ITIL: Not Just for Help Desks Anymore

I’ve been preparing for an upcoming Webcast with Bomgar (January 24th, stay tune for registration info) entitled “The ITIL Imperative.”  ITIL, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a library of best practices for all phases of IT operations, including books on service delivery and service management.  ITIL grew out of a UK government project in the 80s, and found huge popularity with the North American IT service desk/help desk community over the last 5-7 years.  I admit I haven’t always been a huge ITIL fan, having once said “the emperor is scantily clad” in a Forrester Trends report.  My issues with ITIL at that time were:

  • Reinventing the wheel.  These are documented best practices–not new best practices–and highly functional support teams who had never heard of ITIL were already using the processes ITIL describes.  Paying a small fortune for the set of books isn’t a panacea.
  • Vendor scare tactics.  I did a speaking tour for a help desk vendor along with a company who did ITIL training and certification.  The consulting firm did their best to terrify audiences into hiring them for audits, saying “The Justice Department will be auditing your IT shop within 5 years, and if you don’t have us certify your processes YOUR CIO WILL GO TO JAIL!”  (Unfortunately, I’m not exaggerating.)  Anything that has to be sold by intimidation isn’t worth buying.
  • It’s all in a name.  When CRM and help desk vendors found that the same consulting firm was offering “ITIL compliant” verification, everyone paid handsomely for the stamp of approval.  And what did they have to overhaul in their products to meet the ‘best practice’ criteria?  Most told me they only had to change the name of the primary queueable object from ‘case’ to ‘incident.’ (Though in the schema the primary and related tables are usually still called ‘case’–ha!)

There was also an over-arching issue I had with some help desks who were jumping on the ITIL bandwagon.  With all the focus on process, I felt the whole point of the processes–the customer–was being completely overlooked.

Move ahead 4 years to today.  Maybe IT service desks are still more focused on process than customer–I’m not covering that space anymore.  But I’m happy to report that major SSPA members, including Dell, Oracle and Avaya, are finding ITIL not only applies to external customer support operations, but it has huge direct customer impacts.  Jim Hendrickson, the SSPA’s VP of Advisory Services, is also hearing more about ITIL from members in benchmarking discussions, and it appears that adhering to ITIL even promotes elements of Value-Added Support, including proactive support as part of change management.

One member provided this list of ITIL benefits to the support organization and to the customer.  Due to confidentiality agreements I am not able to give him credit for this, but you know who you are, and thank you so much!

ITIL Benefits: Customer

  • Deliberate and efficient structure focused on meeting specific objectives, leading to a more constructive IT culture.
  • Process design, from the onset, can be carefully structured to eliminate cross-purpose, duplication and waste of effort
  • With solid framework, changes are easier to define, implement and monitor
  • Since your framework is codified and commonly understood, it is easier to discuss IT processes from a shared perspective and common language.
  • Business continuity becomes intertwined with IT infrastructure, including: disaster planning, maintenance scheduling, and information security planning
  • Execution under emergency circumstances can be carried out with less ambiguity and more forethought
  • All parties will know how to measure, and target, success
  • Feedback from the user community can be reviewed and become part of the adjustment process
  • Technical processes can be described clearly and be made understandable to non-technical audiences.
  • Formalized processes are easier to manage, leading to lower overall cost and faster response times
  • Established and explicit expectations for IT service quality and dependability within company and with vendor partners
  • Allow the CIO and IT department to become a strategic competitive tool for their company in the marketplace

Benefits: Support Organization

  • Reduced dependency on reactive support through better planning (poor change management a major driver of demand for reactive services)
  • Better alignment of service offerings and execution
  • Move support from just being a “service insurance policy” to “trusted partner” thus making the competition irrelevant
  • Stronger partnership with customers to help development build better products and services
  • Help tell an outstanding ROI story by establishing baseline processes, develop and execute action plans and report progress towards corp IT goals for customers
  • Business intelligence to better identify opportunities and competitive landscape within customers IT environment

So I guess, after all these years, I’m jumping on board the ITIL bandwagon.  But don’t expect to see me “Pink Verified” any time soon.😉

Is your company using ITIL?  Any thoughts or observations you’d like to share?  Have I made a disparaging remark about ITIL to you in the past and you want to give me grief about it?  Add a comment or shoot me an email.  And, as always, thanks for reading!

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One Comment on “ITIL: Not Just for Help Desks Anymore”


  1. […] three drivers to this one.  1) ITIL, formerly only a topic for IT service desks, is now becoming common for external support.  2) Customer support technology created for IT service desks remains strong within our […]


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