Best Practice IT framework, ITIL v3, was released in May 2007 to much fanfare. While there has been increased interest in the new version and ITIL v2 adoption levels have continued to rise rapidly, there remains confusion about the differences between the process-driven ITIL v2 and the more complex business strategy and lifecycle approach outlined in v3.

Having reached the first anniversary of the new version, many organisations will be looking to assess the business impact of their service management investments and some will choose to take their best practice processes further by rolling out the new framework.

The latest version is not a quick-fix solution appropriate to every organisation, so here are some key points to consider.

ITIL v3 is not for everyone

Since its inception, ITIL has provided a platform for organisations to re-examine how IT supports the business through the use of Best Practice processes. Since then, the framework has evolved significantly to take a more business orientated approach to best practice processes by improving problem, change and incident management to deliver a higher level of service to the business.

While ITIL v3 has sparked much interest, and even debate, uptake has been relatively low. This is in part due to confusion in the market about the changes and how they translate into practical terms. Where v2 was focused on business and technology alignment, v3 is tasked with integration between the two entities.

While v3 is undoubtedly better suited for service mature businesses, v2 will remain relevant for the majority of organisations looking to improve service management processes. It is important to point out that the v3 approach will only be appropriate for a handful of advanced organisations with specific service-related business objectives.

Business strategy determines need for v3

The v3 approach is linked strongly with the strategic direction of the business and outlines how IT can aid the business in achieving the organisation’s performance goals. Before deploying ITIL, building a strategic map that outlines where the business is going will help to determine where IT fits in supporting these objectives. ITSM professionals will need to consider if ITIL v3 is the most appropriate method available to help them to achieve the short and long term objectives of the business.

cost and process efficiency is the key business drivers, adhering to v2 may be more suitable in the shorter term. If service improvement and driving profits are the key drivers, then v3 could be the answer. But successful companies will need to see IT and the business working together to understand what is required to reach its mutual goals. In essence, ITIL v3 is designed to move the IT department from the perception of a ‘cost centre’ to a ‘profit centre’ in the eyes of the business.

Culture first, v3 second

If an IT function is not sufficiently mature in its processes, it will struggle to adopt the complexities of ITIL v3. But more importantly, v3 may fundamentally conflict with company culture and common working practices.

Practical tactics such as appointing an ITIL champion, implementing incentive schemes, or reorganising a team from a traditional vertical function based structure to a horizontal business focused one to foster alignment are proven strategies that drive best practice. A communications strategy is also integral to a successful change management programme.

A formal plan that clearly demonstrates why ITIL is being adopted, when and how will enable middle management to gain buy-in from front-line users and support from above. It is important to remember that people will always resist change unless you communicate the benefits of those changes.

v3 is not a big bang

The beauty of ITIL is that it is a Best Practice set of guidelines, rather than a strict regulated criterion. This means that an organisation can pick and choose which aspects it wants to adhere to according to its specific objectives.

One advantage is that particular parts of ITIL v3 can be rolled out slowly and in phases with minimal disruption to working practices. This ensures a higher rate of success compared with other change management projects. Technologies that guide organisations through the processes laid out in v2 and more complicated aspects of service strategy in v3 are both easy to use and quick to implement.

Organisations that embrace IT service management tools will find that automation and integration comes easily and that the process is less daunting. They also typically generate substantially higher ROI from automated cost procedures

v3 closely aligned with standardisation

What many companies do not realise is that ITIL v3 is a sure path to standards adoption. The framework is more closely associated with COBIT and ISO/IEC 20,000 than v2.

It also provides the capacity for mature organisations to roll-out best practice to other parts of the business, such as finance and marketing, further driving efficiency throughout the organisation.

While ITIL v3 has clear benefits in reducing IT wastage and cost competence, companies with no experience of ITIL will find making the leap to excellence in IT service management a big one.

As the gap in IT service management maturity widens, ITIL v2 and v3 and the tools that enable organisations to follow these guidelines, become more relevant for any business looking to remain competitive.

Markos Symeonides is VP Business Development, Axios Systems