Best Practices for IT Service Management

How do you quantitatively measure the value of IT services to your organization? “I can’t” and “I don’t” are not the answers your CEO is looking for. Adopting best practices for IT service management (ITSM) ensures that you know the value of IT services and:

  • Increases user and customer satisfaction with IT services
  • Improves service availability, directly leading to increased business profits and revenue
  • Provides financial savings from reduced rework, lost time, improved resource management and usage
  • Improves time to market for new products and services
  • Improves decision making and optimized risk.1

Organizations following best practices typically go through a long, hard transition period for these reasons:

  1. Time/effort/cost to become knowledgeable in best practices
  2. Time/effort/cost to develop details on your processes, policies and procedures
  3. Time/effort/cost to select and implement toolsets to support IT Service Management (ITSM).

There is also a high risk of failure in part due to the costs and difficulty of implementing a toolset to support ITSM.  Good toolsets exist but care must be taken to find one that is a good fit for the organization.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) represents the leading source of best practices available for IT organizations to follow in order to achieve service management goals and objectives.

What is ITIL? 

ITIL is a public framework that describes best practices in IT service management.2 There are other sources of best practices but since its creation over 20 years ago, ITIL shines as the de facto standard for best practices in IT service management. ITIL V2 was released around the turn of the century and included seven books providing guidance on the following IT business processes:

  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
  • Change Management
  • Configuration Management
  • Availability Management
  • Release Management
  • Service Level Management

ITIL V3 was released in 2007 and it elevated the focus from efficient operation of business processes (e.g., do more with less) to the alignment of IT goals with organizational business goals.  Organizations proficient in ITIL V3 will be able to manage the lifecycle of all its services from strategy through design and transition to operation and continual improvement.

Why Is It So Hard to Implement ITIL? 

There are many reasons (excuses) for not adopting best practices including inertia (“we’ve always done it this way”); lack of management acceptance; feeling overwhelmed by all the information (ITIL V3 expands coverage from 7 to 14 different processes to manage within the Service Lifecycle); lacking belief in the benefits available; inadequate toolsets to monitor and measure progress; and more. IT organizations that have achieved success through adopting ITIL practices can usually attest to long, painstaking projects to adopt and understand the ITIL framework, defining goals for achievement, developing process steps for their operations, and evaluating and selecting toolsets to support service operations.

The traditional way of adopting best practices requires a lot of time, cost and effort.  However, by taking a different approach, you can implement ITIL in a matter of weeks and immediately begin achieving a return on your investment.

Start with the Software Selection

IT Service Management providers always require toolsets to automate operations and to measure and report on the value of their services.  You would not be able to follow best practices without using a toolset that best supports your goals and objectives. Therefore, by first selecting the appropriate toolset, organizations can immediately benefit for these reasons:

  • Once successfully implemented, ITIL service management toolsets will immediately start to provide a return on your investment. This ROI comes from increased efficiencies, reduced rework, etc. All ITIL approved toolsets provide OOTB functionality following ITIL guidelines that provide opportunity for improving operations.
  • Organizations that are”‘ITIL naïve” will gain knowledge and education of best practices during the process of selecting the appropriate toolset.
  • Using best practices is an ongoing process. ITIL provides for continual improvement.  The core of ITIL V3 is the Service Lifecycle. The Service Lifecycle is an approach to IT Service Management that emphasizes the importance of coordination and control across the various functions, processes and systems necessary to manage the full lifecycle of IT services.3 The Service Lifecycle is described in a set of 5 publications:
  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service Operation
  5. Continual Service Improvement

Therefore by following best practices, you must strive to improve. Your toolset should provide you with capability to improve ROI over time by further streamlining and automating Service Management.

ITIL Approved Toolsets

Software vendors offering toolsets for IT Service Management seek a “stamp of approval” from an independent source to gain credibility on their ability to support the ITIL framework. Pink Elephant (www.pinkelephant.com) provides this stamp of approval by certifying software vendors through their PinkVERIFY™ program. According to Pink Elephant’s website, toolsets are objectively assessed by experienced consultants with the highest level of ITIL certification. Toolsets that meet a set of mandatory and integration process requirements are licensed to use the PinkVERIFY logo. Pink Elephant currently lists 22 toolsets offering ITIL V3 approval and 30 toolsets offering V2 approval. Toolsets are listed in order of the number of ITIL process areas covered by the toolset (14 process areas for V3 and 7 process areas for V2).

Buyer Beware

The good news is that many successful toolset implementations exist.  The bad news is that there are also many failed implementations. Toolsets have a reputation for being expensive and hard to configure or make changes, or inexpensive but not having the functionality (or approvals) desired. Therefore, you must carefully select a toolset that fits your organization. Besides the PinkVERIFY program, independent information on toolsets exists from industry analysts such as Gartner Group, Forrester Consulting and Butler Group.  Forrester recently released a paper that documents a successful ITSM toolset implementation that followed a failed implementation of a competitive tool.  A copy of this paper is available at www.excaliburdata.com/Forrester.asp.

In summary, we believe companies of all sizes will benefit by following best practices for IT Service Management and using a toolset that can support their desire to make IT service an asset to the business. We recommend starting with the selection of the toolset to expedite your ability to reap the benefits.

End Notes:

  1. An Introductory Overview of ITIL® V3, itSMF Ltd, 2007, p. 8.
  2. IBID
  3. ITIL® V3 Foundation Handbook, TSO 2009, p.8.

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About Robert Pentuk

Bob is a consultant for Excalibur Data Systems, Inc. Excalibur provides IT and ITIL® consulting services. Bob has 15 years of experience working with ITIL® toolsets and helping companies to automate IT service management.  Bob can be reached at pentuk@excaliburdata.com.

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