Where previous iterations of ITIL® focused on process lifecycle and aligning IT processes to the business, ITIL® v3 now concentrates on the management of the entire IT services lifecycle. Eddie Kilkelly, Managing Director of Best Practice, ILX Group plc provides an overview of the new ITIL® iteration, and explains why he thinks IT managers should upgrade to ITIL®3.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®), a set of concepts and policies for managing IT infrastructure, development and operations, was originally launched by the Government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (later the Office of Government Commerce) in the late 1980s. Largely adopted in the 1990s, its 40 books were rationalised and launched as ITIL®v2 in 1999/2000. May 2007 saw the release of ITIL® version 3.

ITIL® V3 emphasises the importance of creating business value rather than simply executing processes. It reflects today's technical, web-centric environment and provides information on regulatory requirements that support this new environment, e.g. selling products and services over the internet. In other words, ITIL® has matured to become a fully integrated, modern business model and not 'just' a set of technical support processes.

What does this mean for the IT manager?

In basic terms, a more strategic approach to service delivery. By acknowledging that IT is the business, ITIL® v3 can potentially enable the IT service manager to deliver improved client retention, cost control and profitability.

Its five volumes take the IT manager through the entire lifecycle, from understanding how to use IT assets strategically, through the design of appropriate and innovative IT services, to the continual alignment of IT services and changing business needs.

With v3, IT service assets are linked directly to business services, and it focuses strongly on the profitable use of investment in IT assets and infrastructure: every penny that an organisation spends is linked back to the company strategy of making profits.

In the current economic climate, a framework that links IT investment directly to financial reward, while continually improving quality is more critical than ever. ITIL® 3 can help organisations operate and grow profitably in the long term by helping them think - and act - in a strategic manner.

In a rapidly changing business landscape, ITIL® 3 supports IT managers to design appropriate and innovative IT services, including architectures, processes, policies and documentation, to meet current and future agreed business requirements.

ITIL® v3 necessitates a 'root and branch' review of existing IT services and identifies, a process which both flags new opportunities and identifies services which are no longer required. By engineering broader processes in this way, IT builds stronger links with the business and can drive the pace of business change.

This can pay real dividends to the IT manager. For example, they will receive more support from the business decision makers that are be able to understand and articulate the benefits of commercial IT services, such as mobile technology.

Benefits of ITIL® 3:

  • Improved use of IT investments;
  • Integration of business and IT value;
  • Portfolio driven service assets;
  • Clear demonstration of ROI and ROV;
  • Agile adaptation and flexible service models;
  • Performance and measures that are business value based;
  • IT service assets linked to business services.

It's not all plain sailing though. On the administrative side of ITIL®v3 there have been a couple of teething problems. The wide range of exam options for ITIL® certification is confusing. It is a credit based system, but thanks to the huge amount of courses that count toward those credits - ITIL® v2 exams, ITIL® v3 exams bridging and complimentary qualifications - there are over 10 ways to qualify. This can leave IT service managers confused about the best route to take.

This problem has been exacerbated by the delayed launch of the ITIL® v3 Intermediate exams. Although the v3 Foundation exams were launched in June 2007, the final Intermediate exams have only just been launched, in January 2009. Many believe this is a major contributory factor to the slow take up of ITIL® v3. Of course the worsening economic climate may also lead organisations to hold off introducing ITIL® v3.

However, ITIL® v3 adoption makes clear business sense, most especially with the current economic situation. ITIL® v3 is not the latest iteration of v2 - it is not about fixing things and keeping operations going - it's a strategic, end to end approach to service delivery.

It helps the business realise the true strategic importance of IT, and consequently can build the profile of the IT manager (put simply, it helps to reeducate the business that IT managers are not there to fix things and keep things going).

Where IT managers implement v3 correctly, it can move an organisation from having system stability to enjoying systematic service improvement, from internal efficiency to commercial business growth, and, in the case of customers, from dissatisfaction to satisfaction. With all of the benefits that v3 can deliver to any organisation, IT managers should be making the case that the adoption of ITIL® 3 is a strategic business priority.