Ken Turbitt | The Library is learning

Interview with Ken Turbitt, BMC best-practices director

"What is the impact on the end users? ITIL looks at it from the service perspective rather than the asset perspective." Ken Turbit

Last month, Version 3 of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a set of books that constitute a best-practices framework for IT management, was released. Already being taken up by several federal agencies as a way to better manage IT resources, ITIL promises greater control and more efficient use of IT resources. To get a better idea of the improvements in Version 3, we talked to Ken Turbitt, who is a British-based best-practices director at BMC Software, a company that specializes in what it calls business service management software. Turbitt helped review the new version and evangelizes for ITIL in the European business community. He is certified as an ITIL manager by the Information Systems Examinations Board (ISEB), a part of the British Computer Society.

GCN: What drives organizations to look at ITIL?

Turbitt: We did a survey earlier this year with a company called Pink Elephant and found that most [organizations come to ITIL] to standardize their processes and increase efficiency. Those are the two main drivers.
Most people start off by doing what they felt was the best at the time. They could have bought a best-of-breed tool, and that tool did [the job] in a certain way and so then they ran their processes in that way.

Then, they found that this way wasn't achieving the efficiency required for the business. Nor did it provide the stability for the IT environment. Outages were happening a lot, so they looked to see if there was a standard out there.

The C-level executives would see that in accounting, there would be a set of rules that would have to be adhered to, and asked why IT doesn't have this. So in their research, they find that there is a standard called ITIL, and it has been around for two years.

GCN: What is your involvement in ITIL 3?

Turbitt: ITIL and I go back quite a long way. I got qualified [as an ISEB ITIL manager] about 12 years ago when I was working for a large international outsourcing organization. It wasn't very fashionable then, but it helped a lot in building and designing new services.

With Version 3, I got much more involved. I got to know some of the authors, and I asked for advice and guidance particularly around [the area of] business service management, which was not introduced until Version 3. And, as BMC was the leading vendor in the market for that area, we were asked for advice and guidance around definitions and terms. We were also asked to review some of the books 'the service and design book and service operations books.

And so now we have quite good relationships with [ITIL Version 3] chief architect Sharon Taylor and some of the other architects.

GCN: What was improved in ITIL 3?

Turbitt: Most of it was just catching up with the market. This is not a revolution, just evolution. ITIL is catching up with the market, the market is not being led by ITIL. With ITIL, the last book that came out was about five years ago. The other core books had not been updated for 10 years or so. And so we thought it really had to be brought up-to-date with what was happening in the market.

The biggest change is that we're taking a new life cycle approach to ITIL. In the past, if you were going to make a change to an asset ' a server or application ' we would look at the impact that would have on the application or that component or configuration of components. Now we're going to look at the service that will be delivered back into the customers, be they business units or government officials or citizens. What is the impact on the end users? ITIL looks at it from the service perspective rather than the asset perspective.

What ITIL has done is redefined how you looked at an asset. In the past, an asset would just be about what the device was and how you supported it.

Now, ITIL has two definitions. One is called utility and one is warranty. The utility of an asset is the particular purpose it serves. So if you're going to change an asset, you can check if [the new version] fits the purpose it was originally required for. And the warranty part of it is about how the device is being supported and maintained. What are the contracts around it? Are there license agreements? What are the maintenance agreements? What are the availability contracts?

So, you may have an ERP system, perhaps SAP or Oracle Financials, running critical business processes such as finance, human resources, payroll and distribution. Once you've automated those, you're dependent on IT, so ITIL recommends linking the business and processes and how they are supported with IT. So whenever there is an incident, you're not looking at the component impact of that ' you're looking at the impact on that HR process or payroll process. You will make the appropriate decisions on what the business wants, not on what IT wants.

GCN: What else is new with Version 3?

Turbitt: There is one area they focused on more which I quite like, and that is service portfolio management. For the government, that can be quite advantageous, because governments tend to run a lot of discrete projects that often have interconnections [to other projects]. And so the idea of the service portfolio is that you hold all the information to all the projects that are going on across the board. So you can manage your budgets, manage your resources and manage the impact of new services and upgrades.

GCN: How will agencies adopt ITIL 3?

Turbitt: This is the first time we've changed the whole series, so we're not quite sure how the market will react. I was just talking to some customers this week in South Africa. One said that [his organization] would just stick with Version 2 of ITIL and wait for Version 3 to become more mature. But as the conversation went on, I discovered he was already doing some of the elements that were brought into Version 3. I told him he should look at Version 3 because he was doing a lot of what it recommended already.

GCN: What will be the benefits of ITIL 3 from the executive level?

Turbitt: It will assure that IT is focused on the goals and strategies of the business, and no longer on IT for its own sake. As the business or government agency has grown so dependent on the IT infrastructure, IT [personnel] have to awaken to the fact that they can't play with their toys anymore. We can't just get the latest widget. We have to ask what value is it adding to the business objective. So we'll make the appropiate decision about what the business wants, not what IT wants. If you could answer that every time you do something from the IT perspective, it will be pleasing to the bosses and C-level people.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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