ITIL Set for a Facelift

Not since the beatles first
appearance on The Ed Sullivan
Show 43 years ago has
a British cultural phenomenon
had such an impact in the States.
But unlike its classic-rock counterpart,
the aging IT Infrastructure Library
(ITIL) is slated to get a major facelift
later this year, only its second update
in as many decades.

ITIL was developed by the British
government in the 1980s and first
implemented in 1992 by its Central
Computer and Telecommunications
Agency (since absorbed into the U.K.’s
Office of Government Commerce, or
OGC). It is a collection of best practices
for managing IT operations that
have been widely adopted throughout
Europe for years, and that have
recently caught on among large
U.S. companies.

The guidelines, last updated in
2000, currently specify ten key IT
service management functions that
are grouped into two books: the
Service Support “blue book” that
covers service desk, incident management,
problem management,
configuration management, change
management and release management
functions; and the Service
Delivery “red book” with chapters
on capacity management, financial
management, availability management,
service level management and
IT service continuity management.

These original two, plus a library
of additional books such as Software
Asset Management, Infrastructure
Management, Application Management,
Security Management and The
Business Perspective (aimed at lineof-
business execs) are available from
OGC in print or on CD-ROM. There
are also multiple levels of ITIL training
and certification, starting with the
Foundation Certificate, which provides
a basic understanding of the terminology
and philosophy and is the
prerequisite for the Practitioner Certificate
and the Manager’s Certificate.
Yet all that will likely change with
the forthcoming revision of ITIL,
Version 3, previously slated for publication
in late 2006, now due later
this spring. The update, led by OGC’s
chief ITIL architect, Sharon Taylor, is
reportedly going to reorganize the
recommendations into a more lifecycle-
oriented approach to IT systems,
starting with their initial design and
deployment, operation, support and
maintenance. The update will expand
and reorganize the collection of best
practices into the following five core
topics: IT service design, IT service
introduction, IT service operations, IT
service improvement and IT service

“I don’t think it affects any of the
core processes,” says Tracey Torble, an
IT service management consultant
and ITIL practitioner at T2 Consulting
in Berkshire, England. “It’s just a different
way of presenting it to make it a
bit easier to follow.”

Some ITIL critics say the framework
does a good job of describing
the steps IT shops should take in providing
services, but doesn’t provide
enough advice on how to implement
its recommendations. ITIL enthusiasts,
however, praise the methodology’s
generic quality, saying it’s what
makes ITIL applicable to most IT shops
and easily customized to a specific

“The current flavor of the ITIL documentation
is basically descriptive
rather than prescriptive,” notes Forrester
Research Inc.’s Chip Gliedman.
“It says ‘incident management is . . .’
but leaves a lot of wiggle room on
how one actually implements incident
management.” The forthcoming
V3 “is likely to be far more prescriptive,”
he fears. “Now that, in fact, may
be good for some people, but it could
be bad for other people. If ITIL gets
too formal, we may see a backlash
against it.”

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