The third version of the IT Infrastructure Library – better known as ITIL v3 – recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. For the uninitiated, ITIL offers IT shops a standard framework of best practices for handling day-to-day operations and processes such as incident management, problem management and service desk. Periodically, ITIL is updated to reflect the current trends among IT shops; the updates to ITIL v3 reflect the current trend of taking a lifecycle approach to IT services – from requirements gathering and development to deployment, maintenance and, eventually, retirement.
Recently, we sat down with David Cannon, author of the Service Operation book in the ITIL v3 library. When he's not drafting ITIL books, Cannon serves as the service management practice manager at HP and as the president of the U.S. chapter of the IT Service Management Forum (ITSMF), an independent member-focused association dedicated to promoting best practices in IT service management.Has v3 proved popular among ITIL practitioners?
David Cannon: While I don't have numbers regarding ITIL v3 adoption, there is a tremendous amount of interest in it. I'm hearing this anecdotally through my involvement with the ITSMF as well as from HP customers. What kind of organizations have adopted ITIL v3?
Cannon: ITIL is effective at both small companies and large companies, though for different reasons. Small companies use ITIL to define different roles an IT person may have to play in the context of IT service management. Large companies use ITIL to get disparate groups communicating – speaking the same language, if you will. Drivers are different too; for big companies, it's compliance such as SOX [Sarbanes-Oxley], ISO [International Organization for Standardization], etc. Small companies want to use ITIL to increase their competitiveness and improve their processes. What are the biggest differences between ITIL v2 and v3?
Cannon: One of the biggest changes in v3 is that there's more executive visibility in terms of ROI. In v2, typical ROI goals were around things like saving money and minimizing or preventing downtime. Those two ROI goals have a negative connotation. Saving money means that IT had been overspending for the past 10 years; and the idea of preventing downtime means that IT supports the business by preventing things from going bad. In v3, ROI is defined as contributions to the business strategy; yes, the goal is certainly to optimize costs, but also to help grow the business. Yes, IT wants to avoid failures, but IT also wants to expand functionality as well. How is IT affected by this shift to a more business focus?
Cannon: The IT staffs at organizations that adopt ITIL v3 are less focused on technology; they are more focused on the business and the business outcomes, and linking those back to the technology. There will always be a layer of technology managers whose main focus is technical, but the number of those people overall will decrease. Is ITIL v3 the only reason for this shift to a business focus?
Cannon: No. Data center consolidation and virtualization are also changing the roles of technical people. Managing workloads effectively and ensuring the delivery of services require more than technical skills. Data center people need to be able to analyze business patterns and tune systems – they need the ability to manage workloads and not individual devices. Increasingly, IT is providing services to end users and also directly to end customers.