IT Vendors Need to Make ITIL ActionableThe vendor community needs to step up and make its products ITIL friendly, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist John Long of IBM.
ITIL does this by providing recommendations, or best practices, for managing the way IT provides services to the rest of the organizationmore simply put, IT Service Management (ITSM). The idea is to approach IT the same way you would the rest of your business, with a defined set of processes. In that sense, ITIL is a terrific starting point.
Imagine if the only cooking youve ever done consisted of heating up soup. One day, youre charged with preparing a fancy five-course meal for a party of 10. Now imagine that the only reference material you have on hand is a book on throwing dinner parties.
This book does have some useful information in it. It tells you, for instance, what kind of wine to serve with what kind of main course. It provides definitions of the various types of appetizers, salads, side dishes, and desserts. It even contains a chapter on etiquette that describes the proper way to set a table.
Unfortunately, theres not a recipe to be found in the entire book. Nothing to tell you what ingredients you need to prepare a single entrée, much less five.
Do you have the right items in your pantry or do you need to go to the store? Even if you happen to have the ingredients you need, how do you put it all together? Do you have all the necessary cooking utensils? What measurements do you use?
You might have learned how to arrange silverware properly, but as for the meal itself, you wouldnt even know where to start. Youd be completely lost.
IT professionals looking at ITIL often feel the same way. Great information, great suggestionsbut how do I implement these processes? How do I prescribe them to my own unique IT environment?
Because, when you think about it, thats all ITIL really is: a set of books that provide a lot of good recommendations. These books (seven in all) cover the topics or disciplines that define the practices and terminology of ITSM, and include some high level best practices. But none of them provide you with a list of products that cover applications management and where to get them, for example.
None of them tell you if your existing service support infrastructure will mesh with the set of service delivery products your organization is considering purchasing. None of them tell you how to use system management tools to carry out ITIL processes.
ITIL itself does not actually tell you how to implement any of the processes it defines, nor does it tell you the tools and technology you need. Remember, it is a set of high-level recommendations. Useful recommendations, no doubt, but its only a framework, a starting point.
But figuring out how to implement ITIL processes shouldnt be the burden of customers alone.
This is where IT management software vendors need to step up. Vendors love to extol the virtues of ITIL and declare their products ITIL compliant or ITIL based. Often, a service desk vendor will make it appear that their product is the process.
But they should be backing up those words by mapping their product portfolios to specific activities and tasks within ITIL processes, so customers can understand ITIL processes in the context of the systems management tools they are using. This helps customers know, for example, which products they can buy that will help them put an ITIL-defined security management process into practice.
But it cant be as simple as slapping labels on products. Vendors should be providing explicit, detailed instructions for implementing their products in a way that ensures that customers can take full advantage of the benefits of ITIL. VARs (value added resellers) and Sis (systems integrators) should get into the act too.
Providing a how-to guide for prescribing specific actions for ITIL helps fulfill the promise of ITIL, and makes it more than just a set of books. But the onus is on IT management vendors, not customers alone, to figure out how to do that.
Thats the recipe for success.
John Long is ITIL process architect for IBM.