ITIL in a nutshell

If you haven't heard about it yet you soon will. Here's the dope on the IT Infrastructure Library.
Written by Ramon Padilla, Contributor
If you do a quick search on "IT best practice frameworks," you will find no shortage of foundations and architectures on which to build your IT organization. COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology), ISO 9000 (International Standards Organization set of quality standards), CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration), and Six Sigma are just a few. Another framework which is gaining interest in the United States is ITIL, the IT Integration Library.

Developed in Britain in the 1980s, ITIL is a framework that addresses service delivery and support of IT services. Widely accepted internationally, it is just beginning to make significant inroads in the US. Privately, IBM, EDS, HP, Mead, and GM have adopted the framework. In the public sector, the governments of Virginia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma City and others have embraced the framework.


So what makes ITIL so special? The consensus is that ITIL is unique because of its strict focus on service delivery and IT operations - as opposed to general techniques for quality management or the implementation of standards. Many  folks who are involved with ITIL predict it will become the de facto standard for all IT shops in the US. One source I read recently claimed that the US andCanadian governments will soon require IT contractors to use ITIL, but I have not been able to confirm that.

What is ITIL exactly, and how do I access the library?

ITIL is a collection of best practices that has been developed into a series of eight books that run about $115 dollars each. They are:

  • Service Support: Covers the basic processes involved with supporting the enterprise, such as Service Desk, Incident Management, Problem Management, Configuration Management, Change Management and Release Management.
  • Service Delivery: Focuses on the planning and delivery of services and includes topics such as Capacity Management, Financial Management for IT Services, Availability Management, Service Level Management, and IT Service Continuity Management.
  • Planning to Implement Service Management: Covers key issues issues to be considered when planning for the implementation of IT service management.
  • ICT Infrastructure Management: As the title infers, this book covers everything about managing your telecommunications infrastructure including Design and Planning, Deployment, Operations, and Technical Support.
  • Application Management:Covers the management of applications from inception to retirement and everything in between.
  • Software Asset Management: Seeks to explain what software asset management is, why it is important and how to manage them.
  • Security Management: “This guide focuses on the process of implementing security requirements identified in the IT Service Level Agreement, rather than considering business issues of security policy.”
  • The Business Perspective: "This book is concerned with helping business managers to understand IT service provision. Issues covered include Business Relationship Management, Partnerships and Outsourcing, and continuous improvement and exploitation of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) for business advantage."

You can obtain these books at  the  Best Practice website or via Amazon.

Do you need another framework?

I have to be honest with you, every time I read about another framework my first reaction is to roll my eyes. I have been around long enough to experience many "better than sliced bread" phenomena that--if only implemented--will make my organization a superstar. And, of course, there are always an army of consultants to be hired and classes that need to be taken and certifications to achieve in order to "realize the potential" of the framework.

And in that sense ITIL is no different. You can invest the time and resources in understanding the framework to build up expertise in order to implement it (which several organizations have) or you can hire someone to help you along. Additionally, like many of the frameworks that have come into vogue before it, integrating the processes involved with ITIL takes time--usually measured in years.

Having said all that, frameworks can prove beneficial. I think there are very few if any IT organizations that have no room for improvement. Most can stand some enhancements to their operations. The tough questions are: where can we improve and how do we go about doing it? That's where frameworks are beneficial.

Personally, this framework intrigues me--partly, I guess, because it was originally written by government workers, and I intend to research it further. If you are similarly intrigued, here are some places, besides the books, that you can get information to see if ITIL is right for you and your organization:

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