In most organizations, a service, in its simplest definition, is a set of actions that need to be performed to deliver specific outcomes to a customer. From the perspective of the customer, the interest and focus is purely on the outcome and not on the method of performing the actions, (understanding the method behind the actions) or the risks involved in performing the actions.
When dealing with IT services, it’s up to the IT department to figure out how to set up, manage and deliver the IT services. The IT department needs to figure out the activities, methods, processes, risks, policies, and other details required to deliver the customers desired outcomes.
For IT departments, service delivery must be based on a set of standards and best practices. These standards and best practices (frameworks) are enshrined in ITSM or IT Service Management.
As such, ITSM focuses on the processes, activities, and policies that organizations use to deploy, manage, deliver, and improve IT service delivery. Delivery of these IT services must be aligned with business needs and in a way that helps both individuals and organizations realize business transformation and growth.
Organizations commonly use a predefined set of standard processes and best management practices (a framework) to facilitate a disciplined approach to ITSM implementation.
Today, there are several predefined ITSM standards and frameworks used. That said, the de-facto and most notable one of them all is ITIL (earlier known as Information Technology Infrastructure Library).
What is ITIL?
ITIL is the most recognized ITSM best practice with a framework that defines specific processes and functions focused on effectiveness and efficiency within the Service Lifecycle. ITIL was introduced in the 1980s through the U.K.’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) and is currently owned by AXELOS which is a public/private venture. Revisions to the original ITIL were subsequently done in 2001, 2007 and 2011. ITIL 4, the fourth revision of the ITIL framework was released in February 2019. Currently held ITIL certifications held by ITSM professionals will continue to remain valid even after the release of ITIL 4. The certification scheme includes different courses:
- ITIL Foundation
- ITIL Managing Professional
- ITIL Strategic Leader
- ITIL Master
ITIL 4 revolves around value creation, rather than just delivering services. It also emphasizes more on continual improvement and talks about the four dimensions of service management – Organizations and people, Information and technology, Partners and suppliers, and Value streams and processes. In addition, it introduces the ITIL service value system (SVS), which discusses how different components involved in service delivery will help co-create value for customers. In other words, it will elucidate the significance of collaborating different practices and working in unison towards delivering value, rather than working in silos and optimizing internally. On the whole, ITIL 4 continues the process to lifecycle transition with value creation at its prime focus. ITIL incorporates both the improvement of existing IT services and the deployment of new ones. Its cost-effectiveness and quality-driven approach to IT service delivery makes it the center of ITSM while other standards and frameworks are considered compliments to ITIL.
How ITIL benefits an organization’s IT services
ITIL’s emphasis is on supporting the creation and delivery of IT services based on the organization’s specific objective and needs within the scope of its customers, business, and industry. The ITIL framework is, therefore, a set of non-prescriptive processes and adaptable best practices for ITSM.
Consequently, countless organizations across all verticals experience the intangible and tangible benefits of ITIL. Depending on the specific industry or business that you focus on, different benefits can be identified. That said, in general, the main advantages of adopting ITIL are as follows:
Ensures that the quality of IT services matches customer expectations and needs
ITIL Service Level Management process is used to:
- Define specific and measurable IT service goals,
- Understand to best monitor action towards the goals,
- Measuring and reporting
- Identify corrective action opportunities.
Ensures that customers can use IT services whenever and wherever they are needed
ITIL Availability Management process is used to:
- Plan service resilience and recovery,
- Analyze issues relating to service unavailability
- Drive continuous service improvement.
Ensures organizations can improve customer satisfaction by building and maintaining positive business relationships
ITIL Service Level Management and Business Relationship Management processes are used to leverage best practices, thus enabling teams to manage and better understand customer expectations.
Ensures that organizations maximize value for money from their service providers
ITIL supplier management process is used to:
- Ensure that contracts with suppliers are optimized to support customer agreements
- Manage and measure supplier performance
Support the marketing and consumption of an organization’s IT services
ITIL Service Catalogue Management process is used to:
- Streamline the request process
- Improve communications
- Help customers understand and relate IT services provided to business outcomes or services they receive
Allows organizations to benchmark their IT services and maximize ROI
ITIL Service Portfolio Management process is used to map customer requirements to the investment needed to build and deliver IT services that customers want and need all at the most optimal quality and cost.
Allows organizations to demonstrate and quantify the actual value of the services they provide
ITIL Financial Management process is used to:
- Deliver financial stewardship
- Demonstrate improved governance over investments
Allows organizations to forecast, influence, and respond to demand IT services in a cost-effective manner depending on fluctuating demand situations
ITIL Capacity Management and Demand Management techniques are used for:
- User modeling and profiling
- Creating differentiated service levels and off-peak pricing, to provide optimal capacity, and to aptly manage fluctuating demand situations.
Allows organizations to minimize IT service disruption
ITIL Problem Management and Incident Management processes are used to:
- Develop effective workarounds
- Quickly restore services
- Run and track blameless major incident reviews
- Investigate and eliminate root causes
- Prevent disruptive incidents from reoccurring.
Allows organizations to manage business risk of IT services
ITIL Capacity Management, Availability Management, Information Security Management, and IT Service Continuity Management Processes, are used to identify, prioritize, and manage opportunities in IT service improvement
Supports business change at a pace that is comfortable to support customer needs while ensuring a low-risk and stable environment
ITIL Change Management process is used to respond and adapt to change in an agile manner while optimizing business risk and minimizing the severity of disruption to customer business processes.
Ensures that the organizations and customers are not adversely affected by unexpected IT service failures
ITIL IT Service Continuity Management process is used to align business continuity plans with service continuity plans to reduce risk to service levels and to implement tested service recovery strategies to meet customer requirements.
ITIL Best Practices
The ground rule for running ITSM efficiently (and by extension ITIL) is knowing and understanding who does what. As such, within the five core ITIL Customer Service Lifecycle Modules, you will find roles assigned to different processes and functions within each stage. Therefore, specific ITIL best management practices are based on the various processes within each of the five Customer Service Lifecycle Modules.
For example, in the Service Design Module and Continual Service Improvement modules of the ITIL Customer Service Lifecycle, you have Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Basically, SLAs define what the customer and IT service provider should expect when contracting a service. SLAs should, therefore, be created alongside all specifications for new or updated services.
That said, a few examples of best management practices for IT service SLAs in an ITSM environment are as follows:
- A separate SLA should be created for each measurable IT service
- SLAs require periodic review and adjustment
- SLAs should always be fair, enforceable, and realistic.
- SLAs should account for unusual and usual exceptions
- SLAs must be quantitative and measurable
- SLAs must be authoritative and well researched
How to master your ITIL skills?
There are five different levels in the ITIL certification scheme, and these include the foundation, practitioner, intermediate, expert, and master levels. AXELOS oversees accreditation of training providers around the world. To master the skills of ITIL, it is essential not only to take up the ITIL certification but also to apply the knowledge, techniques, and tools on the job. Below are some useful ideas that will allow you to master the skills of ITIL.
- Train and complete the certification to learn how to apply ITIL techniques, concepts, and tools
- Gain proficiency in the ITIL concepts with the ITIL Practice exam.
- Apply the new ideas and best practices that you have learned to your workplace in order to facilitate desired customer outcomes.
- Apply ITIL terminology in the workplace and communicate more effectively
- Reflect on and compare the training versus real-life application of the ITIL techniques, concepts, and tools. Also, gather feedback, opinions, and suggestions from other ITIL professionals.
- Join/gain membership into the international ITIL community to get ready advice and guidance when necessary
- Strive to achieve recognition for your expertise from your peers within the ITIL community and outside the ITIL community
- Gain more confidence and mastery by using the ITIL best practices to make positive changes to the job and industry of choice.
- Improve your job position by proving your value to employers and differentiating yourself from other professionals through your expertise, experience, and skills.
Cover image by Sharmila