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Getting Started with ITIL

Getting started with ITIL may seem daunting but you may be farther along than you think, writes ITSM Watch columnist Michael Tainter of Forsythe.
May 24, 2007

Mike Tainter

More and more IT organizations are beginning to adopt ITIL-based IT service management initiatives, and turnout at national, regional and local events on the subject keeps growing. Yet, one of the main questions on people's minds is, "Where do we start?"

In order to get going, the business and the IT organization must be aligned in pursuit of common goals. An ITIL initiative is a long-term methodology for providing quality services that enable the business to gain a competitive advantage. Executive leadership within IT must embrace the benefits and sell the idea to the business.

Educating the Organization

The first step is to ensure that senior IT leaders develop a solid understanding of the activities that comprise ITIL and of what ITIL adoption accomplishes. Candidates for training should be selected carefully; each person who attends training should be a respected leader with the ability to make things happen.

When people use multiple methods to understand a new concept, they tend to retain the content longer, with a more detailed understanding. Too often, organizations decide to attend training in place of reading the books. It usually works best to start by reading the books that make up the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

Attending training after reading the books allows people to ask challenging questions of the instructors so they can apply ITIL in their specific organization. Better understanding tends also to create greater enthusiasm for and dedication to overcoming the challenges ITIL adoption presents.

Next, this core group can begin imparting their ITIL knowledge to others in the organization so all start to “speak the same language.” Workshops and education sessions are effective ways to promote excitement (and thus reduce resistance to the changes ITIL adoption requires).

You know you are successful when you start to hear "hallway chatter" about the benefits of ITIL.

Establishing a Steering Committee

A steering committee is necessary to lead the organization through the ITIL adoption. At the core of ITIL are Service Support and Delivery processes that will fundamentally change the way IT delivers its services to their customers.

Assign leaders to take on the role of process owners and challenge each with gaining a detailed understanding of his or her process and its integration with all the other processes. As with any initiative of this scale, sound leadership and guidance is critical to its success. Experience demonstrates that such leadership must be ”top-down” versus “bottom-up.”

Assessing Process Maturity

The next step is to assess your organization's maturity using the ITIL best-practices as your guide. The Service Support and Service Delivery books contain a list of the activities for each process. Process owners should create a list of these activities to use as a guide to determine how the IT organization is executing against them.

Maturity level is measured through the use of a maturity model; such as 0 = No process in place, 1 = Initial or identified process, 2 = Repeatable, but not documented, 3 = Defined and documented, 4 = Measurable and 5 = Optimized, you can identify and document any gaps that exist in an assessment report.

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