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ITIL- Elegant Guidelines To Simplify IT Management

May 6, 2008
The advancement and easy availability of new and useful technologies today have enabled thousands of organizations worldwide to implement and become heavily dependent on technology for their business needs. Information technology (IT) has invaded and proved its immense benefits even in the smallest of organizations. Nowadays it is not possible to run any organization, small or big, without the use of some computer or telecom related technology. Today many organizations can easily afford to buy the necessary computers, software, telecommunications, etc, for running their businesses. But they do not understand the need for managing their IT implementation or ongoing maintenance properly due to numerous reasons, including lack of appropriate knowledge. For example, a small industry's business owner may buy a single computer initially for general use. After seeing the benefits of using computers, he may immediately decide to buy 25 more for his staff. Within a short time his business will be computerized, and very soon IT support headaches will enter the business. Using a computer may be easy, but maintaining a computer system is a complicated task. Users may suddenly experience crippling virus attacks, equipment failures, software licensing issues, data corruption, data loss, backup issues, upgrade issues, and so on. They may not be in a position to support and maintain a computer network for its smooth functioning. Overnight, a smart purchasing assistant may undergo a crash course in computer maintenance, or buy a book called 'Computer Maintenance for Dummies,' and soon will be given the responsibility for technical support of the business along with his other responsibilities. This is how IT departments start in thousands of organizations. However, this sort of approach will lead to major and uncontrollable issues later.

As mentioned earlier, no modern organization can run its operations or survive without using one or more computers, software, telecommunications, Internet and so on. In view of the technical complexities involved there will be several IT related issues and risks that can cause minor to major irritations, or even bring an organization to halt abruptly. If an important computer system stops working then businesses have to virtually close down as it is not possible to switch over to alternative manual processes for any length of time. Secondly, today's computer systems and networks are extremely complicated for any business people to maintain or support them on their own. Using information technology is a Catch-22 situation. You cannot live with IT, nor can you live without IT. Hence a specialized technical support team having knowledge of IT service management is required to understand how the systems work and how to baby sit them. Today a professional technology support department is as essential as a qualified finance department or a senior management to any organization. From a nuts and bolts perspective, IT service management means the 'techies' (employed or outsourced) in the organization professionally managing and maintaining the computers, networks, telecommunications, data storage, retrieval, e-mail systems, databases, etc, owned or used by your business. Unless the technology you use for your business is managed in a proper way your organization can get into serious trouble. The following examples show the pinpricks and hair rising issues organizations can face without a professional IT service management.

1. Your end-users don't know whom to contact when their computers and other IT equipment become sick.

2. Your techies attend end-user calls occasionally if they can, when they can.

3. Business managers do not understand why their IT infrastructure is always having disruptions of a similar nature.

4. Monday morning chaos. All computer systems down for some reason. Your techies probably performed some maintenance activities over the weekend.

5. Businesses cannot commit about their products and services to their external customers.

6. Your end-users do not know if all IT services will be available for them every day to complete their activities.

7. Viruses, crippling and lengthy IT shutdowns, etc, are common.

8. End-users always face shortage of computers, disk space, data corruption, data loss, etc.

9. Business managers do not know why they need to shell out another bag of cash for some software the IT department needs.

Though organizations are free to have their own proprietary flavors of technical support suiting their needs, it is always better to adopt some international best practices as they prevent organizations from reinventing the wheel. This is where ITIL or the IT Infrastructure Library will help. However, as soon as the word ITIL is mentioned, many overloaded and overburdened IT departments and businessmen start imagining all sorts of scary views like it is a bureaucratic process, it is very complex, it must be highly theoretical, etc., which can only add to their woes rather than reduce it. The fear is understandable because ITIL was created by a government organization (Office of Government Commerce, British Government, UK), unlike something like six sigma that was created by a fortune 500 organization led by a glamorous CEO. After all governments worldwide are known for their lethargic, obscure and bureaucratic processes that only delay and make things complex. However as you can never judge a book by its cover, you should not judge ITIL by who created it. Also many businessmen, IT departments and managements of small and medium organizations live in the misconception that ITIL is beyond their expertise or affordability, and perhaps applicable only to large organizations. But ITIL is not the scary stuff as most businesses imagine. Actually ITIL is a lot of practical IT management common sense and not just some impractical theories. And nor is it some costly and complex rocket science that can only be handled by specialists and magicians. ITIL can be implemented by practically any modern organization (small, medium or big) to bring some law and order to their IT infrastructure. By implementing ITIL you can avoid or eliminate all the troublesome issues mentioned above and bring a very high degree of stability and predictability to your IT infrastructure. ITIL offers value and return on investment to every business owner, service provider, CIOs, CTOs and a CEO as mentioned below.

1. Proven and tested processes. No need for businesses to re-invent the wheel for implementing IT services in their organizations. Covers end-to-end.

2. Non-proprietary practices. ITIL is owned by the Office of Government Commerce, but does not require a license to practice and it is independent of any commercial solution or platform.

3. Improved quality of IT service for business functions. Reduced downtime, improved customer and end-user satisfaction.

4. Measurable, controllable, recoverable.

5. ITIL is scalable. It can be adapted for any size of organization.

6. Proactive rather than reactive. Clearly-defined roles, responsibilities and activities.

7. Greater understanding of IT and its limitations by the business. Business will understand IT better and vice versa.

8. There is also a range of accredited ITIL training and education courses. This means there are plenty of support services, training institutes, tools and consultancy services that can help your organization's IT departments.

9. Return on Investment (ROI). ITIL helps IT organizations demonstrate their return on investment and measurable value to the business, and also cut IT costs. This helps establish a business case for new or continuing investment in IT.

10. ITIL also helps in outsourcing. ITIL is widely practiced among many industry service providers and they can easily help your organization's IT departments.

11. Continuous improvement, stability, and trouble prevention.

12. Improved business image. Businesses will also learn what to commit (and what not to commit) to their external customers.

To conclude ITIL can help you tackle one of the most feared expressions in modern times and that is, "The computer is down" as humorously quoted by Normal Augustine, a famous US aircraft businessman.
About the Author
Thejendra BS is an IT manager and author of Practical IT Service Management - A Concise Guide for Busy Executives (based on ITIL v3).Visit http://www.thejendra.com to buy this extremely popular book used by nearly seven thousand organizations worldwide to understand how to successfully implement ITIL.
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