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How to get started with ITIL

Matthew Heusser | May 28, 2015
Of all the concepts in IT, ITIL may be the most misunderstood. Here’s a look at what ITIL is, why you might consider using it and where/how to get started.

ITIL service strategy

Service strategy addresses three questions:

This thinking pushes the focus toward creating a simple, fast, easy interface between IT and the customer. Internal IT groups find they can differentiate by understanding the customer and their problems, and applying solutions more directly than external groups. On the technical side, this might mean features like single-sign-on or eliminating redundant data entry.

ITIL further breaks service strategy down into five key areas: Business relationship management, service portfolio management, financial management for IT services, demand management and strategy management for IT services.

The very idea of a service catalogue implies that IT simply performs pre-defined operations, much like the menu in our prior restaurant example. IT organizations that are helping to create new possibilities in radically dynamic organizations may still use the terms as a guideline, but define them more loosely.

Service design

A strategy is wonderful, but it won't actually define what the team will do, or how it will be done. That part is the role of service design; deciding what the new or changed services will be in the production environment. Service design includes the following processes: Design coordination, service-level management (SLA's), service catalogue management, supplier management, availability and capacity management, IT service continuity management and information security management.

Service transition

In ITIL, service transition is all of the activities surrounding changing services. Because the trend is increasingly toward self-service from software, service transition is often the process of deploying new software and hardware, and configuring that software and hardware, to support some new activity or change in activity.

This can be as simple as a change to a report to add a new column to a PDF file, or as a complex as deploying an entirely new ERP system. The focus of the conversation with the customer is not on the "ERP System," but instead on the new capabilities and the timing of the switchover. That's a major change for many IT departments.

Like service strategy, service transition includes a large number of sub-categories, including transition planning and support, change management, service asset and configuration management, release and deployment management, knowledge management, change management, service validation and testing.

ITIL service operation

Where service transition is about managing change, service operation is about day to day operation of existing systems; the activities and processes of operations. This includes both ongoing operations (the nightly batch run that creates transactions), but also making sure the operations happen, dealing with down servers, network outages, hard drives that are too full and so on. ITIL service operation breaks down into the following categories: Event management, incident management, request fulfillment, problem management and access management.


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