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ITIL and Process Development

Good ITIL practices start by clearly defining process, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Mike Tainter of Forsythe.
Nov 10, 2006

Mike Tainter

A developing trend in the IT industry today is the adoption of the best-practices contained in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). The information contained in the volumes of ITIL is beneficial for any IT department that desires to enhance the quality of its service to the business. However, adopting ITIL poses a unique challenge for many IT departments. Not so much in its interpretation, but more so in its application.

While ITIL best-practices are defined in detail, the piece that is missing is how to apply the best-practices. And yet the path to effective adoption of ITIL is not just through the use of the best-practices, but by applying sound process development techniques.

IT departments have always been required to write processes in order to provide their services to the business. The trouble with this is IT departments’ skill sets are not necessarily geared toward process development. Their skills are centered on technology and the ability to keep that technology available to their customers.

Yet, ITIL is all about designing the layout of the activities in an easy to follow process. No small task considering that IT departments are busy managing the infrastructure that supports the business 24/7.

Per the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute's (SEI) capability maturity model (CMM), a good process is one in which the following criteria exist (this also equates to the process’s maturity):

  • Level 1: Properly defined.
  • Level 2: Repeatable.
  • Level 3: Documented.

    Listed above are only the first three of the five maturity levels; these are the targets for creation of a process from definition through documentation. To achieve Level 4 (Managed), organizations must institute a governance structure to manage the process to ensure it is producing the desired result.

    To achieve Level 5 (Optimized), the process must be reviewed and validated by external sources to determine if it is meeting desired goals and identifying areas for improvement. Even though CMM defines the maturity for the processes, it does not delineate the components of a good process model.

    Taking process development a little further, a mature process model must contain the following:

  • A defined mission statement for each of the processes, along with beneficiaries, process owners, scope and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • A communication plan to all users and stakeholders of the process. Every person that executes a procedure in the process, every recipient of an output of the process, and every initiator of an input to another process must be aware of the process flow and its components.
  • Defined roles and responsibilities for each person that executes a procedure within the process.
  • Clearly identified inputs and outputs for each of the processes, to allow for seamless integration and enablement.

    A mature process model also contains procedures and work instructions for every process. Procedures are the activities that must be performed to enable each process. They also define the role(s) responsible for performing those activities.

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