Organizations today rely heavily on IT to deliver corporate objectives and strategic goals, while maintaining day-to-day operations. This dependency demands that IT service and support departments reduce costs, manage risks and improve technological and employee efficiency.
The tight integration of people, process and technology is a business strategy being adopted to align organizational objectives with IT service delivery. This integration means that IT departments no longer think in terms of servers, but of services provided to the organization and its customers. This change of focus results in a high quality service that is accountable, transparent and predictable.
To achieve business-orientated service management, IT service organizations are modeling service capabilities around ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) best practice guidelines.
What is ITIL?
ITIL is a flexible framework designed to guide service organizations with the integration of people, process and technology to develop and deliver a quality IT service.
ITIL does not dictate business processes but provides a comprehensive, consistent and coherent set of best practices for IT Service Management. ITIL promotes a quality approach to achieving business effectiveness and efficiency, using information systems.
More formally, ITIL is a series of books that outline a comprehensive set of best practices for IT Service Management. The OGC (Office of Government Commerce) in the UK developed ITIL in the mid 1980’s.
At the end of October in 2007, ITIL version 3 was released and the understanding of IT service management best practices was transformed to encompass a lifecycle approach to service. Processes are grouped into different segments based on their lifecycle. Many of these overlap into many segements of the framework as illustrated below.
Customer Service Desk Objectives
High customer expectations and the distributed nature of companies mean the delivery of a first-class service is fast becoming a differentiating factor and, without doubt, a major competitive advantage for many organizations.
The Service Desk acts as the central point of contact between customers and IT Service Management. All incidents, and other forms of service requests are handled via the Service Desk. It is also an interface for other activities such as Change, Problem, Configuration, Release, Service Level and IT Service Continuity management.
As the operational interface between business and IT, the Service Desk must align technology with the service objectives of the organization. This ensures IT service management is a strategic business asset.
Implementing a Service Desk Infrastructure
Adopting ITIL to design an organization’s support infrastructure is a critical undertaking. It should be managed as a formal business project with clear ownership, defined business goals, responsibilities, deliverables and management commitment.
Before designing the new Service Desk, all existing service workflows should be assessed and potential for improvement identified. It is an opportunity for business analysts to rethink and redesign existing processes and activities, in order to increase productivity, add value, and reduce costs. As the shop front for organizations, the service desk is an opportunity to enhance the customer’s perception of the organization.
Internal Change Management: balancing strategy and tactics
The implementation of IT service improvements must balance strategic and practical requirements to avoid any undue staff tension. Strategic thinkers such as the Chief Information Officer or the Financial Controller focus on service catalogs and costs. Tactical roles such as Service Desk Supervisor and technicians are concerned with incident resolution and meeting service level requirements.
The following table outlines the service desk implementation process, balanced between strategic and tactical objectives:
Steps to a Successful ITIL Implementation
|Where are you now? Define a Baseline.||Where do you want to be? Define your Target.||How to move towards Target. Execute your plan.||The Target. Your Ideal Situation.|
|Assess existing service desk maturity relative to ITIL. Refer to Maturity Model below.||Identify gaps between existing processes and ITIL||Align People, Process and Technology.||Demonstrable process improvement in line with strategic goals.|
Understand the following:
Develop internal change management strategy:
Introduce ITIL to Management.
Procure ITIL compliant Service Desk System.
Train all staff to utilize new procedures.
Quantitative management feedback in the form of detailed metrics and reporting.
Business processes understood and controlled.
Understand the following:
Design new service desk workflows:
Introduce ITIL to Operational staff.
Develop techniques and procedures.
Document system requirements.
Train service desk staff to manage new workflows.
Continuous and repeat improvement.
Pilot programs and new technology introduced with little interruption.
ITSM Processes understood and controlled.
To avoid conflict and frustration, time needs to be taken to build and translate the organizational objectives into process and technology initiatives to balance both perspectives. Joint planning between strategic and operational teams will ensure there is project support across all levels of the organization.
ITIL Service Capability Maturity Model
Support process is characterized as ad hoc, chaotic, and heroic. Few processes are defined or followed, and success depends on individual effort. There is no formal management control over support processes.
This level provides an introduction to the formal, documented process. Basic management processes are established to control cost, scheduling and functionality. The necessary process discipline is in place to represent successes on projects with similar applications. Elevation from Level 1 to Level 2 means the organization has established service desk management control, established service desk process group (SDPG), and formally introduced ITIL processes.
This level provides a foundation for continuous process improvement by establishing the necessary process management functions to control process parameters. The ITIL process for both managers and process workers is documented, standardized and integrated into a standard ITIL process for the organization. The organization uses this process to manage all IT service requests.
Detailed measures of the process and service quality are collected. Both the ITIL processes and quality of service delivered are understood and controlled.
Continuous process improvement is enabled by quantitative feedback from the process and from piloting innovative ideas and technology.
As the service processes are assessed in line with the business objectives and realigned with ITIL guidelines, the technology used to automate and manage these processes also needs to align with IT service delivery requirements. This guarantees that the service solution selected capitalizes on existing infrastructure and evolves well into the future.
Features to consider when selecting a service desk tool include the central administration offered by fully web-based products. These solutions include a browser-based GUI with no installations or plug-ins required on the client-side. This saves time and money during the implementation process and when changes or upgrades are required. Also, being fully accessible via any web-browser allows users to choose their work environment, be that in the office, out on the road or at home, as their user role privileges are not restricted by the place of access.
The ability to integrate with existing infrastructure such as Active Directory or LDAP authentication servers should also be considered. Also, in order to capitalize on the implementation of a Configuration Management Database (CMDB), tight integration with an asset management tool is required. This ensures data stored in the CMDB is always relevant, and provides support technicians with a full picture when responding to customer issues.
On the server side, a multi-tiered design approach allows the support solution to achieve maximum performance and scalability. Advanced applications, such as LiveTime, run on any standard J2EE or J2SE server and support multiple instances, load balancing and clustering. This model allows the support solution to operate at over five times the speed of competing applications. Additional speed gains are achieved through the use of intelligent caching and database fetching, which ensures users have real time access to all information relevant to issues logged with the system.