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Why U.S. Navy is Standardizing IT Strategy Around ITIL

Apr 3, 2009

Dave Perera

Ashore IT infrastructure isn’t the only area where the service has found ITIL beneficial. Components of the Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM) started using it about two years ago in its ship-to-shore communications, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dave Purkiss, an ITIL advocate who works for NETWARCOM's readiness directorate. ITIL has allowed the Navy to standardize what once were different IT management procedures across NETWARCOM’s major shore communication stations covering the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, he said.

Before, a ship or crew crossing from one region to the next would be met with different sets of prioritization schemes for incident management, Purkiss said. Very often, a single person would manage incidents from start to finish and “that lack of specialization created a lot of inefficiencies,” he added. The tracking methodology for outages was just paper messages on desks. Demand for a standardized framework to better manage incidents came from the ground up, Purkiss said.

At the same time, it proved difficult at times to get Navy personnel to embrace ITIL, which carried a reputation as a corporate strategy and which seeks to make decisions cost efficient. Military personnel think in terms of combat readiness and “it’s hard to put a cost value on a pound of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence,” Purkiss said. "The balance sheet is what’s difficult. The cost sheet is easy, but the return on that investment is the hard part. That’s what we’re struggling with, Navy-wide,” he added.

There’s only so much individual components can do to resolve that problem, Purkiss said. At some point the major commands or the CIO will need to create a strategy for service prioritization and make the hard decisions of how to match costs to combat readiness. “It has to be both a top down and a bottom up approach – one without the other is not a recipe for success."