Government Technology has a long piece explaining ITIL, the framework of IT best practices created in the UK, and why it's only just now catching on in the US. ITIL, or the IT Information Library, is a series of 10 volumes that address service delivery and support across numerous disciplines. It was developed in Britain in the 1980s and by 2000, GT writer Chad Vander Veen writes, "virtually everyone in western business and government were rapidly implementing ITIL. Everyone, that is, except the United States." Why not in the US? ITIL consultant Rob Roy tells the story of American IT:
The IT department saved the world with Y2K. They did such a good job, people thought the whole thing was smoke and mirrors. Then in 2001, we had an economic downturn and business was looking for places to cut. For years IT had been the fat cow. Well, people started asking, 'What have you produced? What is a cost-benefit analysis?' IT couldn't answer -- so they started to get cut. So IT had to find ways of doing with less but producing more -- the same thing every other department has had to worry about.
ITIL is making solid gains here, though. ZDNet Research recently found that 73 percent of IT organizations "are in various stages of implementing the framework. In just two years, a general lack of awareness has leap-frogged into implementation, although only 1 percent have reached the highest level of maturity." News about ITIL is even popping up on MSNBC.
And NASCIO included ITIL as one of the four successful frameworks public IT shops should look at.
Among the states, Virginia and Wisconsin have taken the lead with ITIL. The Virginia Information Technology Agency, which supports some 90 state agencies, implemented ITIL to standardize on best practices. Here's VITA's Chris Saneda:
ITIL makes things visible to us in terms of incident management. We have a single point of contact, which is a best practice of ITIL. That point of contact follows up with every call they receive to ensure that the problem has been resolved to the customer's satisfaction. I'm not sure it's unique, but it is a best practice we've implemented here. And it's taken over our help desk and improved it tremendously. I think customers see a tremendous turnaround in our practices.
In Wisconsin, CIO Matt Miszewski was charged with both cutting IT costs and improving service as IT services moved to a centralized agency. ITIL provided the answer and the shift wasn't particularly painful. "ITIL gives us a way to deliver on that promise. And instead of being a radical change, ITIL is much more of a nod to the things we were doing right and understanding we can always improve those things. We found that we were doing about 70 percent of the management best practices in ITIL, but we just weren't doing them in a cohesive way."
Bottom line, Venn writes, is that ITIL "is almost certain to become the method for operating IT in the future. Aside from the books, ITIL is free, it's scalable, it saves money and it's interpretive. For those reasons, every organization -- both public and private -- should be clamoring to understand the best practices of ITIL."
Learn more about ITIL at the IT Service Management Forum in Chicago in September.