Technology managers at the Bank of New York thought they were doing a good job of running the information systems, networks and other services the company supplies to its internal and external customers. But good wasn’t good enough. They couldn’t back up their assessment with metrics.
“When senior business managers asked senior I.T. managers: ‘How are you guys doing? How is the process working? Show me some measurements,’ we were not able to supply that,” recalls Joseph Gallagher, vice president of I.T. process implementation at the Bank of New York. Those measurements, which have since been adopted, include statistics such as the number of service outages and their severity as well as the amount of time it takes to restore service.
That’s why Bank of New York’s technology managers turned to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, a series of publications written by the United Kingdom’s Office of Government Commerce in the 1980s that describe best practices for managing technology infrastructure—such as specifying that you should have a central information repository for tracking service problems such as server crashes or network outages. It provides a “feedback loop” to reduce or eliminate future incidents by collecting and analyzing the source of incidents and taking corrective action before a similar incident reoccurs.
Advocates see ITIL as a way to boost discipline in technology operations, and adopt a common vocabulary for discussing quality of service and establishing metrics. The library, which is available in print, on a CD-ROM or via an intranet license, provides guidance on how to approach eight key processes, including service delivery, service support, security management and software asset management.
“ITIL was specifically created because of the recognition that good quality software and systems don’t automatically provide good quality services to customers,” says David Cannon, Hewlett-Packard’s I.T. service management practice principal and a consultant working on behalf of the British government to refresh ITIL.
Cannon compares the situation to someone who owns a $100,000 Mercedes—with the best safety and performance systems that money can buy. “The problem is that I have never taken a driving lesson in my life and don’t have a license. As a result, I stick to the back roads and drive at least 10 mph below the speed limit … I never get anywhere on time,” he says. U.K. technology managers apparently were in the slow lane, too, when they purchased software and hardware to automate services back in the 1980s, yet did not get optimal performance. So, the U.K. recognized the need for a manual to help get its operations running better.
Now, that manual is being used by some of the world’s largest companies as a guide to better information-technology management. Earlier this year, for instance, Hewlett-Packard announced that General Motors had retained HP Services to use ITIL as a building block for the deployment of GM’s next-generation outsourcing model—to verify that I.T. vendors meet service levels.
As many as 75% of the Fortune 100 are among those companies embracing ITIL for an assortment of reasons, says Jack Probst, an executive consultant at Pink Elephant, a firm that provides ITIL education, conferences and consulting services to companies such as Nationwide Insurance, Bank of Montreal and BP. Two Pink Elephant employees are also working as consultants on the project to update the library.