Hosting Company Auditing and Certification — Part 1 of 3
At Superb, we have a staff that is certified in ITIL.
“So, what? What is it? Tell me what it is!”
Just hold on, hold on, whoever you are. Let me get through the introduction. ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library http://www.itil-officialsite.com/WhatisITIL.aspx. It’s used by organizations as large and different as NASA and Disney. Providers who help implement accreditation and consulting for ITIL include IBM and Hewlett Packard.
Sir, please, no heckling. All right, let’s get to it. The man we’ve all been waiting for – well, not really a man, or a woman, but a thing – the Information Technology Infrastructure Library in all its glory. This is gonna be fun.
History of ITIL
“Hey, hey you, with the book-smarts and the highfalutin ideas. You ain’t from around here, are ya? I can tell by all the words and pages and … dag-nabbit, that’s a Europe accent ain’t it? Ooh-ee, I was wondering what was smellin’ so bad around here.”
Calm down sir, and behave yourself. Yes, it’s true: ITIL originated in the United Kingdom. The Central Computer Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), a department of the UK government, came up with a set of standards in the 1980s. These standards were not considered a set of rules but recommendations.
The original reasoning behind ITIL, then, was to offer companies a way to be held accountable and to help improvement IT management for the benefit of businesses, partners, and clients. It offered a freely given set of best management practices for IT so that those practices weren’t just growing independently within private businesses – a central knowledge base and certification process seemed desirable. The end goal was that service was improved as the IT management system was improved.
“Ohhh … I get it. Some kind of government takeover of our minds. I knew it! I knew it! Anytime I see a bunch of capital letters in a row, I go get ready for a shotgun wedding, because I know there are some squirrely men in town.”
Now that’s just not fair, sir. The IT Infrastructure Library was initially issued as a series of books. Each one focused on a different “best practice” area. The basis of the books may have been W. Edwards Deming (no, not the inventor of the modern toilet brush – that’s William C. Schopp … completely different names really), whose plan-do-check-act cycle is a version of organizational modeling for businesses – or any organization or person, really – to use to optimize their systems (discussed below).
ITIL Version 3, released in 2011, is now the standard for any type of ITIL accreditation. ITIL covers a broad range of IT topics, but generally speaking, the service-oriented knowledge is what’s of most interest to businesses, as opposed to application and management focused materials that have also been developed within the ITIL model.
It’s also important to note that ITIL itself does not give out accreditations. All it is is a government-developed system of recommendations that you can either follow or not – up to you. You can, however, become ITIL certified by any of a number of examination organizations that ARE vetted by the HM government via its partner the APM Group.
“HM, as in ‘Her Majesty’?? What, now I’m bowing down to the queen? Can I at least be knighted while I’m on my knees, like Dubya’s dad was?”
Well, uh … you might want to read this article. Also, I don’t think you’re qualified to be knighted, sir, unfortunately, but I’ll see what I can do.
Plan-Do-Check-Act (aka PDCA) Cycle
Let’s look briefly at Plan-Do-Check-Act, so we get a sense of the basic philosophy behind ITIL or at least something with a lot of similarities to its theoretical basis, so we know why it’s so damn awesome.
OK, so the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle is also called the Deming cycle (after Deming, above) or the Shewhart cycle (after Walter Shewhart). It’s a way to model an organization or a piece of an organization that allows for continuous improvement. It consists of course of four steps, but those steps keep continuing, cycling through repeatedly. There’s nothing mandatory about it, it’s just a system you can potentially use if you like.
“Oh, like Driver’s Licenses, I get it. They want my numbers.”
No, it’s nothing like Driver’s Licenses. Come on buddy. With the PDCA cycle model, you do the following:
- Plan – The plan is, simply put, the activity of getting ready for a change in the organization. Note: The change is by trial, so it won’t have to be correct.
- Do – Do involves taking a small sampling and seeing if the planned change improves things. Think of test-marketing or beta-testing – but this system also applies internally.
- Check – This step is essentially analysis. Does it work, or not? The analysis is very important – if the analysis is rigorous and refined, you’re golden. This step is the easiest place for corruption, so Checking must be performed carefully.
- Act – Go for it. Didn’t work? Start over with planning again.
Note how similar this system is to the scientific method – testing hypotheses (Do) and reviewing outcomes (Check) to determine if your objective (Plan) is correct. It essentially is the scientific method put into different words. Again, the Checking is crucial – it’s easy to think something works or trick oneself into thinking something works that doesn’t.
“Trickery from the state of Mississippi! They all want to build highways to the moon!”
Again sir, you’re making less sense all the time. Remember, this process we’re focusing on is ITIL, which comes out of the UK, not Missisippi. We don’t need your input. I’m not quite sure why you’re a part of the article.
“So it ain’t one-sided, you 1s and 0s bookworm!”
Right, gotcha. Hm, you understand binary … uh, let’s move on.
5 Goals of ITIL
ITIL today – vs. its past broad approach toward service, applications, and management as discussed above – is focused squarely on service and the management of service. ITIL calls itself “practical” and “no-nonsense” – so it’s an organizational IT cycle you can use that has a lot in common with wrinkle-free slacks. ITIL is intended to encompass the way that IT departments and IT professionals go about business.
“Encompass. Sounds like the Eye of Providence on the one-dollar bill to me, staring at me like a cackling witch.”
Uh … no comment. For us at Superb, having an IT staff who knows ITIL parameters means we can know that both our management and support teams are part of a structure that allows our IT services to be truly “Superb.”
Where’d the guy go with his snappy comments?
Oh, well … all right. ITIL is not one-size-fits-all: it’s an adaptable set of principles. You can customize it to your business. So the theory and principles are what’s important within the ITIL perspective. Application of ITIL will always be a little different depending who’s using it and the setting in which it’s used. The core of ITIL, though, is adaptation and improvement as a continuous cycle, as described above.
ITIL addresses the following through its five modules that comprise the ITIL v3 Service Management framework:
- Needs/Requirements – This helps a business identify the “demand” for certain IT specifications. (Analogous to Plan of PDCA)
- Design & Implementation – This is of course where design, development, and similarly active problem-solving come into play. (Analogous to Do of PDCA)
- Operation – Next you’re putting all the pieces into play. This is the second part of actual systemic testing. (Analogous to Plan of PDCA – Part 2)
- Monitoring – Here’s where the analysis comes in. A lens is focused on whatever aspect of the organization is attempting change: “Is it working?” (Analogous to Check of PDCA)
- Improvement – Well, this is the goal. Based on monitoring, either the organization has improved or it’s back to square 1. That’s not a bad thing. It’s crossing out something that didn’t work. Sometimes service management, like anything, is about process of elimination. (Analogous to Act of PDCA)
“Shhh. You’re scaring away the … whatever kind of fish these are.”
That’s a very algae-infested pond you’re fishing in, sir.
“You and your ‘sanitation.’ I bathe when it rains, as does this pond.”
Why ITIL? 5 Reasons
Here are a few of the positive results that can arise from implementation of ITIL certification:
- Efficiency: Better, streamlined, more efficient IT service.
- Cost: Lowering the expenses of IT departments and the overall business.
- Customer Experience: Customers have a better experience – because the system “works” coherently so that everything makes sense to all parties involved.
- Productivity: The business becomes more productive before there are fewer snags preventing evolution to changes in the business and the market.
- Employee Optimization: Positive employee attributes – skills and experience – are put to better use. This process allows individuals to flow into the most appropriate positions and tasks.
- Partner Servicing: Better delivery of any services that are issued by a company outside the organization. This improvement is felt both by the business itself and by its partners. It’s especially applicable in the case of hosting, since that’s a service so integrally connected to its clients’ own businesses.
“In case you’re wondering, I’m taking a nap now. That’s why I’m … you know, it’s sunny out here. So I’m asleep in the hot sun.”
OK … thanks. Goodnight.
Summary & Conclusion
ITIL is part of a general picture for us at Superb Internet. We have a few other auditing and certification standards that help our business have the kind of credibility we want but that also help us see where we can do a better job. We take these standards very seriously.
ITIL itself has adapted considerably since the 80s (which is a good thing!), but it’s still fundamentally concerned with Planning, Doing, Checking, and Acting. In its own terms, ITIL allows a business to Identify needs; Design, Implement, and Operate potential solutions; Monitor the results; and Improve. All of this is a perpetual cycle, allowing the business to grow stronger for itself and its clients over the long haul.
by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood