Over the decades of evolution of IT departments, a number of “best practices” have been identified. Best practices are simply the most efficient and productive ways found to run an IT department. There are several guides and methodologies outlining IT best practices, including the Required Practices for Organizations (or BS15000), the Help Desk Institute (HDI) Best Practices Standards for Certification, and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL.
What is ITIL?
ITIL consists of 6 books, published in the UK. ITIL is not a methodology, but rather a collection of recommendations and guidelines proven to be effective means for running an IT department. It is not specific to any organization or industry, and does not have to be implemented as an all-or-nothing endeavor. ITIL can be adopted and implemented in stages. There are no specific details given regarding implementation, but rather a set of guidelines to use to structure a well-organized, high-functioning IT department.
The six books that comprise ITIL are: the Official Introduction, Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Operation, Service Transition, and Continual Service Improvement, although some versions do not include the first book, Official Introduction. ITIL focuses on gradual and continual growth and improvement of the IT department, rather than a complete, one-time overhaul of the IT department.
ITIL includes recommended roles and responsibilities for IT personnel, defining each role and its related functions. The latest release of the ITIL books was issued in 2011. The books are available via download in .PDF format, or as printed books which are available at notable book retailers, such as Amazon. In addition to the books that comprise the guidelines of ITIL, books are available to study for the ITIL certification exams.
What are the Benefits of ITIL?
IT service desks that implement ITIL find that issues are resolved more quickly without the need to escalate most issues to a higher level. The goal is 60 percent resolution without escalation. Additionally, ITIL is proven to improve customer satisfaction ratings, reduce the cost of IT help desk operations, and lessen the amount of time it takes to resolve issues. IT departments also run more efficiently when using ITIL guidelines.
What are the Objectives of ITIL?
ITIL outlines specific objectives for the IT department, including:
- Careful and detailed logging of customer requests and issues
- Setting up a first line of defense for investigating and diagnosing issues
- Quickly resolving issues that do not need to be escalated to a higher level
- Closing resolved incident reports or tickets quickly
- Conducting regular customer satisfaction audits or surveys and making adjustments in response to the findings
- Continual improvements in customer communications (what the status of their request is, when a diagnosis is found, work-arounds for the customer, etc.)
- Continual and accurate updating of the IT management system
What Does it Take to Implement ITIL?
If your service desk is ready to begin implementing ITIL, it’s a good idea for at least one member of the team to acquire an ITIL certification. There are three levels of certification, Foundation, Practitioner, and Manager, which are pretty self-explanatory. Beginning ITIL implementation involves:
- Creating a single point of contact for customers. This eliminates the interruption of productivity of other IT staff members, while allowing the point of contact to develop relationships with the customers.
- Offering consultations through the point of contact so customers know what is offered to them and how to get it. This includes setting up knowledge bases, self-service portals, a catalog of IT services, etc.
- Establishing ways to track, monitor, resolve, and close incoming customer requests and/or tickets.
- Establishing proper procedures and protocols for escalating cases that cannot be handled by the first tier of help desk workers.
- Establishing a means by which problems are resolved and tickets and/or requests are closed.
ITIL also involves identifying the needs of the business and IT’s customers, investing in the right training for IT service desk workers, and establishing practical service levels through which IT can escalate the more difficult customer requests and problems.
There is also a good selection of ITSM software to help your department with ITIL implementation and continual improvement.