American fast food business pioneer Ray Kroc once said, “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” However, a strong leader will also create consistently high standards for his or her department. This is especially true for CFIOs and other IT leaders. Consistency is key in IT service management. Unless your IT workers follow a shared set of standards, your network will suffer inefficiency. In the IT world, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) guidelines are the best standards to follow.
The complexity of IT service management necessitates consistent standards. Just think about all of the variables involved in your IT system. Do you have the right software and hardware, and has it been updated recently? How strong are your security systems? When was the last time you educated employees on best practices for setting passwords? How often should your company perform data backups? These are just a few of the thousands of considerations required in IT service management. In this era of Big Data, most people can recognize the importance of having organizational systems to make sense of complex situations – including IT service management. Think of the ITIL guidelines as the filter through which you can figure out how to tackle IT tasks.
The ITIL standards are communicated in five core guides that address every aspect of providing IT service management, from identifying each business’s IT needs, to designing systems and implementing service, to ongoing maintenance and continual system improvement. Some companies require in-house IT employees to follow ITIL standards, while others rely on the standards for assurance that their IT service management vendors are doing top-shelf work.
For most CFIOs, the bottom line is that companies suffer fewer system crashes and less downtime when they follow ITIL recommendations. But this is only the first of many benefits companies can accrue by following ITIL standards in IT service management. Here are a few more advantages:
1. Reduced Cost
Oftentimes, IT costs are driven by system inefficiencies. Perhaps a certain task must be performed in two different ways, because some machines lack system updates. Or maybe a company is operating with outdated technology. In these and many other situations, ITIL management will cut costs by ensuring IT consistency throughout an organization.
2. Increased Productivity
Likewise, if you follow ITIL guidelines, your organization’s overall efficiency will almost certainly improve. Just think about all the time you and your employees waste while waiting for technology to work correctly. Typically, this wasted time is rooted in a patchwork approach to IT architecture. The underlying issue is that practically no business founders begin by mindfully creating a strong IT system from the ground up. Instead, they co-opt personal computers for the business; they add a new piece of hardware because it’s on sale; when a certain software application malfunctions, they seek the fastest solution. These kinds of temporary fixes work in the short-term, but they slow down the entire IT system in the long run.
IT service management that’s driven by ITIL standards, in contrast, may require more up-front investment, but these means are justified by the end result: smooth-running, reliable computer systems. Since ITIL tenets also address ongoing maintenance, once your system is set up correctly, your IT service management expert will offer guidance on how to keep everything operating efficiently, no matter what new technological developments appear on the horizon. One example of this continual maintenance: ITIL standards call for 24-hour monitoring so any problems are caught and addressed ASAP.
3. Improved IT Service
When implementing ITIL standards, an IT service management professional begins by creating a catalogue of services currently included in Information Technology Service Management (ITSM, basically any service that the IT department or vendor carries out). Next, each procedure in the service catalogue is compared to the recommended approach listed in ITIL guidelines. And last, a configuration management database is formed; this database lists which technology is needed to perform each IT service. From there, IT service management can determine whether current technology and procedures are cost-effective.
In other words, your IT service will certainly improve as you work through the ITIL standards. The ITIL system, at its most basic, is a rubric against which companies can compare their current IT service management.
One final benefit of following the ITIL standards: In this day and age, information is the most valuable business commodity. Those who know how to gather, organize and use information will excel. In this sense, following ITIL standards provides a competitive edge.
Photo by: L. Luinenburg (Lluinenb), via Wikimedia Commons