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ITIL: The Prelude to Flexible Performance

Apr 18, 2007

Atwell Williams

Human nature is to respond first to the incident that was reported first, and the priority for incident resolution thus becomes “first-in/first-out.” Or, prioritizing incident resolution might rely on the service desk technician’s instinct to gauge one incident as being higher priority than another. But, would the business agree with the technician’s decision?

In the absence of a process that enables IT to categorize and prioritize incidents based on the business impact of the event, it’s a free-for-all at the service desk. Without the right incident management structure and process in place, incident resolution most likely will not be in “concert” with the needs of the business.

Consider, for example, that an incident at a banking institution causes ATMs to fail, and at the same time, in a separate incident, the systems fail at the bank’s branches. Both incidents are recorded in the operations center, virtually simultaneously.

In the absence of guidelines for prioritizing incidents, the service desk cannot reliably determine which incident should be resolved first. Should the ATMs be restored first, or is it more important to get the branches back online?

The answer depends on the priority of the incident as viewed by the business. IT needs the flexibility to shift its incident resolution efforts and focus based on which incident is considered higher priority by the business: the failed ATMs or the bank branch system failure.

ITIL defines priority as the combination of impact and urgency. While the bank branches being offline may be of greater impact, that problem is only half of the equation.

What if these incidents occurred on a federal holiday, when the banks are closed? Although the impact of the incident is still the same (i.e., the branches are still down), the urgency is low, since no one is trying to use the systems in the branches.

Conversely, the failed ATMs, while perhaps having a lower impact, have a much higher urgency since that’s the only means for people to withdraw cash.

As a result of assessing both impact and urgency, resolving the incident that resulted in the ATMs being down would be given a higher priority over the incident that impacted the branches. The flexibility created by the structured ITIL process results in the lyrical sound of cash once again being dispensed.

Flexible Capacity Management

The structure of ITIL can also improve your IT organization’s flexibility in responding to the continually changing demands for scarce computing resources.

Imagine that your business customer plans to launch a marketing campaign that will increase revenue but will also increase the traffic to your Web storefront. In the absence of a structured approach to assessing and providing for capacity needs, companies frequently are either caught off guard or over-provision their infrastructure.

Applying the ITIL capacity management principles of business, service, and resource capacity management, as well as demand management, provides IT organizations with the ability to flexibly respond to the needs of the business while doing so in the most cost-effective manner.

In jazz, “riffs” are the repeating, harmonic figures that form a structural framework for the improvisational piece being performed. Riffs keep the musicians on track within the theme. Think of ITIL process management techniques as the riffs that form the framework of your enterprise, giving both IT and business the flexibility and expression they need. Together, you and ITIL can make beautiful music.

For more information on ITIL, please visit www.bmc.com/itil.

Atwell Williams, solutions architect, Office of the CTO, BMC, has served as an ITIL instructor for the BMC Business School and is certified in the following ITIL areas: ITIL foundation, practitioner, and service manager. Prior to joining BMC, Williams was a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers.