What ITIL Really Meansposted by John Spacey, November 29, 2012
ITIL is an approach to managing IT as a quality service.
It includes a detailed set of practices for IT strategy, design, implementation, operation and continual improvement. As with any complex framework, there's a danger of becoming lost in the details.
The following back-to-basics ITIL definitions may serve as a useful executive overview.
ITIL That Terrible 4-Letter Acronym
ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library.
It would be difficult to dream up a name that's more incomprehensible. It's an unfortunate name for a framework that's all about delivering business value by making IT more business-friendly.
Generally, IT doesn't have a great reputation for service. Business satisfaction with the value of each dollar spent on IT tends to be low.
To put it another way, if IT were a hotel, it would have 2-star service at 5-star prices. That's how business sponsors typically feel about IT.
The goal of ITIL is to improve IT service and efficiency. In other words, IT should have 5-star service at a 2-star price.
IT Service Management
ITIL is considered an IT Service Management framework. Just like a 5-star hotel, these frameworks are designed to manage people, process and tools to deliver service excellence at a reasonable price.
The only difference is that managing an IT organization is far more complex than managing a hotel. For one thing, IT has to be responsive to ever changing business strategy, goals and objectives.
ITIL isn't the only IT Service Management framework. However, it's the most widely deployed. Globally, hundreds of organizations have been ISO 20000 certified (an organizational certification related to ITIL). Millions of IT professionals have been ITIL certified over the years.
ITIL describes procedures, tasks and checklists for managing IT services. These are divided into 5 core areas:
ITIL Service Strategy
Before a hotel can provide 5-star service, it needs a strategy. What will be the theme of the hotel and restaurants? Will the hotel have a spa?
IT is the same. Service Strategy defines the services an IT organization will offer using a market-driven approach. Value definitions and business cases are developed for each service.
Service Strategy is an ongoing activity that's driven by business strategy and continual improvement best practices.
ITIL Service Design
Before a hotel can open it must design its services. What time is check in? What level of security is appropriate?
ITIL Service Design is the design of IT services and underlying technologies in an ongoing activity driven by service strategy.
All service design activities are coordinated. Activities include development of a service catalog and service level agreements. A number of processes are involved including capacity, availability, service continuity, supplier and security management.
ITIL Service Transition
Before a hotel can open its building must be constructed and services must be deployed.
ITIL Service Transition is the build and deployment of IT services. This includes planning, change management, configuration management, release management, testing and change evaluation. A knowledge management process is used to retain and effectively use information.
ITIL Service Operation
Now comes the fun part. When a hotel opens operations begin. All good intentions to provide excellent customer service are useless without effective execution. The customer reviews start to pour in. A hotel's business model depends on these reviews.
ITIL Service Operation seeks to provide the agreed upon level of service to customers and end-users. In this context, customers are the business sponsors of the services and end-users are the people who use the services.
Service operation processes include event, incident, request, problem and access management. A service desk provides a single point of contact for users who have a request or problem.
As with all ITIL areas, service operation is a continual process.
ITIL Continual Service Improvement
ITIL defines a continual service improvement process that seeks to improve process efficiency.
ITIL Isn't Everything
ITIL is an extensive, useful framework for providing high quality IT services. However, it's not everything. It's intended to be integrated with other IT processes, activities and functions such as enterprise architecture.
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