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No Thanks

By Rob Garretson  |  Posted 02-07-2007 Print

No Thanks?

Even staunch advocates of ITIL acknowledge that the necessary training and documentation it requires can be time-consuming, depending on the size and complexity of the IT department that adopts it. And the ROI for investing in ITIL can be even harder to measure than other IT projects, which are notoriously hard to cost justify. Metrics such as response-time improvements on J&J's China help desk, or shorter delivery lags for new hardware acquisition in Latin America, are fairly easy to calculate. Yet their bottom-line impact, or even the benefits of system uptime—from outages that may have been prevented through the ITIL methodology—are not clearly visible on the balance sheet. "When was the last time you called your doctor to thank him that you didn't get the flu?" quips Gliedman.

Both by necessity and design, J&J has taken a slow, measured approach to introducing the ITIL concepts to its IT operations. Like most recent U.S. converts, it started with just a few key functions—incident and problem management, then change and configuration management—before attempting to spread the gospel to other parts of its operation.

After the 2001 management board meeting that launched ITIL as a strategic initiative, NCS convened an "all-hands" meeting of about 150 key managers who performed an assessment of procedures and how well they mapped to the ITIL framework. "There was a fairly broad gap between our processes and what the framework recommends," Weaver recalls. "The next step was building awareness about ITIL; what the framework would offer and how we could use it in our organization."

In addition to bringing in ITIL consultants to conduct informational briefings to promote the discipline, NCS offered ITIL certification to interested personnel, but did not mandate training across the board. Where specific problems surfaced, ITIL was applied as the corrective guideline. But there was no forced march, Weaver maintains. "We launched it in a grassroots kind of way," she says. "Where we had issues in the organization, we launched process-improvement efforts." For instance, when NCS wanted to improve the tracking of IT assets, it consulted the ITIL framework to help determine the best way to build and manage an inventory visible from a central repository. Weaver explains: "We started to use ITIL as the framework for process improvement, but we did not go in order, process by process."

In its first year, J&J trained about 50 of its engineers and support personnel in the ITIL basics, known as the Foundation Certification. The following year another 50 people were ITIL certified. As of the start of 2007, about 350 of NCS's total 1,200 IT personnel are certified in at least the foundation level, Weaver says.

And though it has been preaching the gospel for more than six years, J&J is only at the beginning of its ITIL journey, and plans a major "re-launch" of the initiative in 2007. Yet unlike the ad hoc, semi-voluntary efforts of the past six years, Weaver says, J&J's new ITIL thrust will be a top-down initiative.

"To that end, this time around, we trained the president [Shea] and his direct reports through the ITIL Foundation Certification," she says. "So what each leader is expecting from his or her staff is much more specific."


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