|Stuart D. Galup|
As other parts of the world embrace the ITIL framework, here in the United States, we've paid little attention to this set of best practices, which begs the question: Why should a U.S. IT manager pay attention now? One important reason is that your organization may need to follow ITIL if it wants to do business with other organizations.
What is ITIL?
ITIL is a descriptive approach to managing IT services. It is the framework that was used to develop the international standard for information technology service management. There are 300,000 ISO 9000 certified companies worldwide, and organizations that do business with companies expect partners and sub-contractors to be ISO 9000 certified. The recently established standard, ISO/IEC 20000, goes hand in hand with ISO 9000 and organizations expect the information technology services of their partners and sub-contractors to be ISO/IEC 20000 certified.
ITIL and Microsoft Operations Framework
If your IT operation is a Microsoft-dominated environment, then ITIL may affect your day-to-day operations in the form of Microsoft Operations Framework, or MOF, a prescriptive approach to managing IT services. Microsoft designed MOF to complement Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) for solutions and application development. When combined, they provide guidance throughout the information and communication technology (ICT) life cycle.
Here are the three MOF foundation elements:
Several fundamental principles of ITIL affect the day-to-day delivery of IT services. For example, the process and quality management focus of the framework follows the plan-do-check-act method of continuous improvement. When approaching the management of IT services using this method, the organization must develop work strategies (plan); execute the strategies (do); define, capture, and analyze metrics (check), and make decisions as needed to improve the IT services based on the metrics (act). As the saying goes, There is no finish line…in the process of improving services.
The Process Model is a blueprint of the processes used to manage IT services and overlaps the ITIL framework. The Team Model supports the Process Model by providing guidelines for organizing employees into teams or role clusters. The model describes key activities within each role cluster. The Risk Management Model integrates proven risk-management techniques with the overall framework.
One of the most challenging aspects of the day-to-day delivery of IT services is deciding the appropriate method to start the adoption and use of MOF. An underlying management issue for Microsoft-dominated IT organizations is the proliferation of servers throughout the organization. Managing servers in geographically diverse settings is an onerous task. Organizations typically embrace MOF because their IT servers are not stable, resulting in disruptions to normal business operations. Or, their environment is stable but needs to be more efficient.
When an IT environment is not stable, typically we would introduce a service desk and an incident-, problem- and change-management approach. Successfully implementing these processes into your environment will stabilize IT services.
There are many challenges associated with this approach. For instance, incident management uses lines of technical expertise to detect and resolve an incident. These lines include technical personnel throughout the organization. Getting technical personnel to actively participate in this process can often be difficult. Some will say they are too busy or "It's not my job." Others may believe that the new approach is simply the latest fad.
If your environment is stable and your objective is to be more efficient, then an often cited challenge is to develop a service catalog. Deciding what constitutes an IT service and clearly describing the service is a daunting task.
Getting started with ITIL and MOF
The best way to get begin is with the free MOF Self-Assessment Tool located on Microsoft's Web site. It guides you through the development of a detailed problem-and-impact analysis of a targeted IT service or operational process. This tool helps you do the following:
Success with MOF is a matter of how well you perform the processes.
Better understand the effectiveness of the IT services and processes in your organization Define a specific problem or opportunity regarding your IT services and/or processes Identify a variety of follow-up actions based on information you provide
Dr. Stuart D. Galup (D.B.A., Nova Southeastern University) is an associate professor of computer information systems at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Certified Computing Professional and is certified in ITIL. He has held a number of senior information technology positions and holds a U.S. patent. Galup has authored more than 45 academic publications and two books.