Consider any service industry such as teaching, banking or restaurants. Each of these industries has its unique set of challenges – not only in its industry but also as an organization’s maturity grows. For example, as a restaurant grows from a neighborhood eatery to a national chain, the ways of working must become more formalized. This formalization enables the restaurant to be more consistent in its delivery of services and, hopefully, to be more profitable.
The restaurant may choose to develop its own ways of working or may refer to any number of restaurant best practices that exist. These published best practices enable the restaurant to learn from what others have done, which is the most effective way of conducting business.
Over many decades, IT has emerged as a service provider. Instead of just providing technology, the business depends on IT to deliver services. These services facilitate the business’ outcomes to be achieved. As a service provider, an IT organization may choose to develop its own ways of working or may learn from others in the industry. This is where the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) comes into play.
Just as an economist doesn’t learn economics from on-the-job training, but from books on economics, we in IT now have an authoritative set of books to rely on for guidance.
Written by people in the IT industry, ITIL is a set of best practices that an IT organization may choose to implement as its way of working. The five volumes of ITIL provide a methodology to manage the life of an IT service through service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement.
As an IT organization grows, ITIL’s set of practices come in handy. Instead of struggling through organizational growth, ITIL provides a vision for the IT service provider.
Since its debut in the 1980s, ITIL has been adopted by organizations of every industry. As IT has matured alongside the business, new best practices have been established and incorporated into ITIL. In their latest publication, the ITIL 2011 edition provides a comprehensive set of best practices at all levels — from high-level decision-making to daily operation of services.
The true benefit of ITIL, however, is that an organization does not have to adopt each and every best practice. ITIL is flexible enough that it doesn’t require every bit of it to be adopted. Instead, an organization can choose the parts to adopt, and as the organization grows not only in size but also maturity, further investment can be made in adopting additional ITIL best practices.
As ITIL adoption continues to grow, there is nothing that limits an organization from going beyond the bounds of the pages in the ITIL guidance. Such organizations will produce the next set of best practices that will be included in future publications of ITIL.