ITIL Version 3 is All Business

Shrek III was better. So were Rocky III and Mission Impossible III. But while ITIL III is no blockbuster, it is getting decent ratings from the IT community overall. In particular, it is earning kudos for attempting to bridge the chasm between IT and the various business units within organizations.

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Allen Bernard, Managing Editor.

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IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) made its debut in 1989 and since then has become the de facto standard for IT service management best-practices. Since the release of v2 at the start of the millennium, there have been new business regulations and mandates, technology advancements, and general shifts in how IT is valued.

In light of this, the UK’s Office of Government and Commerce (OGC) has been working with industry leaders to update ITIL for the third time in two decades even as many organizations are in varying stages of ITIL adoption. With the release of ITIL v3 come many questions from IT managers and CIOs. Most common among them: “What’s the difference between v2 and v3?” and “Should I wait to start my ITIL project?” and, “What does this have to do with the data center?”

“For those worried about a brand new ITIL, instead of thinking of it as a big bang, think more of it being another step on a evolutionary pathway designed to help you better deliver what you are already trying to do,” said Martin Atherton, principal analyst at consulting firm Freeform Dynamics in the UK. “Practitioners will be pleased to know that all their ITIL efforts thus far will not be any less relevant or become redundant with the new version of ITIL.”

ITIL Adoption Climbs

The commercial world is embracing ITIL in a big way. According to Forrester Research, over 40% of billion dollar corporations have already adopted ITIL. That figure will rise to 80% by the end of 2008.

Why are adoption rates so high? As well as greater efficiency Gartner states that an organization can achieve up to a 48% reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) by fully implementing ITIL. It’s no wonder that the first ever international standard (ISO 20000) covering how organizations are to manage IT services is built around ITIL.

Most organizations currently involved in ITIL are working on ITIL v2, which introduces more formal processes. The goal was to promote better business-IT working relationships, eliminate redundant processes, improve levels of services and reduce operating costs.

“ITIL v2 was clearly a big success and the number of organizations implementing it is testament to that fact,” said Ron Potter, manager of best practices at TeamQuest Corp. “The most common benefits reported by users are better service improvement and reduced costs.”

But ITIL v2 was far from the finished article. Thus several years of review and consultation have gone into further ITIL refinements. In 2007, the third version of ITIL was released.

v2 vs. v3

So what’s new? The core of ITIL will stay much the same. Atherton reports the introduction of the Service Management Knowledge System will addresses the incorporation of certain knowledge management principles into ITIL. The labels, though, have changed slightly. ITIL v3’s core practices are now: Service Strategy; Service Design; Service Transition; Service Operation; and Continuous Service Improvement.

“Probably the best way to describe the difference is to look upon ITIL v2 as being process-oriented whereas v3 is much more service-oriented,” said Potter. “In other words, v2 is more about linear process flow from business to infrastructure where v3 is a hub-and-spoke structure that adds flexibility and addresses the unique challenges of the Web.”

The new version is also more customizable so may be able to better meet the individual organization’s needs. Although most of the v2 processes continue to exist, this ITIL refresh is designed to be less complicated to comprehend. This should make it much easier to sell ITIL-based programs to senior management.

v3 also adds flexibility by providing structure to incorporate complimentary best-practices such as Six Sigma. It has separate component to address unique challenges of the Web, though Service Delivery and Service Support remain central elements in v3 as they were in v2.

Another benefit of the latest ITIL iteration is it makes team effort between IT and business crucial to success. The previous version left too many opportunities for IT to go it alone so ultimately the business never really understood the value of IT.