Revitalizing ITSM with a new ITIL framework

With the excitement of a new version of ITIL (IT infrastructure library), there should be a resurgence of interest in ITSM (IT service management) as well.

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IT service management (ITSM) is nothing new. However, it is still the proven approach for ensuring the right processes, people and technology are in place for the IT department to support the business. The IT infrastructure library (ITIL), which was originally developed in the 1980s (with updates to the framework in 2001, 2007 and 2011) is commonly the de facto framework for implementing ITSM. This year, ITIL is expected to get enhanced, with a new version of the framework and best practices being published.

I am excited to see a new version issued and to be a part of the AXELOS Global Research Programme. While I do not anticipate this version to be radically different than the current 2011 version, I do expect we will see enhancements to some processes and new integrations with other frameworks.

While the future of ITSM is exciting, I find the current state of ITSM within most organizations disappointing. There are many firms that have not truly committed to ITSM/ITIL and therefore do not reap the framework’s full benefit. Although thousands of IT organizations have adopted parts of the ITIL framework, few have leveraged it well outside of infrastructure and operations teams that use it for operational processes that support the service desk or technology teams. Formal processes such as incident management, problem management and change management are the most commonly implemented.

If an organization expands the guidance of ITIL, service asset and configuration management, release and deployment management, and capacity management are the most frequent ITIL next steps. A configuration management system/configuration management database provides significant value in understanding what IT assets exist and how they relate to the services provided to the company. This information can also be leveraged to significantly reduce risks by understanding the impact one IT device has on everything else. 

Still, many of the higher-level ITIL processes, such as demand management, business relationship management, service level management and financial management for IT services are not properly leveraged or integrated. The thing that frustrates me the most is that a majority of larger organizations perform these processes in some fashion anyways, but rarely is it understood that these are also ITIL processes. If implemented properly these strategic processes can be integrated into the rest of the process framework implemented within the IT organization. This results in  much better service to the customer. The processes and activities therefore are not integrated properly into the service management program, resulting in “gaps,” fragmented value, lost efficiencies and failed expectations for the IT department.

There is so much more to garnish from the framework when ITIL’s extensive inventory of formal definitions are linked with all the other processes and activities within the IT group. For instance, ITIL can help the organization establish a baseline from which it can plan and implement. It can be applied by an organization for establishing methods of communication within the business and to ensure the IT department is supporting business expectations and requirements. ITIL will ensure integration between IT and the organization's business strategy. It can also help IT maintain a minimum level of competency, demonstrate compliance and measure improvement during digital transformation.

In the last few years, the ITIL framework has come under some scrutiny as organizations look for ways to better serve their customers. There seems to be a growing belief that an IT organization needs to shift to Agile and/or devops to be responsive to the business and leverage these practices instead. For the organizations that have not realized the full magnitude of the ITIL framework and its ultimate purpose, I can see why some turn towards alternate methodologies. However, ITIL was never intended to be used in isolation, or without other practices such as PMBOK/PRINCE2 and COBIT. Agile, devops and Lean are not replacements for ITIL to provide quality, nimble IT Service to the business. Quite the contrary, many of the practices like devops are supported by ITIL practices such as change management and release and deployment management. 

This year should be an interesting year for ITIL and ITSM. AXELOS, which is commissioned to oversee the ITIL best practices on behalf of the UK government, announced last fall that there will be an update to ITIL this year. The update is expected to keep the core components of ITIL and will also include practical guidance on how ITIL is adopted in conjunction with practices such as devops, Agile and Lean.

ITSM is also seeing significant growth in its application to organizations outside of IT.  Called enterprise service management, the ITIL best practices can be applied to all sorts of groups that require workflow management such as human resources, facilities, customer service and legal. Vendors such as ServiceNow are expanding their product presence to support workflows for these group like they have for IT service desks.

With the excitement of a new version of ITIL, a strong push by platform vendors to expand their ITSM reach, and a better understanding on how ITIL can support other frameworks such as devops, I expect there to be a resurgence of interest in ITSM and ITIL and hopefully an improved relationship of corporate back office organizations with their businesses.

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