ITIL V3 – should you bother?

With the retirement of version 2 of ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, organisations across all sectors are considering the implications of this change and whether they should think about a possible move to version 3. A reoccurring question is about not just the value of moving towards a V3 aligned approach, but also querying the overall value of the ITIL discipline itself.

There are many doubts regarding the Good Practice framework which is one of the most widely adopted worldwide, and it is not only the CEOs and financial directors who question its effectiveness, ROI and ability to deliver – even many CIOs, IT directors and unfortunately, in some instances, service management professionals themselves have started to look at ITIL with scepticism.

In this current climate of austerity, organisations are being extra cautious regarding their spending. This is leading both those who are considering the step up from V2 and those considering whether to start on the service management journey to wonder: what can V3 possibly add, and isn’t ITIL overrated anyway?

Let’s take the last question first. Like a lot of challenges within business, rather than deciding on a solution and then trying to relate everything back to it, look at what overall objective is and which issues need to be resolved. ITIL, which ever version you choose, is not a panacea. It won’t fix everything, but it may be able to help if you take a pragmatic and realistic approach to activities.

ITIL’s approach to implementation in the early days was described as “adopt and adapt” – an approach that still rings true even with V3. However, this appears to have fallen out of the vocabulary recently. Adopting all processes regardless of their relevance to the business and following them religiously will not add any value. Nor will implementing them without ensuring that there is awareness and buy-in across the organisation; treating implementation as a one-off project rather than a continuously evolving process or expecting the discipline to work on its without positioning it alongside the existing behaviours, culture, processes and structure in the organisation.

ITIL’s contribution to an organisation is akin to raising children, where one asks oneself: is it nature or nurture that creates the well rounded individuals, and what parenting skills work best? You need to find the most compatible match, one that will in part depend on what that particular business wants from a Best Practice framework and if they really understand how it works. Do they want to be told what to do or find out what works and what doesn’t and why, so they can learn from it?

All activities in a Best Practice framework have to be carefully selected and tailored in order to create some value. Moreover, adoption of tools and processes must be supported by an appropriate amount of education and awareness sessions, so that any involved staff, including senior management, will fully understand their purpose, usefulness and benefits and will therefore collaborate in producing successful results.

The other question raised by many organisations is: why should I move to V3 – isn’t V2 perfectly fine? It is hard to come up with a perfect answer as there are a number of considerations to take into consideration, but in part it can come back to what the overall objective was for the business. Looking at the move from V2 to V3 as an evolution, a number of the key principles expanded on in V3 exist with V2, so there will be some organisations for whom the expanded areas relating to IT strategy and service transition are not core to their IT operation. However, the separation of request fulfilment from incident management and the focus on event management may lead an organisation to alter the way they deal with the day-to-day activity triggers into the IT department.

My personal view is that anything that helps organisations to communicate more effectively is a benefit. V3 provides more suggestions that can help with these objectives, as well as helping the IT department to operate with more of a service oriented approach, again something that can help cross the language gap between technology and business. V3 provides a lifecycle approach to IT service, recommending continual review and improvement at organisation level.

So, is V3 essential if you have already successfully adopted and adapted V2? For organisations that do not require maximum IT efficiency because IT is not strategic, V2 is probably enough to keep them doing well. For those that, instead, gain real competitive advantage from efficient IT, any improvement that can make their business outperform others in the market is one worth embracing.

As for all the organisations in the middle, a move to V3 is probably not essential in the immediate future – however, as publications and examinations are substituted to match the latest version, and the way in which their suppliers are providing service changes, it will soon become a necessary thing to do in order to keep up-to-date and in turn competitive within the market.

Samantha-Jane Scales, Senior Service Management consultant and ITSM Portal columnist

Find the column on ITSM Portal:  http://www.itsmportal.com/columns/itil-v3-%E2%80%93-should-you-bother

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