Toyota unit gets ITIL right second time around

Toyota Financial Services’ initial attempt to adopt the best practices laid out in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) fell short when lacklustre results stalled the project. Instead of giving up, IT executives refocused their efforts and made sure they had adequate support from employee ranks.

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Toyota Financial Services’ initial attempt to adopt the best practices laid out in the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) fell short when lacklustre results stalled the project. Instead of giving up, IT executives refocused their efforts and made sure they had adequate support from employee ranks.

It all started when Toyota Financial Services found itself in a position to build an IT organisation from the ground up. Executives did not want to pass up the opportunity to build their group on best practices.

“We didn’t have any service management processes in place and saw it as a unique opportunity to put good practices in place and grow them as the organisation grew,” says Dave Howard, national business technology manager for Toyota Financial Services in California. “It was our first time being in control of our own destiny, so to speak, and we thought it made sense to look into process frameworks.”

Toyota Financial Services has separated its IT division from that of Toyota Motor Sales US for business reasons in 2000, but has not solidified an IT service-management strategy until 2002 or 2003, Howard says. The team started investigating best-practices frameworks and looked into ITIL more closely for several reasons.

“We liked ITIL because it was a vendor-agnostic, generic set of best practices that were mostly descriptive and prescriptive,” Howard explains. “We felt it could fit the needs of a small or larger organisation and be flexible enough not to dictate to us which tools we needed to teach our objectives.”

With 3,000 users to support, Howard says the team’s first objective was establishing a service desk. On top of that, incident, change, configuration and release management ideally would follow. Toyota Financial Services’ initial stab at ITIL fell flat, however.

“We failed at the beginning to show the benefits of adopting these good practices to the organisation overall”, which ultimately stalled the first attempt at rolling out ITIL, he explains. Howard’s team in 2004 refocused its approach to adopting ITIL and reports more success today. “We needed to realise ITIL was not a quick fix and ramp up our marketing and educational efforts. We also started highlighting the small wins we achieved,” he says.

For its second time around, the company established a service management group and assigned ownership of the processes to that group. Making a team accountable for the processes helped keep them on tack and made incremental improvements more tangible. “We were trying to implement our service management processes without a centralised group around service management, so the goals and objectives were not properly aligned,” he says.

As for results, Howard says his organisation is seeing several improvements in terms of availability, reliability, quality and stability of IT applications and infrastructure. For instance, in the case of release management, IT staff do not have to “go back and reinvent the wheel” for every application rollout. They can use the same established process, with tweaks here and there, which speeds the deployment time and keeps users happier. “Consistency breeds efficiencies,” he says.

Howard also reports that Toyota Financial Services has seen reduced incidents and, more importantly, reduced severity of incidents. He says he believes the quality control put in place help reduce errors and prevent performance issues.

Still, Howard’s ITIL implementation is far from over. He plans to continue evolving services and service delivery to align with the business, now that the business understands the value of efficient IT operations. Toyota Financial Services will adapt its processes as part of larger improvement efforts.

“The black box of IT has been lifted, and business managers can now see behind the curtain. Before you could about improving availability and watch people’s eyes gloss over,” Howard says. “But now IT is really being looked at as a competitive differentiator that is being brought to the forefront. Good, successful organisations need to be focusing on IT development and services to help and business meet its strategic goals.”

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