A Bookish approach to process

Manpower Services is one of a growing number of Australian companies that have adopted ITIL to formalize the handling of various processes to improve internal operations.

After securing a large recruitment contract in January 2003, the recruitment company decided there was an opportunity to implement a number of key ITIL disciplines, processes and tools and is tackling the challenges head-on.

Suzanne Kerslake, Manpower's director of business solutions and services, said the company was aware from day one that implementing ITIL is not an easy process.

"Like most organizations fairly new to ITIL implementations, we decided, in the first instance, to focus on the Service Desk, Incident, and Change Management," Kerslake said.

"We were conscious of underestimating the effort and time it takes to implement ITIL so we worked closely with our IT service provider Datacom which facilitated the Service Desk and Incident Management implementations."

But most importantly, and this is where many Australian IT managers are supposedly going wrong, Kerslake did not forget to factor training into the implementation plans.

"You cannot underestimate the training required to adopt ITIL, it is imperative that all employees at all levels understand and embrace ITIL," Kerslake said.

"This is also not a one-off exercise and you must be prepared to have ongoing training and awareness campaigns as your processes and approach mature."

Manpower's training in ITIL varied depending on the employee, from executive overviews to formal training, such as ITIL fundamentals courses and the ITIL Masters Certificate training.

"We went beyond simply training key employees, recognizing the importance of the business embracing this process as well as the IT department," Kerslake said.

"Everyone has a part to play in the success of an ITIL implementation and as it is largely a cultural change as well, you need to ensure everyone has at the very least a cursory understanding of the approach."

Like Manpower, more and more organizations are trying to adopt the ITIL principles in their organization.

ITIL is a set of best practices and standard methodologies for core IT operational processes such as change, release, and configuration management, incident and problem management, capacity and availability management and financial management for IT.

Although the datacentre is ITIL's primary target, its best-practice templates apply across almost every IT environment, from the service desk to the corporate desktop.

The two biggest benefits promised for those who undertake ITIL in their organization are improved service and reduced costs, the latter being the big attention grabber.

Corporate mergers, outsourcing and extended enterprises have also made it more important for IT shops to speak the same process language so they can work more effectively with outsourcers for end-to-end service delivery.

The ITIL framework consists of a set of 44 books originally published by the British government's Stationery Office between 1989 and 1992, available on the IT Service Management Forum's Web site, each dealing with these different operational processes.

The framework can be implemented in stages and most experts recommend a phased deployment.

Many companies have also turned to larger consulting organizations such as HP Services and IBM Global Services to provide training and packaged ITIL offerings, including suggested workflows, to help customers quickly get up to speed.

These consultants also provide needs assessments and benchmarking to help customers determine how they're doing.

However, what few people realize is the level of training involved to be truly proficient in ITIL.

Gartner research director Steve Bittinger insists that grasping ITIL is not difficult.

"A lot of organizations have discovered ITIL; every organization now has to learn to do more with less and this can be achieved with best practices," Bittinger said.

"Anyone who's been in IT operations for a long time, once they get into the ITIL training, think 'well we've been doing a lot of this already'', but ITIL simply puts an official stamp on it.

"There is certification available at an individual level and an organization level, so it's developing into a good professional discipline."

Bittinger claims that this set of best practices is picking up steam in Australia, although there are no official numbers yet to confirm this.

So far it is all anecdotal and experiences from those involved in projects, Bittinger said, adding that there were no numbers yet.

"Gartner is currently undertaking primary research, it's only small to start off with, because the experience I have is that there is fairly rapid growth going on, but it's still in the early stages.

"There is a reasonable amount of awareness and experience in Melbourne and Sydney, and to a lesser extent in the other capital cities."

When it comes to training people in ITIL, the analyst claims that people developing and leading the ITIL strategy need the most training.

"There is a range of ITIL training resources available, most of them from smaller organizations, but guys like HP and Fujitsu have formally adopted ITIL in their offerings," Bittinger said.

"But even if you do all the ITIL training in the world, there's still a lot of localization that should be done when carrying it out in an organization." Itilics director of sales and marketing Paul Heath agrees, saying adoption of ITIL is less about training and more about the need to understand how adopting ITIL is about the culture change needed in an organization.

"I deplore the sheepdip method of training a company's personnel as it ignores the impact of the culture on people who feel the impact of adopting new methods for the various processes in a company," Heath said.

He warns that before a company makes a decision about ITIL, it should assess the needs of the business.

"ITIL adoption is about processes, using best practices to look at how an IT shop uses its helpdesk and other customer services to support a company's operations," Heath said.

"There should be an assessment of the organization's current business practices and how well it is attuned to the main principles of doing business. "For a company to go the full ITIL route, it would first need to have its IT practices audited within the scope of ITIL's principles and then be ranked against certain benchmarks."

Datacom is one such company that is daring to go 'the full ITIL route'.

The company is an IT services provider that has successfully adopted ITIL internally and aims to become one of the first ITIL AS 8018-compliant companies in Australia.

However, Datacom director Clark Hobson points out that it's a journey companies should thoroughly prepare for, as it will impact on existing business processes.

"While these changes will, ultimately benefit the customer, they can be a shock to companies that want to treat IT as a stand-alone cost centre and which are ill-prepared for the consequences of ITIL," Hobson said.

"Companies and their IT directors undertaking the ITIL journey must be ready to make the cultural and financial investment in the training, tools sets and processes necessary to align their business and culture with ITIL's service delivery model."

The vendor took on this task by allocating a considerable amount of time and money to the process via its in-house service delivery manager, as well as putting some 85 prcent of its systems division employees through ITIL training.

Datacom recommends their customers invest the necessary resources in the ITIL framework by educating their staff at all levels. "I think that most people don't realize the level of training that goes into ITIL," Hobson said.

"They assume that the ITIL fundamentals training will be sufficient, but really it doesn't take you to the level you need to be to implement ITIL."

And the next level is not easy, according to Hobson.

"The manager's certificate is not something you can undertake lightly," Hobson said.

"The foundations course is not hard, but the manager's certificate is difficult, the exam requires a lot of work and study.

"But to show that you have real commitment to implement ITIL, you have to have people involved who are certified."

Jason Andrew, BMC Software director of service management Asia Pacific, however, believes there are other challenges to face before tackling the training side of things.

The key to a successful ITIL strategy, he says, is to get all departments to understand that ITIL is a joint venture and success comes from all working together; the "power of one" and not from ownership of a process.

"ITIL has to have buy-in from management, it has to be a top-down decision, and there is a cost with training as well, so you have to have management on side," Andrew said.

"And it's important to have the investment and training, if you don't have an ITIL master on staff, have at least a partnership with someone certified that can help you along."

Andrew believes that basic training is important for all employees, but the real training should just be focused on key members.

"There's ITIL essentials, and that's really just about understanding the terminology," Andrews said.

"Basic understanding is important for all, but certification for all would just be overkill."

And it seems you wouldn't want to expose too many people to the certification process, which Andrews admits takes a lot of dedication, with himself currently studying for the certificate.

"Certification in ITIL is difficult; it's not just a simple exam process," Andrews said.

"I'm going to take three weeks off work to prepare for my master's exam.

"I've done most of my training through Pink Elephant and it takes some work, it's quite an investment to get there, but that's the good thing about certifications, you know someone has to work hard to achieve one, otherwise we would all have them."

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