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ITIL Training for the Technically Challenged

You don't need a math degree to get ITIL, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Linda Donovan of BMC Software.
May 15, 2007

Linda Donovan

There are many right-brained people out there who find themselves working in a position that requires technical expertise. I’m one of them.

Just the thought of taking a mathematics or science class in college sent me into a state of panic. However, I decided that if I wanted to continue to work on projects about the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), I better take an ITIL foundation class and get ITIL certified.

The good news was that the course did not have anything to do with science, and I could delegate the math-related activity to math wizards in the class. The class provided practical information about how to manage IT from a business perspective. We learned that people, processes, and technology need to be aligned to the business goals. In our class, the goal was to run a profitable airport.

Taking Care of Business

The class included a three-day overview of ITIL processes, exercises related to managing IT from a business perspective and a final test on content. My favorite activity was the Airport Simulation exercise. This activity gave students a chance to understand what it really means to implement have IT and business goals be the same.

ITIL was, obviously, at the heart of this approach, which entails managing IT from a business perspective. During this exercise, we monitored onscreen how much money our airport was making or losing based on decisions we made related to IT.

Our class was divided into groups of people from IT and the business, where we each assumed different roles. Our job was to solve IT problems effectively so flights could take off on time and our airport could make money. If we didn’t have adequate processes in place, and if we failed to ask the right questions, we would lose money.

Ironically, I was assigned to work with two other people as a technical services expert. It was not unusual to have three or four problems hit us at the same time, but we had a “budget” to hire consultants if we knew that we needed assistance.

A classmate assigned to the service desk would send my team a trouble ticket. We then looked up information in relevant class guidebooks and applied our newly learned skills to find the right question and solve Mensa-like math problems for closing trouble tickets.

Bad Start

We failed miserably the first round and shut down the airport. In fact, by the second round, our cumulative loss was nearly $250,000, our mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) was over 16 minutes per problem, and availability was less than 45%. That is no way to run an airport—even an imaginary one.

What did we do wrong? For starters, we didn’t talk to the business. We thought we were working on solving the right problems, only to learn we sometimes asked the wrong questions.

We were handling tickets as they came in, and they were not always based on business priority. For example, we treated the airport terminal’s catering availability with almost the same sense of urgency as a threat to the control tower: What were we thinking? We didn’t always keep the help desk informed of ticket status. With each mistake, we could see how much it was costing the company.

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