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"Safety" Tips for ITIL-Based Service Support

Start with the basics when implementing ITIL, writes ITSM Watch columnist Michael Tainter of Forsythe.
Feb 1, 2007

Mike Tainter

ITIL-based IT service management (ITSM) has gained in popularity over the past few years and has become known as the de facto standard for how IT organizations operate. And, because it touches every corner of the organization, ITSM is a tremendously powerful discipline.

Of course, its wide-reaching nature also means that certain “safety” measures are needed to ensure that changes made are not just band-aids waiting to fall off. Once you have decided to adopt ITIL in your organization, it's important stop and ask the following questions so you can avoid common pitfalls:

  • What are this organization’s current business attitudes and expectations for IT;
  • At what maturity does our IT organization need to be;
  • How do I quickly turn theory into practice; and
  • What IT services do my business customers really need?
  • In answering these questions, the following must also be considered:

  • Are all of my IT processes optimized for delivering these IT services; and
  • Is my IT organization and tools effectively enabling and monitoring the IT processes we utilize to deliver IT services?
  • Most organizations wisely start with their support processes — Incident, Problem, Change, Configuration and Release Management. Prior to gaining any momentum toward increased maturity, these processes must be developed. To this end, the following “safety” tips are provided:

    Process Development

    Define your process methodology: A well-defined process model has many layers. Take the time to define all the layers of process that will be developed and apply that model to all processes to ensure consistency.

    A well-defined process model includes the following:

    Process– The overall activities or elements required to meet the objectives of the process.

    Procedures– Detailed steps to follow for each of the process activities. Using Incident Management as an example, a detailed set of procedures would include all of the following steps: logging, classification, assignment, resolution, escalation, and closure.

    Work Instructions– Detailed tasks to be performed at the lowest level, such as how to open a ticket. This is where process meets tools.


    Conduct roles/responsibilities workshops: ITIL defines various roles and responsibilities for each process. These roles/responsibilities should be clearly defined as part of your process model so each person has a complete understanding of their role in the process.

    Create checks and balances with your roles: Some of the processes do not lend well to being filled by one person. The service support processes have built-in checks and balances and combining these roles tends to create confusion and removes the checks and balances.


    Start by creating a technology roadmap: Identify tools that are built on ITIL best practices. Today, tools are friendlier toward integration, which allows organizations to succeed in creating an integrated tool strategy.

    Couple your configuration design with your process development: If you design your configuration in conjunction with your process development, alignment is much likelier and easier.

    Incident Management

    Make the service desk a single point of contact: One of the most detrimental causes of inconsistent support is customers calling second- and third-level support personnel directly and not logging the incident appropriately. This practice does not allow for enhancing service desk personnel's skill sets and takes away from the ability to assign incidents correctly and take advantage of maintaining a history of incidents.

    Log every incident at the service desk: By taking advantage of this best-practice, organizations can start to see trends in order to appropriately align problem management techniques to address recurring incidents.

    Simplify incident categories, impacts/priorities and completion codes: Having too many categories for incidents causes the service desk agents to log the incident incorrectly, which prevents consistent assignment.

    Additionally, priorities and impacts should be assigned based on unique criteria (i.e., service criticality and outage severity). Well-defined completion codes will also allow for other processes such as problem and change management to sort incidents in a manner that allows for effective analysis.

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