Alan Oxley, dean of information technology, American InterContinental University - London, looks at the benefits of employing the ITIL® (IT Infrastructure Library) - a set of books for those involved in managing corporate IT systems - in the enterprise.

The Office of Government Commerce developed ITIL®, which at its core has five books:

  • The Business Perspective;
  • ICT Infrastructure Management;
  • Application Management;
  • Service Delivery;
  • Service Support;

The books themselves and what they provide

The Business Perspective is a book concerned with assessing how IT can benefit the business. We first need to look at the areas of business that need to be improved and then think about how IT can assist in doing this, then we can identify the IT services that are needed.

There are generic services such as a print service, an email service and a remote access service, but there are also services that are specific to the functional areas of the business, which require applications software.

ICT Infrastructure Management is concerned with issues relating to setting up and operating the technology platform upon which generic services and special purpose applications are built. It involves, for example, deciding on what desktops and servers are to be used, how to cope with a disaster, where servers are to be housed, what networking technology to use and so on.

The Application Management book is concerned with the particular activities that the company is engaged in rather than generic services. It involves the software development life cycle, which begins with analyzing user requirements and continues, in various forms, with the design/development of software, its implementation and its subsequent maintenance.

The other two core books are concerned with managing the services that are being provided, both generic ones and the applications. Thus service management is split into Service Delivery and Service Support.

Service delivery is concerned with IT staff trying to maintain each service to an acceptable level. It involves for example making sure that the services operate sufficiently fast and are available when required. The Service Delivery book covers capacity management, financial management for IT services, availability management, service level management and IT service continuity management.

Services cost money and the 'better' the service the more it costs. There has to be a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether a service should be implemented and, if so, decisions need to be made on how widely available it should be, how reliable it needs to be and the capacity that it can handle.

These expectations of a service are laid down in a service level agreement. Once implemented, 'incidents' relevant to the service need to be monitored to determine whether the service levels need to be adjusted.

When changes are in the offing, decisions need to be made as to the acceptable levels of service in the transitional period so as to maintain some sort of continuity. It may be necessary for the service to run on a backup configuration until the updated service becomes available.

The Service Support book is concerned with having IT staff available to support users. Users will need to be educated in the use of a service and will need to be able to contact IT staff should a problem arise with the quality of the service.

The book includes information on service desks, incident management, problem management, configuration management, change management and release management. Keeping inventories of hardware and software is termed 'configuration management'. It also includes keeping documentation - user manuals, service contracts etc.

All documentation should be well-organized. There must be facilities for enabling users to report the reduction or loss of a service and for handling these problems. Such a facility is termed a 'service desk'. The reported difficulty is termed an 'incident'.

The IT services department needs to monitor each item of hardware, software and each user so that evidence can be gathered that points to a 'problem' in a service, such as a bottleneck or a fault.

From time to time a new IT service will be added or an existing one will have a major upgrade. This change will entail one or more projects being undertaken. 'Release management' is the term used to control the implementation and rollout of change.

Additional coverage

In addition to the five core books described above there are three others:

  • Planning to Implement Service Management;
  • Security Management;
  • Software Asset Management;

Planning to Implement Service Management looks at how a company can convert to a style of IT service management that corresponds to the best practices espoused by ITIL®. Software Asset Management deals with managing the large number of software packages that are used by a company - for example making decisions about which server computers and/or desktops are to host each package.

One possibility when planning to incorporate ITIL® is to hire the services of a company that specializes in giving advice about IT service management. You can discuss your environment with a consultant.

There is a standard for IT services management, BS 15000, which is based upon ITIL®. An organisation can elect to have its service management processes evaluated by an external auditor to determine whether it conforms to the standard.


The IT Service Management Forum is a key international, independent body responsible for promoting best practice in IT service management. In May 2004 Aidan Lawes, the chief executive officer, quantified the benefits of adopting ITIL® practices as:

itSMF survey:

  • 70 per cent achieving 'tangible and measurable' benefits.

These included:


  • 85 per cent resolution at FPOC;
  • cost per call down 30 per cent;
  • 50 per cent reduction in new product cycle.


  • 79 per cent reduction in downtime;
  • total savings per user c $800 pa.


  • Downtime reduced from 60 to 15 mins.

Proctor & Gamble:

  • $100 million pa savings!


  • >50 per cent measured improved customer satisfaction;
  • 84 per cent would recommend;
  • 20 per cent saw business competitive advantage.

American InterContinental University offers Associates, Bachelors and Masters degrees in a range of disciplines. The IT department runs both a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree.