to bring other locations on board and keep them standardized globally," Moore said.

3. Tailor best practice adoption. Duke Medicine's Rodriguez said IT shops can fail at rolling out best practices when they focus on accomplishing all the goals associated with ITIL or CoBIT and lose sight of goals specific to their organization.

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