Last week I referenced a 2004 Enterprise Management Associates study of 48 IT managers where 71% of the participants had begun to use the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL. This growth trend is not limited to internal IT organizations. Many IT outsourcing service providers have adopted or are in the process of adopting ITIL.Some organizations are including ITIL as a requirement or at least a differentiator in RFPs as they select service providers. I would love to hear about your experiences if you have an ITIL-in-outsourcing story, whether in the procurement process, implementation, or ongoing operations. Service providers are welcome to comment as well.ITIL is a customizable framework of best practices that promote quality computing services in IT. ITIL addresses the organizational structure and skill requirements for an IT organization by presenting a comprehensive set of management procedures with which an organization can manage its IT operations. It was first developed in the late 1980s by the Central Communications and Telecom Agency of the U.K. government.ITIL is essentially a series of books that can help you implement a framework for IT service management, and it covers areas such as incident management, problem management, change management, release management and the service desk.ITIL is not just an effective tool for managing internal IT processes. It can also serve as a framework for managing the relationship with an outsourcing service provider. One of the main benefits of ITIL is that it aligns IT initiatives to business goals and ensures that technology is used to effectively support the business. The discipline that comes from implementing ITIL can better tie together individual IT functional teams and all of IT to the business units supported. This same discipline can benefit outsourcing relationships by:* Providing a common language for both client and service provider staff.* Outlining problem management, change management, and service-level management (SLM) objectives for both client and service provider.* Having everyone on the same page procedurally, leading to time and cost savings.* Ensuring that the requirements of the business process are supported by the structure of the outsourced relationship.* Providing a way to benchmark service levels based on service-level agreements (SLA).While SLAs are common in outsourcing relationships, oftentimes too much focus is put on the negotiations of price and service levels to outsource things as they have always been done. Bringing ITIL best practices into the outsourcing relationship can cause organizations to rethink the organizational structure of their internal teams and how IT functions align with the underlying needs of the business for IT support.Defining the right alignment between IT and the business needs can change the required IT resources and systems, which can change the needed services from the outsource provider. Better to have the best understanding up front of what is needed before you jump into pricing, contract and service-level negotiations. ITIL best practices also benefit the outsourced relationship in the day-to-day interactions among the internal IT staff, the internal business client and the outsourcing staff.I would like to remind you again that EMA is conducting its third annual survey on the subject of SLM acceptance. This survey assesses trends in the level of adoption of SLM and related best practices. It is an important mechanism for tracking trends in the adoption of service-based management for IT. Please take a few minutes to participate at our Web site.Results will be shared in an upcoming column.