Spring cleaning: ITIL gets an update

A growing roster of IT shops are using the best practices spelled out in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library to ensure they are employing technology in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

But since ITIL's last release in 2000/2001, IT has changed considerably. On May 30, 2007, an updated version of ITIL is set to be published. This refreshed version is an evolution of the framework rather than a complete rewrite: materials, training and projects implemented with previous versions are still valid. However, by getting up to speed on the refreshed standard, IT organizations may improve service quality and save additional resources.

ITIL's new version

ITIL was started by the English government's Office of Government Commerce (OGC). Cooperating with the OGC are a number of organizations and individuals across the Americas, Europe and Asia who have volunteered their time to write and guide the development of the core ITIL books in the refresh. Participants include Aspect Group, Accenture, Carnegie Mellon University, ConnectSphere, Foxit, Guillemot Rock, HP, Items and Pink Elephant.

The new edition of ITIL takes the form of five core books and a number of complementary supplements. And because ITIL Version 3 embraces a service life-cycle approach, all the books are organized using a wheel analogy.

Surrounding the best practices at the hub are topics such as service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement.

The outer layer of the wheel includes information that helps IT customize deployment of ITIL's core principles, depending on environment, economic conditions and organizational strategies. It includes case studies, certification-based study aids, governance methods and ITIL practice working templates.

Each core volume will provide guidelines on how ITIL can be used to resolve specific challenges. For example, the service-strategy core book provides information on considering in-sourcing, outsourcing and multisourcing as part of an overall service-management strategy. On the same topic, the service-design core book discusses delivery models for outsourced, cosourced and shared services.

One key difference from previous versions of ITIL has to do with deployment management. Readers will find best practices for upgrading and rolling out new software, and Version 3 also details best practices for automated installations.

Another key area that has changed is the look at high-level strategy. In past versions of ITIL, for example, service management was seen as something that only people who work for the CIO would be interested in. With Version 3, this topic is elevated in importance. Having a sound strategy can create added value to the business, and C-level executives will find this to be a beneficial read in helping them understand how best to align IT to their business.

Organizations concerned about implementing standards other than ITIL - such as Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT) Version 4 - can also rest easy knowing that ITIL Version 3 will be built with alignment with other frameworks in mind. In the case of COBIT Version 3, for example, the refreshed ITIL features a Web-based deliverable that provides mappings between the two standards.

ITIL Version 3 also emphasizes event management. It is covered in greater detail, with best practices for monitoring and maintaining network resources, infrastructure components, catching problems before they can manifest themselves.

The concept of self help is tied to event management. Research showed that most events IT must respond to are not only problems, but requests. ITIL Version 3 makes a distinction between trouble events and request fulfillments, and provides guidelines for IT to create self-help Web sites.

ITIL Version 3 builds upon the teachings from previous versions and does not rewrite them. As one of the most heavily adopted and nonproprietary best practices guidelines for IT, ITIL is the catalyst that enables IT to align itself with, and not get in the way of, overall business strategy. The best practices are designed to cover numerous systems and situations, and therefore have longevity.

Wheeldon is HP's director of service management, and Cannon is HP's IT Service Management Practice principal.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.