When Version 3 of ITIL is published this spring – the target date is April 23, though that may or may not be met – it should better reflect the way IT delivers services today and provide more specific guidance for those who want to use ITIL to help them structure their IT operations.

ITIL is a set of best practices for managing IT operations, developed by the British government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (now part of the Office of Government Commerce) in the late 1980s.

IT today is all about services, said George Spalding, vice-president at Pink Elephant Inc. in Burlington, Ont., and one of the 10 authors working on the new ITIL documents. Pink Elephant specializes in IT infrastructure management with a particular emphasis on ITIL.

The current version of ITIL addresses service management, Spalding said, but the ITIL Refresh Project grew out of the belief that it should play a much more central role. “We had matured to the point where services were all that IT should be talking about when it was talking to the customer,” Spalding said.

With that in mind, ITIL Version 3 will be built around the lifecycle of services and the concept of a service portfolio. And it will include the idea that not all services are provided to end users – there are also internal services needed to support the “customer-facing” ones that users see.

In an online memorandum about the project, Sharon Taylor, chief architect of the refresh project, said the library of five books making up the core of ITIL Version 3 “reflects the life of services and so appeals to a broad spectrum of people who carry out roles at various service life stages.” The revised ITIL will also put more emphasis on knowledge management, which Spalding admitted was “an area of weakness” in Version 2. Version 3 will incorporate a Service Management Knowledge System, which incorporates the known error and change management databases covered in Version 2 but is much broader, according to Taylor’s memo.

The refreshed ITIL will also offer more guidance on implementation, said Stephen Elliot, research manager for enterprise systems management software at research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass. While ITIL has previously focused on what to do, Version 3 will have more to say about how to do it. “It will certainly help probably streamline some conversations about how to move forward with a process . . . rather than leaving it open to interpretation,” Elliot said.

“It’s always helpful to have a road map.”

And Version 3 will try harder to link IT processes to business impact, which Elliot said is a good thing. “People just aren’t standardizing a process for the fun of it,” he said. “The reason people are really looking at ITIL is to save money, to standardize on work flow.”

ITIL Version 3 isn’t like a new version of software that requires IT shops to go through an upgrade. It will build on Version 2, and those that have already implemented ITIL practices will be able to “look at the new ITIL Version 3 material and make some business decisions,” Spalding said. “If you’re a relatively mature organization, you’ll be able to cherry-pick.”

But there are “hundreds of thousands of organizations, believe it or not, that have never heard of ITIL,” he added, and he said he hopes the new documents will make implementation easier for them.

Elliot predicted ITIL Version 3 will be adopted slowly. “I don’t think it will be a mad rush for a lot of companies,” he said.

There is no program of certifying organizations’ compliance with ITIL, but individuals can get certification. Work is under way on updating the certification process to reflect Version 3, said Spalding. Those who already have ITIL Version 2 certification won’t be required to re-certify, but he says that in time the Version 2 certification will probably be seen as out of date.

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