Opinion: Who says you can’t get ITIL out of the box?

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Opinion: Who says you can’t get ITIL out of the box?

Reduce consulting, speed implementation, and facilitate documentation with out-of-the-box solutions.

What has always been seen as the biggest drawback to implementing ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)? It’s the time and effort required to create, build, and document ITIL processes. With modern software, however, it is now possible to dramatically reduce the time spent producing those ITIL processes.

That’s because software is now designed specifically to deliver the processes contained in the ITIL. This lets you decide how much customisation you want to perform, assuming that you even want to perform customisation. After all, it’s quite logical to use service management software to meet the ITIL best practices because developing software has always been about automating processes.

You may have good reason to be skeptical when you hear about an out-of-the-box solution for implementing ITIL processes. You’ve likely heard about organsations that were disappointed with what they found (or didn’t find) inside the box. Perhaps you even experienced the disappointment yourself, discovering that the technology you purchased didn’t integrate with other elements of your infrastructure, or that it wouldn’t map to processes you wanted to keep. Or, you may have trained your staff on ITIL, but they may not fully understand their roles in the ITIL processes.

While ITIL provides guidelines for processes, a successful implementation requires the harmonic convergence of those processes with the other two components of the IT environment — people and technology. To use an automobile analogy, to reach a planned destination (business objective) requires the harmonic convergence of a roadmap (processes), a vehicle (technology), and a driver (people). Even if the roadmap is accurate, the vehicle must be capable of making the journey, and the driver must be knowledgeable in a variety of disciplines, including map reading and driving. If any of these are lacking, the destination may remain far away and elusive.

Demystifying What’s Inside the Box

To implement ITIL successfully, you must address all three components of the IT environment — people, processes, and technology. That may seem like quite a challenge, but take heart. Technology can help you achieve successful ITIL implementations.

Of course, technology alone cannot bring you the entire distance. There are still tasks left up to you. For example, you have to determine the implementation sequence best suited to your particular environment by deciding which ITIL processes to begin with, based on your most pressing needs. And you may have to personalise the solution to your particular environment.

Remember, most organisations are not starting from scratch - they will have invested in some processes and applications. What the out-of-the-box solution will deliver is integration and automation to speed the implementation or transition.

Advances in the IT service management arena are simplifying ITIL implementation in much the same way advances in personal computer technology simplified the deployment of desktops and laptops. In the early PC days, very little was included in the box. To get a PC running, you had to grapple with a primitive operating system and an arcane command-line interface. There were no install shields or wizards to guide you.

Today, PC operating systems, peripheral devices, and applications are well integrated. You supply personal preferences, e-mail account information, local network and Internet access information, and a few other details, and the computer is ready to go.

IT service management technology has advanced in the same way. Today’s solutions implement key ITIL processes — as defined in the ITIL Service Support area — right out-of-the-box. By addressing vital process, technology, and people components of ITIL, they give you a substantial head start on ITIL implementation. These new solutions reduce the need for consulting services, shorten implementation cycles, and eliminate excessive process design and documentation efforts. As a result, you can accelerate your progress towards ITIL adoption while driving down IT costs, increasing IT efficiency, and advancing business goals.

Ask the Right Questions

The solutions vary considerably in their ability to address ITIL, so you should approach your selection of a solution with care. You want to choose the one that will put you on the fast track, bringing you farthest along the ITIL path in the shortest amount of time. Key things to look for “in the box” include built-in ITIL process automation; a configuration management database (CMDB), or configuration management system (CMS); integration across IT disciplines; and the ability to address the people component of ITIL. The secret to success lies in asking the right questions when you compare solutions.

The most important question you need to ask in your evaluation is this: does the solution align with ITIL, and does it use ITIL processes, language, and naming conventions? The naming conventions include the ITIL definitions of IT disciplines: incident management, problem management, change management, release management, configuration management, service level management, and service desk function.

Probably the easiest way to confirm that a solution is compatible with ITIL guidelines is to look for PinkVerify certification from leading ITIL consulting firm Pink Elephant. PinkVerify is the only certification program worldwide to recognize software that supports the definitions and workflow requirements of specific IT management processes such as ITIL.

Also ask whether the processes are built in. ITIL out-of-the-box calls for three essential capabilities: definition of roles and responsibilities, specification of process flow, and implementation of a CMDB (or CMS). An out-of-the-box solution predefines the roles involved in the processes, along with the responsibilities of those roles. All you have to do is define the access rights and permissions necessary for the individuals assigned to execute the processes.

A process consists of one or more connected activities (or tasks) that make up the process lifecycle. Each activity requires input, and its output becomes the input to the next sequential activity. An out-of-the-box solution specifies the process flow for the standard, documented processes defined in the ITIL guidelines, and moves and manages each process though its lifecycle. Such a solution also defines the individual best-practice activities that make up each process. That involves specifying the work instructions and establishing the parameters for controlling process flow, such as service level agreement (SLA) parameters.

Ask if the solution has a CMDB. The CMDB is the heart of any ITIL implementation, making automatic implementation of a CMDB an absolute must for any solution you seriously consider. An out-of-the-box CMDB means you have only to populate the CMDB with the data describing your organisation’s IT environment. Some solutions simplify CMDB population with discovery tools that capture information, record it, and keep it updated by regularly scanning the environment and recording changes.

The CMS is more than a database - it will have a reconciliation engine within to allow for rules-based filtering and concatenation of the configuration items brought in from the various collection and topology tools, integration methods – like federation – and reporting facilities, or dashboards. In short, this is a complete system to manage configuration items. BMC Software introduced this to the market with the BMC Atrium CMDB.

Does the solution integrate IT disciplines? One of the key themes of ITIL and a critical requirement for out-of-the-box implementation is process integration. To achieve process integration, a solution must integrate the IT service management applications that support the ITIL processes at both the data level and the process level.

A CMDB provides the foundation for integration at the data level by providing a shared source of data about the IT environment. It also provides a point of integration for applications at the process level, enhancing your ability to drive automation and increase efficiency.

For example, integration of the change, release, and configuration management applications permits implementation of a closed-loop change process that encompasses all phases of the change lifecycle, from request and planning to implementation and verification.

Years ago, we searched for the best word processor, and then the best spreadsheet, and then the best calendar and also the best presentation tool. The problem was that they did not integrate across these disciplines, so we now look forward to using office suites for that integration. The same logic can be applied to using service management software rather than numerous niche products.

How does the solution support the people component? Although a solution can’t take care of all people issues, it can help considerably by defining the roles of the groups involved in ITIL processes so that all you have to do is supply the names of the people in each group.

For example, in the escalation process, you supply the names of the people at the various escalation levels to permit automatic routing of problems to the appropriate people. In the change process, you supply the names of the people authorized to approve and implement changes based on the type of change requested. This permits you to track who authorised each change and when, and who implemented each change and when it was done. This detailed level of change tracking is essential for regulatory compliance. Some solutions guide the user through the steps of various processes, in essence, providing training on ITIL processes.

What You Can Expect

The days of hype are over. The right solutions can address the process and technology components of ITIL, as well as key portions of the people components. They define ITIL-based roles and responsibilities, specify process flow, provide process integration, and create a CMDB or CMS. As a result, these solutions significantly reduce the effort required to implement ITIL. With these advanced solutions, you can get a substantial head start on your ITIL implementation, so you can move up in process management maturity while driving down costs, increasing efficiency, and bringing added value to your enterprise.

Ken Turbitt, best practices director for BMC Software, has broad experience in best practices management, IT, and consulting. He has held an ISEB ITIL Manager/Masters qualification for more than 12 years, and has been a Gartner-qualified TCO consultant.
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