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ITIL -The Business Perspective Approach

By Ken Turbitt The pressure is mounting for technology organizations to measure the real ways their departments are adding value to the business at every level.
Aug 29, 2005

ITSM Watch Staff

By Ken Turbitt

The pressure is mounting for technology organizations to measure the real ways their departments are adding value to the business at every level. That's why so many people have anxiously awaited the release of the latest book in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a framework for best practices in IT Service Management.

The book, Business Perspective: The IS View on Delivering Services to the Business, is published by the Office of Government Commerce, and focuses on the importance of managing IT resources from the perspective of what is important to the business. It helps technology organizations to connect with the people they serve by understanding the drivers and issues and responding to business needs.

This book reminds us that we are all part of the business and should all be working to achieve business objectives and goals. It offers guidelines for managing relationships and interfaces at all levels. It discusses how one of the biggest challenges is maintaining alignment of Information Systems' (IS) services with the business requirements. This involves developing an understanding of people and culture, the processes, the technology that supports the processes, and the relationships and priorities of suppliers, partners and vendors.

Many important guidelines make up the business perspective approach. Two key concepts - the need to have IS align its own organization with itself and the importance of determining the business impact of IS activities - are particularly critical. The right technology can support these efforts.

IS must get its own house in order - and then focus on aligning with the business
IS has historically been made up of fractional IT groups, each attending to its own technological areas and tasks. For example, the network group looks after the network, the database group maintains the databases, the systems administrators manage the servers, etc. More often than not, these functionally siloed groups can have minimal interactions with each other, let alone with the business.

What causes this functional isolation? The book points out that different teams use different tools, often with little or no process integration and with little or no sharing of information between the tools. To address this concern, IS should facilitate process integration and information sharing within its own organization.

Once IS is aligned with itself, the organization can focus on aligning with business objectives. This includes making sure that IS shares information with the business and understands its requirements. When this type of communication exchange doesnt take place, the results can cause problems.

For example, the book cites what can happen when a major system failure results in corrupting data during certain business transactions. The first reaction from IS, if this information hasn't taken place, might be to take the system offline to fix it. But this action could jeopardize the business.

Why? Because the business would rather carry on and delay the repair until the weekend, even knowing that certain transactions could be impacted. The only way IS can understand this priority, and respond appropriately, is through understanding business requirements and priorities. In this case, IS processes will need to be developed that knowledgeably address when a server or system should or should not be taken offline.

Listen to issues from the business community to connect with them and understand the things that change with time. Listen, look, learn and act. For example, the book explains how, as a service provider, IS should do a thorough job of understanding the services it provides and the IT people, processes and technologies that are required to deliver the agreed levels of service.

To manage from a business perspective, the IS staff must be involved in the development of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with the business to ensure that requirements can be measured and are appropriate. It is through the effective use of SLAs that IS can identify those services that are most valued.

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