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What is ITIL? Understanding ITIL’s Role in Improving Service Delivery

When it comes to improving IT Service Management (ITSM) maturity, many organizations turn to ITIL – a framework that guides users through a process-based approach to the management and continuous improvement of information technologies and services. By using ITIL, IT services within organizations can keep pace with the overall needs and goals of the business or institution; all while delivering exceptional service to customers, employees and other end-users.

What is ITIL?

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, and describes the processes, procedures, tasks and checklists that can be applied by an organization as part of an overall IT strategy; to improve customer delivery; or to maintain a certain level of competency organization-wide. Those wanting to use ITIL can get certified – the latest iteration being ITIL 4. ITIL 4 provides the guidance organizations need to address new service management challenges and harness the potential of modern technologies in the age of cloud, agile and DevOps transformations. A vital component of the ITIL 4 framework is the use of a single, uniform and cohesive set of guidelines for the management of IT services.

Does ITIL Differ from ITSM?

When thinking about ITIL vs ITSM, it’s important to understand the relationship between the two. ITSM describes how an organization manages its IT services, and ITIL is a framework for ITSM – a specific set of processes and guidelines for the provisioning of IT services. It’s not really a one vs. the other comparison, and having strategies for both is vital to building out a mature IT offering. A useful analogy would be the concept of project management and the various project management methodologies available. While project management describes the standardization of processes any given organization uses to manage its projects, methodologies such as Agile and Waterfall prescribe their own specific frameworks for managing projects in particular ways.

The Benefits of ITIL

There are many benefits to using ITIL as part of your strategy to improve service management and delivery. Some of the key benefits are:

  1. Aligns Business with IT: ITIL supports business strategies by aligning them with IT operations. This helps to ensure that the IT strategy is in tune with the business strategy, improving efficiency and productivity across the organization.
  2. Structured Approach: ITIL allows businesses and organizations to follow a structured approach for change management, service management and service design.
  3. A Baseline for Compliance: The ITIL processes offer a baseline for compliance, ensuring that IT operations meet business needs and regulatory requirements. This can help keep everyone on the same page and working efficiently towards the same business goals.
  4. Creates Business Value: ITIL 4, the latest version of ITIL, focuses on creating business value. It integrates contemporary development frameworks and takes a holistic approach to service.
  5. Effective Planning: IT Service Management, underpinned by ITIL, helps organizations engage in more effective planning activities, leading to positive consequences

The 5 Stages of ITIL

The ITIL framework bases itself on the five phases of the service life cycle. The guidelines set out the necessary processes, associated challenges and best practices for each phase of the service life cycle, as well as the requirements for the implementation of each phase.  It is important to keep in mind that these are guidelines and that the framework should be used to facilitate internal discussion and policy creation to optimize service delivery.

  1. Service Strategy – This is the start of the ITIL life cycle, and it sits at the center because a stable and precise service strategy is necessary for better service management. This sets the pace and course for the management of IT services that drive the business objective of any organization. This stage determines what capabilities will need to be developed or implemented, including the definition of markets, development of assets or the necessary preparations for deployment.
  2. Service Design - Ideas become plans in the second ITIL life cycle stage. It is here that services and processes bear out the primary goal of providing a better service management environment. Improvements present for existing issues or protocols. With foresight, a strong organization that follows the stage of ITIL can help in service cataloging, capacity, Information security, availability or asset management.
  3. Service Transition - The third stage of the ITIL life cycle is where the preparation of services and strategies that will be implemented in the live environment take place. It is here that organizations test and implement new designs. By correcting any issues that arise, organizations are setting themselves up for a smooth transition of their services, mitigating the chance for disruption.
  4. Service Operation – Following the launch of services and processes to customers and peers, the operation stage of the life cycle begins. Service owners must be prepared and available to report any issues as they arise, and make sure that customers are satisfied with the services and process. Even with the thorough reviews taken in steps two and three, there are likely to be a few issues or unforeseen hurdles. If an ITSM team firmly adheres to the ITIL framework, they will be prepared for any service failures or routine operational tasks.
  5. Continual Service Improvement - The status quo is never good enough for the ITIL framework. Organizations and enterprises are always looking for ways to improve or develop better processes. This last stage of the ITIL framework directs organizations to search for potential improvements in all the previous steps. By looking at what is measurable versus what is not, and by processing and sorting the data into quantifiable findings, the cycle starts all over again.

While ITIL v3 defined several processes for organizing the service life cycle, ITIL 4 describes the principles, concepts and practices in more detail. Additional guidance ensures that practitioners better understand the impact of each phase. ITIL 4 also provides a framework for integrating ITIL with other services such as cloud, mobile and cloud-as-a-service.

ITSM describes how an organization manages its IT services, and ITIL is a framework for ITSM – a specific set of processes and guidelines for providing IT services.

The Four Keys to Laying a ITSM Strong Base Using ITIL Best Practices

  1. Categorize: Categorize incidents and service requests by differentiating one from the other. Many organizations are implementing ITIL to ensure they have a common vocabulary and methodology surrounding request fulfillment and incident response.
  2. Triage: Establish defined criteria for triaging incoming requests to determine their urgency, set reasonable resolution targets and identify appropriate escalation protocols. With a standardized process, IT leaders can get a better overall picture of the specific costs of service deployments and help use the data provided to move IT from a behind-the-scenes system to a front-facing system, giving value to all users.
  3. Commitment to Service: Provide outstanding customer service by promoting a courteous service culture, which fosters better relationships and corresponding expectations. Managing a high-performing IT department that creates value is only possible through ITIL service guidelines. For many in an organization, the helpdesk or service desk is the very first point of contact. Supporting the organization’s members and outside users with an excellent experience is paramount to the wide-scale adoption and maturity of the IT system. ITIL’s best practices have evolved beyond the administration of an efficient service to now include a focus on the customer experience and the ability of your organization to deliver value.
  4. Be Accountable: Hold IT accountable by using data to guide improvement strategies, spending time on projects rather than fighting fires, and fulfilling more service requests than responding to incidents.

ITIL Best Practices in Action

Many institutions are implementing ITIL to ensure they have a common vocabulary and methodology surrounding request fulfillment and incident response. Increased demands for online and blended learning experiences put pressure on higher ed IT organizations, but IT budgets are staying static or even decreasing. TeamDynamix ITSM makes a positive impact when paired with ITIL in higher education.

Yancy Philips, IT Team Director for Indiana State University, explains how their old basic ticketing system that was used to manage the delivery of IT service “served its purpose for many years, but as we started to adopt more ITIL best practices and worked to improve our service delivery, we knew we needed something more.” That something more was TeamDynamix. “People are thrilled with our service now,” Philips says.

Likewise, in an ever-connected world, state and local governments need to provide new services and keep up with changing needs while often balancing tight budgets. Implementing IT Service Management (ITSM) best practices enables organizations to standardize and optimize the way they respond to the ever-increasing demand while keeping operational costs low and customer satisfaction high.

Dusty Borchardt, Business Systems Manager for Oklahoma City, says that they adopted the ITIL framework more than 15 years ago. He explains that they’d had effective processes in place for a while, but they “haven’t had a decent toolset to manage them” until they utilized TeamDynamix’s ITSM platform. “TeamDynamix has brought simplicity to our operations,” Borchardt says. “This is the first IT Service Management platform we’ve implemented that everyone loves to use.”