ITIL is good, but IT Service Management is better

Service Management and with it the IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, is key to bridging the gap between IT users and „IT production“. But as Cloud Computing goes mainstream, it becomes increasingly clear that ITIL alone is not enough.

For their Service Management needs, many vendors and user companies rely today on the IT Infrastructure Library. Developed in the 80ies by the UK Government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency as a set of recommendations on best practices for IT, ITIL really is quite helpful as a pedestal upon which Service Management can be based since it describes the fundamental processes in a structured and accessible fashion.

On the other hand, ITIL is not an end unto itself. What you need for IT Service Management is a set of services that are clearly defined, intelligently developed, cleanly implemented and professionally managed. And, of course, like the housewife’s task, the job of improving and optimizing these service is never really done.

Above all: ITIL is severely limited in its scope, as the name itself implies it’s all about IT infrastructure, not primarily about the services themselves. Of course the concepts advanced under the ITIL umbrella can be applied to service development and provisioning, unfortunately many vendors and developers seem to get stuck at the infrastructure level by focusing too strongly on ITIL.

However, that is not enough. I think there are important areas that need to be addressed that go far beyond what ITIL brings to the table, for instance:

Business focus: Service Management need to be seen in the context of the business task it was designed to support. These services must be provided in a way that is comprehensible and intuitive to the business user, and they need to cover different layers, starting with the aggregated “customer” perspective all the way down to a granular view of each individual IT service that must be properly orchestrated for the overall service itself to perform its function. Business Service Management, after all, is a part of an organization’s Service Management, and as such it needs to do much more than simply see if the service is available and performing correctly.

Accounting functions: The next logical step in Service Management will be for services to be paid for individually and by usage – sort of an “ERP for IT” concept. Being able to centrally manage and control these processes is especially important in the age of Cloud Computing.

Cloud Management: Service Management will sooner of later become a crucial element in any kind of Cloud deployment. Providing, managing and billing external services, be they cloud-based or on-prem, require good Service Management in any case.

Application Services: Finally IT departments should ask themselves how they are going to integrate Service Management with existing or planned Change and Configuration Management systems at the application level. In service-oriented architectures, many basic functions are duplicated or even multiplied, and there are IT departments today that already apply Service Management strategies and tools to their Application Management. As more and more apps are being provided through the Cloud, this is an obvious way to go.

The ITIL framework can be a big help for certain tasks, and certainly Service Management tools that are based on ITIL are both useful and necessary.

It remains important, though, to define Service Management in a much wider sense. Ideally, it should be the link that connects the business with IT production, and not simply another IT tool. Only if Service Management acts as a go-between will it be able to reflect the changing nature of IT as it evolves from a provider of infrastructure into a true business enabler.


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