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Making the Business Case for ITIL

Jun 4, 2009

Erin Casteel,Anthony Orr

As a result of adopting this approach, the company consolidated service desks from one for each of 25 countries, into a single service desk for the entire company and adopted a company-wide change process. Such ITIL-driven improvements led to a 30% reduction in mean time to repair (MTTR) and a 60% reduction in unplanned outage time that had an impact on users. The company realized savings of $11 million in change management costs alone.

Help IT Run More Efficiently- You can improve operational efficiency by following ITIL guidance related to examining your processes and objectives and identifying targeted areas for improvement.

For example, the IT department of a major utility company initiated a program to build an enterprise-wide IT strategy based on ITIL. By centralizing its service desk, the utility company reduced its support costs from $89 per hour to $57 per hour and reduced the time to deploy desktop and laptop changes by 75%. The company also is focusing on increasing self-service, improving call routing, and refining other processes. These operational efficiency changes not only help the business perform better, but also help the customer profit from the improvements.

To achieve this operational efficiency, ITIL recommends that you set clear goals, define a process improvement road map, and not expect to fix everything at once. At least annually, you should develop a business case for future activities on the basis of the results from prior and current activities. Determine the ROI and value on investment (VOI) so far, as well as the anticipated ROI and VOI of future improvements. You’ll need to prioritize projects according to what will create the most business value.

Adapt More Quickly and Easily to Ever-Changing Business Conditions- Agility also is important for today’s corporations. The business must be able to respond quickly to changing conditions to remain competitive. ITIL's process of release management, for example, makes it possible to successfully manage the release of software and hardware into the environment. A mature release process, combined with automation, can reduce the implementation time of a software release from weeks to minutes, while also reducing error rates.

Following ITIL guidance on service portfolio management, which helps you to prioritize projects on the basis of their importance to the business, also can help you improve your agility. You must provide the right mix of services and adapt the mix when business conditions change.

Become More Proactive - Why wait for something to break when you can anticipate problems and prevent them from happening? The degree to which problem management and availability management processes are proactive can reveal much about the maturity of the IT organization. The goal of ITIL problem management is to prevent the occurrence or minimize the impact of errors, incidents, and problems in the IT infrastructure. Typical problem management activities include identifying, investigating, and eliminating or minimizing the problem by addressing the root cause or developing a reasonable workaround.

When an organization first implements a process such as problem management, it should focus on the reactive aspect of the process. This is because 20% of problems are generally responsible for 80% of system degradation. Eliminating that top 20% of problems will significantly improve stability, reduce downtime, and improve documented knowledge, thereby enabling incident management to resolve future incidents more quickly.

As the problem management process matures, you will have increased opportunity to focus on the proactive aspects of the process, such as trend analysis. It’s possible to reduce the number of incidents by 50% or more through preventive action. The proactive aspects also allow the business to understand and be more responsive to the needs of its customers. This will reduce downtime and support costs while improving productivity and customer satisfaction.

Improve Communication With the Business and Within IT - The single biggest issue every organization seems to identify is communication—or rather the lack of it—both within IT and between IT and the business. This lack of communication can result in duplication of effort, poor decision-making, higher risk of failed changes, and poor alignment between the business and IT.

Traditionally, IT organizations have become accustomed to thinking about organizational structure in terms of “silos”, departments, or functional areas. Communication, organizational collaboration, and teamwork break down when information doesn’t flow easily from one area to another. ITIL processes cut across multiple areas, using resources, information, and people to achieve a specific goal.