ITIL is the accepted service management service framework for best practices for the provision of Information Technology services and is a basis for aligning business needs with IT.
ITIL was established by the UK government and is currently in its 3rd version. It places a framework around common sense practices, giving people guidelines on the areas that should focus on.
Previous versions of ITIL differ from version 3 in that they had more of a silo approach to process areas such as incident, problem, change, service level, release and availability. What ITIL service desk practitioners found was that many people remained in their own silo and did not integrate all aspects required to make managing IT a common sense process. For example, many only performed incident management, some only problem management.
The intention of ITIL is that everything inter-relates and integrates – you do not just perform incident management and then leave the remaining aspects of customer service to someone else. Version 3 attempts to better formalize integration of the services that IT provides to the business. It is much more focused on what the business requires of IT and focuses on what services IT is providing to the business.
Today, most businesses these days can not operate without IT, but IT need to be seen to be providing the right service to the business. ITIL Version 3 is more service focused and advises that organizations should be agreeing with the business about what services they need IT to provide; then look how to implement the right processes – changing and improving those processes based on feedback from the business.
Version 2 processes are still a primary part of ITIL as you will continue to manage incidents and problems, and manage change requests from the business. However, today, the silo approach has been removed and there is more overlap so that people can see how they should be passing accidents, problems, changes and resolutions along the customer service chain.
In the past, who was handling accidents could only see the incidents; who was handling the problems would only see the problems. There was not an integrated approach and implementing ITIL version 2 was quite easy to do. However, if you view ITIL as a framework, Version 3 makes it more difficult to fall into a single process mindset. Version 3 diagrams are more inter-related and easier for people to see the overlap in functions and processes.
From the ITIL framework, most of the tools that are available try to address the integrated areas of management. Many products are certified to ITIL and Pink Elephant is one such organization that verifies products support the ITIL framework. However, ITIL is not proscriptive – it does not specify that you need to do this like this. One of the problems people have when they try to implement ITIL is that they expect to be able to pick up a book and say "if I want to manage change within my organization using ITIL, this is what I have to do." ITIL does not do that. It is a framework of best practice and it is expected that you take what you need to make sure that it runs smoothly for your organization.
There's no right or wrong way to implement ITIL. What that means is that every tool that you look at will be slightly different. There's no prescriptive way of doing things, and each tool has its own suggested way. The tools do go a certain way towards suggesting how you can manage the various processes, but there's always an element of needing to fit in with your organization, within your business practices. This is where tool selection becomes important. You need a tool that is very flexible, because you do not want to mold your processes to the tool – you want to be able to adjust the tool to your processes.
This brings down to time and money. If you do not have time and money then you can take a tool off the shelf and be happy with what it does. With time and money you can adjust the service management software tool to your process.