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Rightsizing Your ITIL Implementation

Service level management drives business alignment, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Frank Bucalo of CA.
Jan 11, 2008

Frank Bucalo

As ITIL acceptance and adoption continues to grow with the release of version 3, more and more IT managers are realizing that they need to figure out how to successfully plan, implement, and manage ITIL across their organizations.

Unfortunately, ITIL is abstract, representing concepts, vocabulary, taxonomy and ideas. Your implementation must be concrete, so no one can provide an end-to-end ITIL implementation “in a box.” It requires serious commitment from your executives and a candid self-assessment of IT, the processes in place, and more importantly, how IT and the business work together. Many IT managers lack the real-world ITIL experience necessary to overcome the adaptive cultural and organizational changes throughout their ITIL journey.

My experience in leading and participating in successful ITIL initiatives over the last five year, has led me to conclude that three principles, in particular, are essential for optimizing returns on any investment in ITIL implementation. They are:

  • Define a business-driven roadmap. This will help to ensure that IT aligns with business requirements.
  • Stay flexible and be creative. Don’t allow developers, tools, or dogma to pre-maturely constrain your implementation approach.
  • Using a top-down, phased approach, design your implementation to be as simple as possible, but meet business requirements. Focus first on the “low hanging fruit,” those locations that have the highest business value per ITIL implementation dollar spent.
  • Applying these principles quickly brings focus to your implementation, enabling you to demonstrate immediate value and continue your route through the ITIL journey.

    But many IT managers have difficulty figuring out where to start. This can be made a bit less intimidating when one realizes that just about every IT organization already has many ITIL-like processes in place. Instead of seeing themselves as starting from scratch, ITIL leaders should consider what is already in place, the level of formalization and maturity they have already achieved, and the level they want to reach. After all, ITIL is not a destination it is a journey with phases of successively greater formalization and process improvement.

    The Importance of SLA

    Since ITIL’s primary purpose is to improve service management, I recommend focusing on SLAs (service level agreement) and service level management during the initial phase of an ITIL project. This helps ensure that the project places a priority on delivering services that are important to the business. By definition, the SLA is the primary output of the service level management process, providing the negotiated business requirements from which all other ITIL processes derive their “rightsizing.” IT organizations that already have SLAs in place should review them as part of any initial ITIL effort.

    Unfortunately, SLAs often don’t exist or lack sufficient detail. ITIL recommends that SLAs contain the following sections:

  • Service Description
  • Service Hours
  • Service Availability
  • Reliability
  • Customer Support
  • Targets for Incident Resolution (Fix) times
  • Service Performance
  • Functionality (if appropriate)
  • Change Management Procedures
  • IT Service Continuity
  • Security
  • Charging (if applicable)
  • Service Reviews
  • Organizations that don’t have formal SLAs in place or have SLAs that lack sufficient detail should perform what ITIL refers to as “detective work.” This detective work involves the review of current business practices and artifacts in order to derive the implied services and SLA components. The formulation of this pro forma SLA then provides a basis by which ITIL implementation can proceed.

    The SLM Discovery Process

    IT organizations must also look across the entire IT environment to compile a list of services. A single pass through each of the areas below will generate a list of candidate services and a skeletal SLA for each. Reviews can then be done with service consumers (including customers, partners, and employees) to formalize and detail the services being managed.

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