Gaining Traction

By Anna Maria Virzi Print this article Print

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library helps the bank define, measure, track and investigate service outages. But does it improve service?

Gaining Traction

Proponents of ITIL say the practice is designed to improve consistency in operations from one unit or division to another. "We used to have four different service desks, and everyone did things their own way. There was no commonality as to what was an incident, what was a problem. We didn't have any tools to track this," says Pershing's chief information officer, Suresh Kumar, of his organization.

At Pershing, one service desk is dedicated to handling calls from internal business users and another from external customers; the other service desks are dedicated to taking calls from a specific segment of the company's customer base. While Pershing still has four service desks, they all use the same definitions to describe a particular problem.

"ITIL recommends that an organization follow the same processes, start to finish. Regardless of service or customer, the activities for incident should be the same," Gallagher explains. "People get into their heads that this is the process, it becomes institutionalized, it becomes repeatable."

Following the same definitions provides another benefit. "It gives our business a sense that we're working on the highest priority incidents. That we're focusing our resources," Gallagher explains. "It gives us the ability to measure the time to resolve those incidents, and look for ways to improve and reduce the time to resolve [them]."

Incident and problem management are popular ITIL practices, says HP's Cannon. "When things break, it causes downtime to the business. There's a certain amount of urgency to get that problem fixed."

At the Bank of New York, each incident is assigned a severity number, from one to four, with number one representing an incident that has significant impact on the services offered to the business and customers. Four is assigned to minor incidents that do not need immediate attention. ITIL recommends the same numbering scheme.

ITIL also recommends that the service desk "own" every incident created. The Bank of New York follows this guideline, making an exception for its highest priority incidents affecting business or customers. In those cases, the bank assigns incident "ownership" to the service owner within I.T. The service desk then acts as incident coordinator, setting up telephone conference calls, updating the incident ticket, paging managers and keeping customers updated, according to Gallagher. "This distribution of responsibilities during high priority incidents ensures that all I.T. staff are focused on incident resolution," he says. By breaking up these duties, the Bank of New York makes sure that one person is not responsible for both fixing an incident and alerting customers about the service disruption.

This article was originally published on 2006-07-06
Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.
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