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Integrating ITIL with IT Project Management Improves Both

Integrating ITIL processes with IT project management can significantly enhance service value, write ITSMWatch columnists Ed Rivard & Kristy Smith of Forsythe.
Nov 19, 2010

Ed Rivard,Kristy Smith

Within most organizations, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) process owners and the IT project management office find themselves disconnected and using different terminology.

While both disciplines emphasize delivering value and capabilities to IT's customers, they emphasize different perspectives. IT project management focuses on planning, organizing, and executing IT projects in a manner that ensures quality project delivery within a prescribed schedule and budget. In contrast, ITIL v3 emphasizes a service lifecycle approach, though many organizations focus their ITIL efforts on the service transition and operations phases of the service lifecycle (e.g., Change, Configuration, Incident, and Problem Management).

ITIL and project management defined

ITIL v3 is set of best practices for IT service management (ITSM) consisting of a library of five books that outline each phase of the service lifecycle: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement (Fig. 1). A key factor that sometimes gets overlooked is that the ITIL authors recognize that ITIL by itself is incomplete; it is made complete by integrating other disciplines, including IT project management.

ITIL service lifecycle

ITIL v3 defines services from the customer perspective as ”a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks” (section 2.2.1 of each the five ITIL books). This value is determined by a service's utility (fitness for its intended purpose) and warranty (fitness for use). Utility can be thought of as: "Does the service do what I need it to do with the level of effort I expect?" Warranty can be thought of as: "Is the service available, reliable, and secure to me when I need it?"

Value is compromised if a service lacks either utility or warranty.

IT project management offices often apply either the best practices provided by the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) or by the United Kingdom's Office of Government Commerce's PRojects IN Controlled Environments 2nd Edition (PRINCE2). For the purpose of this article, we'll refer to PMBOK.

PMBOK prescribes five core procedures to IT project management including initiate, plan, execute, monitor & control, and close project (Fig. 2). Unlike ITIL's lifecycle approach, IT projects have a definitive start and end date. In addition, while PMBOK emphasizes requirements identification, many IT project managers tend to focus on the functional requirements (i.e., utility, or fitness for purpose) and consider the operational requirements (i.e. warranty, or fitness for use) as the project is made ready for transition into operations.


Service Lifecycle integration

There are numerous opportunities to integrate ITIL processes with IT project management disciplines. One way to identify these opportunities is to consider the objectives and challenges associated with each ITIL service lifecycle phase during the definition, design, development, test and transition phases of projects.

Service Strategy - In the service strategy phase of the ITIL service lifecycle, organizations can easily identify the relationships between projects and services by simply identifying the services impacted by each project. This enhances the organization's understanding of the potential project impact, which helps ensure a thorough identification of the project benefits. This understanding also provides the opportunity to realize benefits such as managing customer expectations through service level management and preparing the business for the pending change through change and release management.

In addition, by managing their project portfolio investment distribution by service, IT organizations strengthen the alignment between their IT investment spend and business strategy. Managing IT investments in accordance with business services establishes the business customers’ understanding of the value they receive from their IT spend.

Service Design - ITIL's service catalog management process is relatively simple, consisting of design, develop, build and test, release and manage procedures. While the linkage to IT project management may seem straight forward, few IT projects are managed from a service perspective. We suggest that IT's opportunity to enhance their ITSM capabilities is greatest when a service perspective is applied during the IT project planning and execution stages.

By applying a service perspective and basic service level management principles to IT projects, IT organizations are more likely to consider both value attributes -- utility and warranty. Having both utility and warranty based requirements defined and documented early in an IT project helps ensure that the resulting solutions are properly designed and fitted in accordance with business expectations.

While we acknowledge that defining the utility requirements is often easier than defining the warranty factors (such as capacity, availability, security and continuity requirements) IT would benefit by having these discussions prior to design rather than after a major incident.

During the early IT project stages it is beneficial to include architectural standards for error messaging and handling. By establishing and applying such standards, organizations can improve a service's availability -- a core attribute of utility -- by reducing related incidents' mean-time-to-restore.

Engaging ITSM change, release and configuration management processes during the design phase, makes the IT project more likely to be ready for transition to operations. This readiness includes ensuring that the release management group properly designs the communications and training essential to prepare the business for the "new" functional fit. From an IT operations perspective, involvement of these core processes during the design phase enhances IT's ability to assess and design, in order to mitigate the impact and risk of the change. This allows IT operations to properly address the core warranty attributes of capacity, continuity, and security.

Service Transition - From an IT project manager's perspective, an unstable development, test, or quality assurance (QA) environment can be very disruptive. By applying change at a practical level to the various environments; such as creating change records for QA environment changes, organizations will enhance the stability of these environments.

Similarly, when IT project teams move the solution from environment to environment (especially from QA to production), occasionally the solution "doesn't perform the same." By applying configuration management disciplines to these environments, the project team will have improved information to plan and adjust their testing approach.

Both improvements enhances IT project teams’ ability to successfully meet project schedule and cost constraints.

Service Operation - A key ITIL service operation consideration is the ability to properly support the project once it is in production. Often this early support influences the business's first impression of the new or modified service's utility and warranty. We have yet to experience a project that goes into production without some outstanding known issues. Equipping the service desk with these known issues will enhance IT's ability to provide timely and accurate support. From an ITSM perspective, these known issues should be integrated into the known error or knowledge base databases, which are accessible and easy to navigate using a service desk tool.

Continual Service Improvement - Ultimately, IT projects are expected to improve service in some manner, either in utility (fitness for purpose), warranty (fitness for use) or both. By establishing a baseline of the service measures for utility and warranty (including key performance indicators and critical success factors) and then subsequently applying the same measures after a defined period of time in production (e.g., 3-6 months), the organization is able to reasonably assess the improvement contribution.

ITIL provides guidance on the provision of quality services and project management provides guidance on planning, organizing, and executing projects. Their similarities drive synergy in the delivery of projects and services by IT to the business -- and the greatest value is not realized by one or the other process, but by the integration of the whole.

Good project management processes coupled with sound application of the ITIL framework can produce maximum benefit of investment.

Ed Rivard is a managing IT service management consultant at Forsythe. He can be reached at erivard@forysthe.com.

Kristy Smith is an IT service management consultant at Forsythe. Contact her at ksmith@forsythe.com.

Project management, ITIL, ITSM, Forsythe, IT value

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