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Just Do IT(IL)

Waiting for a consensus to start your ITIL initiatives? Don't bother. You really don't need one.
Jul 21, 2006
By

Drew Robb





ITIL is certainly catching fire. Forrester Research reports that 13% of corporations with revenue exceeding $1 billion had adopted ITIL by the end of 2005. By late 2006, that will have expanded to 40%, then to as high as 80% by 2008.

Plenty of CIO’s therefore, are going to be shopping the idea around in their enterprise in the hopes of gaining the backing of top management and line-of-business heads (as well as the budgetary support to pursue their ITIL objectives).

But what about in those shops where consensus falls on deaf ears, where corporate priorities dictate a grueling uphill struggle to implement the principals of ITIL?

Well you can take heart from the case of MyFamily.com, a company specializing in family histories based in Provo, UT.

“Instead of building consensus, we just implemented ITIL processes internally,” said Eric Martineau, vice president of Web Operations at MyFamily.com. “Now that ITIL is working, the various line-of-business heads are coming to me to see how they can use its framework to solve their most pressing issues.”

MyFamily.com operates a collection of related websites that include Ancestry.com and Geneology.com. It has about 22 million visitors a day—from 50, 000 to 100,000 at any given moment. That means half a GB of bandwidth is continuously being devoured. A total of 4000 mostly blade servers are stationed at three data centers in the vicinity of Salt Lake City. These provide 400 TB of searchable and indexed data.

Most (2500) of these are deployed in a grid environment. One, for example, is dedicated to the 1930 census. If it fails, another blade is configured automatically and takes over without any loss of data. Meanwhile, a technician is notified to fix the faulty blade.

Yet, when Martineau arrived at the company a little over two years ago, he felt that many of its IT processes were weak. "I am a process-type person, so I know 95 percent of inefficiency is the system, not the employees.”

After studying up on ITIL, one of his early actions was to reorganize the IT department. He then looked for vendors that could assist him in his process-improvement endeavors. He assessed twenty to thirty software companies and reports that only a few could do what he wanted.

“I was looking for an Enterprise IT Management (EITM) suite, not best of breed,” said Martineau.

That led to his adoption of CA's EITM, which consists of a help desk, an IT management system known as Spectrum and eHealth, a tool that looks at faults on the network. These tools are also integrated with change and asset management modules.

“CA helps us fill the process holes we had in the various quadrants of the ITIL model,” he said. “The right tools give people extra abilities.”

He cites the example of being able to remotely load software on other machines. This has done away with the necessity of having someone on the ground supporting call center terminal servers and other functions. Instead of loading those servers manually, he now pushes changes out from the data center.

MyFamily has also pooled all its monitoring tools into a centralized, automated ticket environment. In one instance this helped reveal that one system was actually going down as many as 50 times a day. IT staffers had gotten used to its idiosyncrasies and rebooted it constantly. Martineau spotted the issue via his centralized management console and has now fixed the problem.

“Technicians were joking about this faulty system but hadn’t bothered to mention it to me,” he said. “The good news is that a lot of incidents are now being tracked via ITIL and we have a heightened ability to recognize the actual problem. Without ITIL, we would struggle to correlate what might appear to be (un)related issues.”

Own Back Yard

When Martineau began his ITIL initiative, he didn’t see much value in pandering to the other business heads to gain buy-in. He knew he needed to get his own house in order so as to demonstrate the value of ITIL in a way that was uncontestable. “If you put in place the processes and procedures, others want to be part of it.”

He started at the help desk since MyFamily's 500 call center employees were using a trouble ticketing system that wasn’t functioning well. The combination of ITIL methodologies and CA Help Desk brought more efficiency to the call center.

Now that the help desk is running well, the call center executives have asked for help with one of their big problems—credit card theft. “Clearly, ITIL is spreading outward into external systems due to its effectiveness in IT,” said Martineau.


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