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This article is part of our Essential Guide: IT services management and best practices: An enterprise CIO guide

ITIL and ITSM best practices for process improvement

ITSM and ITIL processes continue to gain traction in enterprises as CIOs seek to cut costs and increase efficiencies through business process improvement. Learn more in this guide.

In this guide, learn about ITSM and ITIL processes and best practices, using our FAQs, news, tips, expert advice...

and case studies on organizations that have used these frameworks effectively.

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of processes and standards to help enterprise organizations practice effective IT Service Management (ITSM). Companies employ ITSM and ITIL best practices to achieve business process improvement, cut costs and improve efficiencies within the organization.

To be more productive, many enterprises are now combining ITSM and ITIL processes with other methodologies, such as Lean IT, Six Sigma, ISO 20000 and project and portfolio management (PPM).

This guide is part of SearchCIO.com's CIO Briefings series, which is designed to give IT leaders strategic guidance and advice that addresses the management and decision-making aspects of timely topics. For a complete list of the topics covered to date, visit the CIO Briefings section.

What is the ITIL framework? How does it differ from other process methodologies?

The ITIL framework is a globally recognized set of best practices for IT Service Management. ITIL consists of a series of core books called the IT Infrastructure Library that provide guidance for improving the quality and effectiveness of IT services.

The ITIL framework was developed in the early '80s to help IT provide high-quality services that meet the needs of the business. Companies that use the ITIL framework see an improvement in customer satisfaction and productivity, and the ability to allocate people's skills and experience. The most recent version was released in May 2007.

Mark Hamilton, an IT management consultant at Pink Elephant, described the ITIL framework as "a set of options that I can use in the IT space to make myself more efficient and effective." It's all about "process, activities and options," according to Hamilton.

Learn more in "FAQ: Understanding the ITIL framework." Also:

Are ITIL best practices and other process methodologies only used to cut costs?

In lean times, CIOs should apply Lean Six Sigma practices to IT operations, experts say. But Lean is not about cost cutting, or simply chipping IT costs equally among business units, said Alexander Peters, a principal analyst at Forrester. "Lean is about eliminating waste."

This is easier said by analysts than done, Peters conceded. For mature IT processes, such as incident management, change management and release configurations that have been codified by frameworks like ITIL, applying lean thinking should be par for the course. On the other hand, applying lean thinking is much more difficult in application development, which is more of a "moving target" and less mature, Peters said. But it should be done, by keeping value uppermost in mind. Resources should be focused on the people who can really add value to the process.

A lean IT organization is also continually evaluating systems and processes for "overkill," said Forrester principal analyst Marc Cecere. A 700-person IT shop that requires 18 signatures on every approval is an example of overkill, Cecere said. In addition, every problem does not deserve its own process, he said, urging CIOs to adopt the "Kill stupid rules" policy of one of his clients.

Learn more in "Six Sigma, ITIL, other business processes cut IT costs in lean times." Also:

How can ITSM and ITIL best practices work with other process methodologies?

Many IT shops are using the ITIL framework with other methods, such as Six Sigma, PPM and ISO 20000, to improve customer satisfaction, increase productivity and provide more value to the business in a shorter period of time. Here's a closer look at how each of these other process methodologies can complement the ITIL framework in an organization:

Six Sigma is all about meeting the needs of the customer, eliminating defects and improving the quality of processes, with metrics to show progress. Using Six Sigma in conjunction with the ITIL framework, companies can more effectively achieve the long-term goal of ITIL -- continual service improvement -- and deliver better service to the end customer.

Learn more in "Complementing your ITIL framework with other process methodologies." Also:

How important are ITIL tools and training to your ITSM success?

It is important to establish an ITIL service management training program to examine the roles people in the organization will play and the skills (from a process and technology perspective) they will need to fulfill the specific responsibilities. This is very similar in concept to the ITIL V3 Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed model for things like change management. Once you set up these matrices, you can deliver very accurate, targeted levels of learning.

There are a few tools and techniques that organizations can use to address the people part of ITIL and enhance the training process.

Get the list of tools in "The range of ITIL training tools and techniques and how they add value." Also:

More resources

Next Steps

What ITSM best practices does your team follow to maximize value from ITSM providers? Here, expert offer four tips for managing service vendor. 

This was last published in October 2009

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