Getting started with ITIL service management

Promised cost savings, alignment with business, and operational efficiency are encouraging more organizations to take up ITIL service management.

ITIL outlines processes and practices for efficient, cost-effective and business-centric IT service management.

Although numerous paradigms exist, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) has emerged as one of the best-known and widely practiced approaches for IT Service Management (ITSM). ITIL service management comprises an established set of processes, procedures and tasks that help IT organizations deliver and manage computing services to the business. ITIL publications, under Crown Copyright, form the foundation for international standard ISO/IEC 20000.

Following ITIL procedures and processes allows an organization to shape a data center that complements business strategies. Targeted data center investments add value to the enterprise by creating a foundation for planned IT activities, ensuring compliance and performing with measurable, ongoing improvement.

ITIL does not detail specific data center technologies or discuss deploying or managing particular technologies. It is business- and technology-agnostic, so it addresses the widest possible range of business sizes and product choices. For example, ITIL discusses outsourcing to service providers and offers a means to evaluate the financial implications of outsourcing, but does not dictate how to interact with specific outsourcing providers.

ITIL 2011 service management

Each ITIL revision aims to improve the logical organization and business relevance of the service management approach.

The ITIL 2011 edition covers 26 processes spread across five principle publications that discuss strategy, design, transition, operation and improvement.

The Service Strategy publication tackles a market-driven approach to providing IT services. It describes a range of management processes that help businesses make the best outsourcing decisions with the best financial benefits.

The Service Design publication shows how planned IT services affect the larger business. It covers IT services design practices and technology service delivery, as well as service management tools, ITIL service support processes, and the supply chain supporting the service. Specific management processes include service-level, availability, capacity and security management.

The Service Transition publication explains processes that translate business needs into actual IT services. ITIL service management dictates that you approach these translations as projects, and the Service Transition publication covers how to manage changes to the business environment. Transitions include change management, asset and configuration management, software release or deployment management, service testing and so on.

The Service Operation publication provides a series of practices to help organizations deliver the required service levels to employees, partners and customers -- the part of the ITIL lifecycle where IT actually delivers value. ITIL service practitioners learn how to handle events and incidents, fulfill requests, manage problems and ensure identity security.

The Continual Service Improvement publication helps organizations identify where service changes are needed and adjust services to changing business needs on an ongoing basis -- all while maintaining control and measuring the effects of their changes. This involves defining measurement points and then gathering, processing and analyzing the data. When improvement is needed, the IT team implements changes, evaluates the effect and, from that data, formulates more changes. It's an ongoing process.

Training and certification for ITIL

ITIL practitioners require formal certification, which is managed by the ITIL Certification Management Board and administered commercially by the APM Group Limited. Exam providers include Peoplecert, Pearson VUE, Prometric and many others.

ITIL 2007 and 2011 versions use four levels of certification, based on credits: Foundation, Intermediate, Expert and Master. A candidate that passes the basic exam receives a Foundation certification and two credits.

Candidates seeking Intermediate ITIL certification must pursue a selection of lifecycle modules (three credits each) or capability modules (four credits each) to reach the 16 credits.

Expert-level ITIL certification requires a minimum of 22 credits from various Intermediate modules, including an additional five credits earned from a comprehensive "Managing across the Lifecycle" exam.

A Master-level ITIL certification is more evaluation-based, requiring Expert ITIL certification and at least five years of experience in a high-level ITSM role.

Numerous training companies offer a combination of written, online, live classroom and other resources to prepare for the ITIL exam. The amount of time and effort that goes into an ITIL certification varies dramatically depending on the type of learning vehicles and the personal attention devoted to the effort.

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