Best practices in managing Information Technology

Most Bangladeshi companies with internal IT business support systems are struggling to formalize discipline (policy, process & procedure) to ensure appropriate service. Critical issues such as service delivery, accounting, managing (especially adopting new business process changes) and supporting are turning into a big challenge. Some or most of them fail to take advantage of their large IT investments, as a consequence of their blind-eye to managing service through definition of proper discipline. Many are found investing a lot of time and effort behind definition/re-definition of processes using internal resources (which never mature and remain unstable due to changes in people, businesses and technologies). Critical issues at the end remain unaddressed (or wrongly addressed). Such as: IT and business strategic planning; integrating and aligning IT and business goals; implementing continual improvement; measuring IT organizations’ effectiveness and efficiency; optimizing costs and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO); achieving and reflecting Return on Investment (ROI); exhibiting the business value of IT; developing business and IT partnerships and relationships; improving project delivery success; outsourcing vis-à-vis in-sourcing and smart sourcing; using IT to gain competitive advantage; delivering the necessary business justified IT services (i.e. what is required, when it is required and at what agreed cost); managing constant business and IT change, and of course demonstrating apposite IT governance.

Today’s smart customers will toil at length to ensure that the products and services they obtain actually complement changing business and continue to ensure value for money. As serviceproviders struggle with the discipline of delivery and support, their religious efforts often fail in producing a superior customer experience.To address these issues, a number of best practices have been developed and documented by many professional organizations. Numerous authors are contributing to optimization of discipline by continually developing relevant frameworks. Organizations have formulated scores of training and certification systems to augment the number of confident service management processionals. All of this, coupled with the availability and ease of adaptability, of a number of matured international standard processes, policies and guidelines make our case for an imminent need to reinvent the wheel in Bangladesh. Our IT service providers may easily avoid wastage by re-using these well-defined and disciplined processes and procedures. All it takes is knowledge of IT service management standards and the enthusiasm of adaptation. Nowadays, different forums of local senior IT managers are expressing interest and are increasingly discussing IT Service Management. These are positive signs.
So, what is it all about? By definition, “IT service management is the principles and practices of designing, delivering and maintaining IT services, to an agreed level of quality, in support of customer activity”. It is the discipline of managing IT systems from the customers’ perspective of its contribution to business and aims at achieving a common ground for understanding between the customer and the provider, by maintaining service level expectations and delivering expected results. It is in effect, a few set of processes, defined and evaluated by many communities to achieve the common goal of best service delivery and support. It serves as a guideline for aligning IT people, processes & technology with the business in order to ensure optimum customer satisfaction. It has the ability to govern any IT business support system including order management, inventory management, activation, maintenance, performance diagnostics, etc. The discipline of service management has been around since the early 1970’s and was originally part of the Operations Management discipline.
IT Service Management is thus a variety of frameworks for controlling and managing different aspect of services. They key frameworks are: The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL); Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (CobiT); IBM Tivoli Unified Process (ITUP) and IBM Process Reference Model for IT; Application Services Library (ASL); Business Information Services Library (BISL); Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF); The Helpdesk Institute (HDI); The e-Sourcing Capability Model for Service Providers (eSCM_SP); etc. Service Management is usually used with other types of management systems including Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, CMMI (Capability Maturing Model and Integration), and Business Process Management. It is applicable to both small companies and large corporations.
The question is where do we begin from to comply with the best practice model of IT Service Management? The framework which has most influenced the scope of service management is ITIL. It has also been absorbed as the parent process in many other frameworks and considered best startup for learning.

ITIL® is the registered acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, developed and controlled by itSMF (IT Service Management Forum). ITIL are a series of process books and training manuals that outline IT service scope and explain best practices involved. The goal of ITIL is for managers to have extremely high standards in IT value, as well as attain high financial quality in day to day operations.
ITIL was initially published between 1989 and 1995 with a library of over 30 volumes (official number is 31) books that covered specific themes in IT Service Management and principally confined to the UK and Netherlands for quite some time. Since 31 volumes was cumbersome,  the second version of ITIL framework had been consolidated into six/seven books. Two main books were Service Support (covered 6 key processes: service desk function; incident management (process); problem management (process); Change management (process); configuration management (process); and release management (process)) and Service delivery (covered 6 key processes: service level management; availability management; capacity management; IT service continuity management; financial management for IT Services; and Customer Relationship Management- CRM). Other books included Planning to Implement Service Management, Application Management, ICT Infrastructure Management, Security Management, etc.
This second version became universally accepted and is now used in many countries by thousands of organizations as the basis for effective IT service provision. In 2007, ITIL V2 was superseded by an enhanced and consolidated “ITIL version 3”, consisting of five core books covering the service lifecycle, together with the Official Introduction focusing on the lifecycle approach to service management as defined by the five ITIL titles, “ITIL Service Strategy”, “ITIL Service Design”, “ITIL Service Transition”, “ITIL Service Operation” and “ITIL Continual Service”.
The first step towards adopting best practices in managing IT through the ITIL framework, is acquiring in-depth knowledge. ITIL again, is not software, or a piece of hardware that can be installed into a computer and run. It is an integrated set of processes that requires extensive stakeholder involvement; before, during and after implementation. Initially at least one person from every stakeholder group (BOD, Management, Technical and Users) is required to obtain basic education on ITIL through training. The leader of the implementation team must essentially be formally trained and certified from any authorized institute. The process can then be implemented, in accordance with best practices that fundamentally include (but may not be limited to) Service Definition, Publication, Request Model, Provisioning, Measurement, Cost Recovery Process, Assessment. Each service is an opportunity for further process improvement, and not a static deliverable.
Independent consultancy services for IT Service Implementation is not yet available in Bangladesh. Some audit firms are helping international consultancy companies to implement such services through them, as local agents.  Other individually certified resources are working to help small and large businesses incorporate the principles of service management into their organization. Notable international vendors that provide service management include : iSYS, IBM Service Management, NetworkD, Pink Elephant, etc.
Once the processes are implemented and matured by practice, the organization may take the opportunity of automating them to get the benefit of visibility, control and mechanization needed to deliver quality service, manage risks and compliance, reduce TCO, maximize ROI and accelerate business growth. Some international vendors who provide automation solutions are: BMC Software, CA Unicenter, Hewlett Packard, IBM Tivoli, Altiris Management Suite, Bladelogic, FrontRange Solutions, etc.

Widespread knowledge and understanding of IT Service Implementation, as discussed so far, can make tremendous inroads into attaining compliance and alignment with international IT standards, policies and practices; into assuring customer-centric IT services and therefore an optimum customer experience; and last but the not the least, into successfully allying IT operations and goals with those of the business- a precursor to business development and growth.

Published by The Daily Star : http://www.thedailystar.net/pf_story.php?nid=71465

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