IT service management remains a benefit for SMEs
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), created by the UK’s Office of Government Commerce, started out as a very usable and easily understandable set of disciplines divided under two headings of “Service Support” and “Service Delivery” which allowed service orientated businesses of a modest size to improve their process efficiency relating to service delivery.
Service Support includes the management of issues related to incidents, change, problems configuration, and release. Service Delivery includes service levels, availability management, contingency planning, capacity management and finance.
The big differentiator of this methodology was an almost evangelistic focus throughout the text on the quality of service delivery rather than the usual IT habit of examining and “improving” from a purely technical perspective. Companies implementing ITIL quickly realised benefits relating to responsiveness and uptimes of services to clients leading to improved client satisfaction and repeat business.
This meant business owners were able to quickly and clearly see how investment in this programme of change begin to improve their bottom line. Such changes were especially beneficial for quickly growing businesses (say from small to medium capabilities) in order to ensure the increase in capability (size) was not being matched by an increase in inefficiency and waste.
As ITIL caught on and interest in the methodology increased, the drive to improve upon the offering to commercial companies grew. The range of the literature increased significantly. Possibly influenced by the Office of Government Commerce decision to opt for a proprietary commercial implementation (rather than under its Open Government License) the material and training courses became more expensive and it is now a generic complaint that ITIL is no longer within the reach of most SMEs.
All but the largest organisations can find the range of subjects within ITIL and the number of courses almost bewildering to track with a complex structure of points having been put in place in order to provide paths to certification. This should not be interpreted as a critique of the quality (which remains very high) or the validity of the material, but more an understanding that the methodology may now be targeted at larger organisations with significant training and internal process improvement budgets.
However, at its core, ITIL remains a very easily understood service focused tool set which can be quickly and effectively implemented within most businesses. The trick for SME’s is to focus on the basis which was created over a decade ago and remains the spine of the new enhanced framework. The basis of ITIL could be traced back to the following key disciplines:
Service Desk and Incident Management is where ITIL starts, with a client request. The premise of the service desk (rather than the help desk) is a setup which can ‘service’ the client rather than simply answer the phone and direct. There should be multiple methods of communication (e-mail, automation from servers, etc.) and the Service Desk must be setup with capacity to cope with the number of calls expected.
The service desk is run using an incident management procedure which is owned by the front line and is responsible for the logging, classification and appropriate routing or, where possible, resolution of the customers’ queries and issues.
Change Management is another core and cohesive discipline which allows organisations to plan and organise its change control procedures. In keeping with the majority of core disciplines this chapter makes significant allowance for the size of the organisation with appropriate options for smaller or distributed organizations available within the process described.
The Service Level Management is the corner stone of the more advanced service management processes. Many organisations mention the use of service levels but few do so while understanding the commitment necessary in order to implement. At its most generic service level management (SLM) is the monitoring of the agreed service times agreed with the client. This can become infinitely complex as internal agreements between units (operational level agreements) are included. But for a start all that is required is a solid link between contracts offered and agreed with clients and a service catalogue detailing what the organisation can effectively offer and deliver.
Once a SME has grown to the point whereby agreements with clients require formal logging of client requests, and that these requests are controlled and actioned efficiently, these basic procedures can be the basis for significant company improvements. The focus on the delivery of service makes such procedures relevant for all service based companies and is a very real example of how management can manage a controlled growth in a practical and accessible manner.
All companies want to enhance their bottom line. ITIL provides a structured and easy to understand method of improving the interaction with clients. With competition always on the increase, the implementation of sound service management procedures can be the differentiator between competitors and thereby provide clients with the reason to select your business above others.
Mr Deguara is a programme manager at 6pm plc. and an experienced ITIL practitioner.