ITIL 2011


ITIL documentation (Ref: Service Transition Publication) includes Definite Media Library as a part of Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS).  This has always been a key debate points in training and consulting discussions for me – the reasons for the same, will be given below.

I also had an interesting Twitter interaction with Mr. Stuart Rance (one of the authors of the Service Transition publication 2011) on the same, yesterday.  Some  of the points of this discussion also will be explained along with my further views on the same.  Realized later, that the 140 character restriction of twitter was constraining the ability to explain viewpoints clearly and hence this post took shape.

Prior to getting into the specifics, let us look at some of the pointers about the DML and SKMS from ITIL, and based on my interpretation of the same:

As per ITIL 2011:

The definitive media library (DML) is the secure library which contains the master copies of all controlled software in an organization. The DML should include definitive copies of purchased software (along with licence documents or information), as well as software  developed on site. Master copies of controlled documentation for a system are also stored in the DML.  Electronic assets in the DML are held within the SKMS.

The service knowledge management system (SKMS), is concerned, as its name implies, with knowledge. Underpinning this knowledge will be a considerable quantity of data, which will also be held in the SKMS.

My interpretation of the same was like this:

  • Since DML contains some ‘information assets’ such as controlled documentation, technical information about the software etc – these should automatically become part of the larger SKMS.
  • Hence, “DML will be ‘stored’ in SKMS” is a wrong way of putting it. The information assets stored in DML will also form part of the SKMS.
  • There are other service assets / CIs stored in DML such as: Bought-in software with their media, in-house built software etc. These assets won’t really fit in the ‘data-information-knowledge’ spectrum in the SKMS context.  Such assets won’t be part of the SKMS.

Now, in my interaction with Mr. Stuart Rance, he has given me a few interesting view points on this: (more…)

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This week, I have completed and published a small paper on our (Wings2i) website with title same as the title of this post.

You can read/download the paper here.

The paper is a summary of some of the critical misinterpretations/misconceptions that I have observed in the Industry so far, regarding the Core concept of ITIL ® : The Service Lifecycle. Such pitfalls can negate or degrade the power of such holistic concept introduced by the global best practice framework.

The Paper looks into the following aspects of the Service lifecycle :

  1. It is SERVICE Lifecycle – NOT Service Management Lifecycle
  2. The Progression of Stages is not Linear
  3. All Stages are NOT Equal!
  4. Stages will and can overlap
  5. Processes can/will span multiple lifecycle stages
  6. The Risk of “Lifecycle Stage Silo’s”

 There might be other such considerations that are important for adoption of the model. Such inputs and any debates on the points that I raised in the paper are most welcome!

 

What is Problem management in ITSM?

When there is ’unknown underlying cause’ for ‘one or more incidents’, Problem management process is used to find the ‘underlying cause’, convert them into ‘Known Errors’ and ‘Resolve them permanently’.

Problem management can be Reactive (when it is used to do analyze and permanently fix the cause of an incident that just happened) or proactive, where  areas requiring Root cause analysis are proactively identified – through trend analysis, proactive identification of potential issues etc.

All these are fine – but have a very basic ‘problem’:  The whole set of explanations gives an impression that it is all above correcting a ‘problem’ and identifying and fixing an ‘error’.

Why this process should only address ‘Problems’ and ‘errors only? Won’t the same process useful for ‘Cause analysis’ and ‘management’ of any ‘unknown’ element in the Service management?

In a broader sense, we are discussing a process that aims at:

  • Identify an area that requires detailed cause analysis
  • Derive and document the underlying cause
  • Address the cause fully (as required) and further actions on it

Take the following scenarios as examples:

1. After a particular patch/bug-fix is implemented on a Server, the performance of the Server has improved significantly – It is an unintended outcome from the patch update. The concerned technical team is not sure ‘why’ this has happened.

It might be a good idea to do a ‘cause analysis’ in this case to identify the root cause of this positive change in Server performance and address questions like:

  • Is this positive performance change really due to the patch update?
  • If so, which element of the update has caused the improvement?
  • Can this element be used on other (similar) servers to improve the performance?
  • Can this element be included as a part of design document for such servers? (more…)

ITIL® Continual Service Improvement (CSI), especially in 2011 edition has a lot of great concepts with clarity; however there are some others, which could have been enhanced with some more clarity.

In this post, I wish to discuss one such topic in CSI that need some clarity: The role of CSI Manager

To start with, let me quote a couple of statements in ITIL® regarding the role:

  •  In the CSI Principles section, ITIL notes that about the role:

A. CSI Manager is the chief advocate who owns all CSI issues

B. While CSI Manager is accountable and responsible for CSI, the CSI Manager is not accountable for improvement to specific Service. Specific Service improvements are responsibility of the appropriate Service Owner working with the CSI framework.

  • Further in the Organizing for CSI section, in the details of the CSI Manager Role, the following points are included:

a) CSI manager is ultimately responsible for the success of all CSI activities.

b) This single point accountability coupled with competence and authority improves the chances of a successful improvement program.

Here are the questions/confusions which I would love get some clarifications: (more…)

Release management (the current Release & Deployment management in ITIL®) process is (as it should be) covering all releases those are deployed into the IT Service environment.

Traditionally in the IT domain, the ‘release’ term is more associated with software than hardware or any other assets. However in ITIL®’s approach to ITSM, the release always been ‘a collection of authorized changes’. These authorized changes can be software, hardware, their combination (service, servers, and infrastructure), configuration changes etc.

Having said this, though ITIL® principally goes with an all-encompassing definition of the word ‘Release’, the documentation of Release & Deployment Management often seem to slip into a (probably unintentional) bias towards Software.  Such an inconsistency can lead to some significant misinterpretation of the best-practice, and the focus of release management can get confined into software alone.

Let us look at how ITIL® (specifically referring to the 2011 edition)  introduces the Release and deployment management process:

The Scope of Release includes: ‘Physical assets such as servers, network, virtual assets, Applications and software, Trainings, Services including agreements and contracts’

However, the stated objectives of Release and Deployment contain statements like:

“…and that all release packages are stored in DML and recorded accurately in CMS”

“Deploy release packages from DML to live environment…”

DML is for software media components. So where are release packages containing Hardware stored?  In DML itself?  Such an interpretation unfortunately doesn’t fit with the definition and explanation of DML – where in, the references are only include Software and media components. (These references to DML are more prominent in 2011 edition, though was there for v3 as well).

Can Definitive Spares (DS) be the area where the Hardware components are controlled prior to deployment to the production environment?  One tends to think it could be. But that is no where referred.

Coming back to the central point of this post, to create a right interpretation of the scope of ‘Release’, it is important that the following one of the following points are taken care of – either in the ITIL® documentation, or by the practitioners during the interpretation of the same:

·         The Scope of Definitive Media Library (DML) should be extended to include ALL release packages. Unfortunately in such a case it will cease to be just a ‘Media Library’. Definitive Release Library (DLR) anyone?

OR

·         Keep the scope of DML as is; but set aside/define definitive storage areas for storing and controlling release packages that contain non-software and non-media components (such as hardware) and refer to them from the release management process- the same way DML is referred from release management.

Till this is taken care of effectively, release and deployment management process scope can get constrained to only Software – which would be unfortunate and ineffective.

Any thoughts/ different view points out there on these are welcome…

ITIL® , the best practice framework for IT Service management-  by the time it has evolved into its third version or as it is called now into the 2007 edition –  came up with a comprehensive definition of “Service” (the same is retained in its 2011 edition as well):

“Means of delivering value to the customer by facilitating the outcomes customer want to achieve, without the ownership of specific costs and risks”

However, it seems to be still unclear (or missing the opportunity) in defining ‘IT service’ and  ‘IT Service Provider’ clearly.  As per the 2011 edition, the definitions are:

“IT service:  Services delivered by an IT Service Provider”

 “IT Service Provider: A service provider providing IT Services to internal or external customers”

Talk about Circular references!

 Can’t we have some better definition or at least better insights into understanding what an ‘IT Service’ is?

No, I don’t have a well thought out definition of ‘IT Service’ on offer here; not yet. However here are some thoughts that might lead us to defining ‘IT service’ better:

What is Information Technology (IT)?

Technology used to:  Process information, Store Information, Transfer information, or Present (visualize, for example) business information.

So the ‘outcome’ expected by customer or business from “IT” (as a provider of service) can be described through:

  • Process, Store, Transfer or Present business information as required by the business
  • While ensuring key aspects like Reliability, Security and Cost-effectiveness

Any systems/technology and/or activity which facilitate the above outcome described above,

  • Without the need of  business/customer to own, manage or worry about the specific risks and  costs of the underlying technology, assets, activities etc.

can be an “IT Service”.

With this context , one possible perspective of looking at IT Service can be as below: (more…)

In 2003-04, I have led a team of consultants in a Middle East based Bank for adoption of ITIL (at that time V2) practices into their IT organization. One of the deliverables was definition of a suitable Service Catalog framework for the IT Services. We found the guidance in ITIL documentation for Service Catalog to be not adequate enough to satisfy the needs of the Bank.

Through a series of brainstorming sessions and with significant inputs and involvement from the Bank’s IT management, we have zeroed in on a high-level categorization of IT Services into 3 groups:

  • Business Banking services – IT Services that are built into the Bank’s business services – like Core banking applications, Internet banking etc; for which the users are end-customers of the bank.
  • Business Support Services – IT Services that are supporting the bank’s business processes such as email, HR applications etc; for which the users are the Bank’s employees involved in Bank operations
  • IT Internal Services – Supporting services within IT such as System allocations, IP address management etc; for which the users were within IT.

We found the framework to be immensely useful for the Bank’s IT to manage the IT Services in an effective manner.  I have expected to see such guidelines for proper definition and categorization of services to be available in ITIL V3 – but was a bit disappointed (or, I could not find it, if it was defined in some corner of the vast documentation). I always thought that is a significant aspect in IT Service management framework which can have a direct impact on how other aspects/practices in ITSM are defined and governed.

Now, I am happy to see such a Service categorization has been documented in ITIL 2011.  The new revision of the ITIL gives details of Services to be categorized into:

  • External customer-facing services
  • Internal Customer facing Services
  • Support Services – for the interdependencies within IT

Especially the third category – Support Services, clarifies a long-pending confusion for IT outsourcing companies:

IT Outsourcing companies such as those into infrastructure Outsourcing provide services such as network administration/management, Service administration/management, Monitoring etc for which the customers are usually IT personnel in the customer organization. These services were often deemed confusing in the whole discussion of Business-IT Alignment and Integration context.

Now, with this categorization, the services provided by the outsourcing service providers can predominantly fit into the Category 3: Support Services.