HP: ITIL helps control outsourcing

Adopting IT standards such as the IT Infrastructure Library, can help an organization better decide what functions to outsource; but customization should be minimal.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) "should be a strong requisite" for companies looking to improve outsourcing relationships, according to a Hewlett-Packard executive.

Developed by the U.K. Treasury's Office of Government Commerce, the ITIL encompasses a set of best practices intended to help organizations develop a framework for IT Service Management.

Joroen Bronkhorst, program manager of ITSM (IT service management) for HP's services business, told ZDNet Asia in a recent interview that implementing ITIL processes would translate to structuring activities in an organization. This allows the company to identify activities it can channel internal resources into and those that can be undertaken by a third-party.

Bronkhorst said: "[However] if you don't structure your processes, the challenge is you can outsource to a third-party, but you will never know if the output of that vendor is consistent with the output you're expecting because you haven't organized yourselves along the lines of the ITIL."

At the same time, the service provider that has adopted the ITIL framework can determine exactly what levels of service the client wants and how these can be measured, he said.

"If [the service provider] implements ITIL-specific processes, it knows which taps to turn to increase or decrease a service level," he explained. "You can basically show a customer how you're going to achieve a service level that you're negotiating on."

"It's not only about agreeing on service levels that are [based on] industry benchmarks, it's also showing really how you're going to do it," Bronkhorst noted. "By adding IT processes in place that you're monitoring and measuring, you're also able to show what the impact is if you make changes to an IT process within a service that you're providing."

To be successful in rolling out processes in accordance with the ITIL framework, added Bronkhorst, companies should make only "slight customizations" rather than many changes during the adoption.

"[Customers] might still want to have some slight variations, although we'd always strongly recommend [for them] not to deviate too much because you're reinventing again and you'll lose the benefit of using pre-defined material," said Bronkhorst. "That's how we try to make ITIL processes a reality, by working with pre-defined stuff."

One ITIL user, Citigroup, selected the components that were most relevant to the company and only added its own enhancements in areas that were not addressed by the industry standard.

According to Venkat Narayanan, its Asia-Pacific senior vice president for technology infrastructure, Citigroup in December 2005 adopted seven key processes under the ITIL, made its own improvements and coined the modified framework, the Process Architecture Model. Narayanan was speaking at a conference earlier this month organized by the Singapore chapter of the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF).

Narayanan explained that the financial services company added new components in several processes such as problem management, in order to ensure the framework "matched our needs".

But while the ITIL framework may be the right step for some organizations, it is not a silver bullet for every problem.

Aidan Lawes, CEO of itSMF, said at an IBM conference last month, that organizations "shouldn't get too religious about ITIL".

The framework "is not highly prescriptive" and is only one of many models such as CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) and Six Sigma to consider, he said.

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