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ITIL Gains, But Not Without Pains

Surveys show continuing adoption as well as persistent challenges.
Sep 21, 2007

Jennifer Zaino

As ITIL (the IT Infrastructure Library) continues to gain traction among enterprises, a number of studies are beginning to document how deploying this best practice framework is paying off — and also why its impact is sometimes less than it should be.

The IT Process Institute this week revealed the results of a survey of 314 companies about their change, configuration and release practices, to determine which are leading to consistently high and predictable levels of performance. The goal, according to the report, is to help organizations focus their ITIL implementations, process standardization and improvement efforts on these key performance drivers.

It identified seven sets of practices in this area, with the greatest gains to be seen from developing and maintaining a well-controlled build, test and release cycle. But No. 2 on the list strikes a chord, in its recommendation of the need to ingrain process into the culture.

In too many organizations, process is given lip-service, but not teeth. But those that tie adherence to documented processes and procedures to what matters to employees — rewards and promotions — are proving they mean business, and reaping the gains from that.

Other performance drivers, according to the survey, include pre-release testing, process exception management, having a standardized configuration strategy, linking change requests to infrastructure components and business services, and controlling access to production systems.

IT management best practices company Pink Elephant, in conjunction with BMC Software, recently delivered a take on where IT Service Management is headed in terms of global adoption. Seventy-one percent of the 240 respondents — who met specific criteria that included running ERP software (chiefly SAP), being responsible for ITIL strategies and holding a senior position in the IT organization — say they are implementing ITIL as a strategy.

Seventy-eight percent say the benefits they’ve gained from deploying ITIL best practice in an SAP environment include gaining process standardization (and thus removing service degradations that are caused by weaknesses in processes and human error) and efficiency (i.e. avoiding costs by removing wasteful and redundant business practices) as a result.

Relating Applications to Infrastructure

Yet despite successes, these organizations admit that it isn’t always smooth sailing. More up-front planning, getting early buy-in and involvement, increasing the socialization of issues to teams outside their regions and conducting more training, they say, would have mitigated challenges.

And challenges do exist, as noted by a survey that EMC released earlier this month. The survey shows the problems that result when companies attempt to move to best practice frameworks but lack appropriate insight into application and infrastructure relationships.

The survey found 66% of IT managers in western Europe are implementing ITIL, but are struggling to relate applications to the underlying IT infrastructure, and so continuing to have problems meeting service level agreements and analyzing the root cause of problems.

Only 34% believe their IT system management is running on a proactive level, and 31% of surveyed respondents said they still need to conduct manual analysis of where IT problems originate, despite the fact that they receive “too many” warning alarms.

Yet the ITIL express is full steam ahead, according to IT service management vendor Axios Systems. This month Axios released an international study that it says shows growing support for the ITIL best practice framework from both the IT community and board-level decision makers. Over a third of IT professionals have already adopted the ITIL framework, while another third plan to roll out the framework within a year, the survey says. That compares with the findings of a similar study last year that found that 57% of companies did not formally use the ITIL framework.

What’s the reason for the uptick? Seventy percent of respondents said ITSM has improved the way IT supports the business, and better business service from IT, process alignment and a higher level of customer satisfaction were deemed to be key drivers.