ITIL and the Service Desk

IT Infrastructure Library or ITIL is the most widely accepted approach to IT Service Management in the world providing a framework for managing IT services, IT development and IT operations. [Source: OGC] First documented in the late 1980’s by the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC), ITIL provides a cohesive set of best practices, drawn from the international public and private sectors. It is supported by a comprehensive qualifications scheme, accredited training organizations, and implementation and assessment tools.

By implementing IT Service Management using the ITIL framework, organizations will be able to achieve the following:

  • Ensure that IT services are aligned to the needs of customers and users
  • Improve availability and stability of services
  • Improve communication within IT and with users
  • Improve efficiency of internal processes


How did ITIL Evolve?

ITIL started as of collection of 40+ IT best practices documented by the UK Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA).  In 2000/2001, in order to make ITIL more accessible, the best practices were consolidated into 8 logical sets of documents.  The consolidation focused on the processes while eliminating some of the detail with the goal to better business-IT working relationships, while eliminating redundant processes and to improve levels of services to the business while reducing operating costs.  The main focus of the second version was Service Support and Service Delivery. Interestingly, Microsoft used ITIL as the basis to develop their proprietary Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) in 2000.

In May 2007, ITIL Version 3 was released, adopting more of a lifecycle approach to service management, with greater emphasis on IT business integration.  V3 defines a future with IT far more firmly integrated and aligned with the business than it was in either of its previous versions.  While V2 was centered on processes, V3 focuses on the services provided to the business. . In fact, ITIL V3 defines Service Management as a “set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.” These capabilities, functions and processes manage IT services over their lifetime, or what ITIL V3 refers to as the service lifecycle. Equally important, ITIL V3 focuses on continual service improvements across the lifecycle.

The ITIL V3 service lifecycle consists of five distinct phases:

  1. Service Strategy: Designing, developing and implementing Service Management as a strategic resource and setting overall objectives for IT services.
  2. Service Design: Developing appropriate IT services, including architecture, processes and policy development.
  3. Service Transition: Developing and improving capabilities for the transition of new, modified services to production.
  4. Service Operation: Developing effective and efficient support services.
  5. Continual Service Improvement: Creating and maintaining value for the customer by designing service improvements over time.

What is the role of the Service Desk?

ITIL defines the processes, functions and activities required to implement IT Service Management.  Critical to the implementation of ITIL Service Management, is the function of the IT Service Desk.  The Service Desk is the customer facing interface to the IT Organization with primary goals of communication, identification and restoration of critical IT services with the agreed upon service levels.  It provides a single point of contact to all IT users for registering all types of incidents and service requests.  The Service Desk tracks, monitors, escalates and reports on the complete incident lifecycle. The Service Desk receives and logs all incidents and provides the first line of support to resolve incidents. The Service Desk monitors and escalates all incidents as per agreed service levels and finally, the Service Desk prepares reports on service levels.  [Source: ITIL News ].

How can I learn more about ITIL?
There are hundreds of companies and consultants that can provide services to help an organization gain various levels of expertise in ITIL.  The oldest is Pink Elephant.  Pink Elephant has been working with ITIL since its inception in 1989.  Initially begun in the UK, it has offices across the globe and the company is the #1 supplier of ITIL and IT Service Management conferences, education and consulting services.  To date, close to 200,000 IT professionals have benefited from Pink Elephant’s expertise. In recognition of their expertise and contribution to the ITIL movement, Pink Elephant was elected as an international expert to contribute to the ITIL V3 project.

Are there tools available to help implement ITIL?

As with consulting firms, there are many tools available in the marketplace that enable the implementation of ITIL.  Often, organizations pick the “best of breed” for the different tools to support the different functions of IT Service Management:  Service Desk, Technical Management, Application Management, and IT Operations Management.  However, it would be best to select an integrated approach using a single tool.  One such tool is Service Desk and IT Service Management Software developed by Axios Systems.

According to the Axios System’s web site, the Axios solution was “developed from the beginning as a single integrated solution for IT Service Management”.  This integrated approach gives the solution a number of advantages:

  1. Easily deploy as many or as few ITIL processes as your organization requires – from simply service desk and incident management, all the way to ITIL V3 service lifecycle management.
  2. Ability to activate additional processes at any time, without the overhead of a toolset integration project.
  3. Manage the full lifecycle of an incident seamlessly across problem, change, release, and configuration processes within a single solution.
  4. One vendor, one product roadmap, one simple upgrade path.

For more information on the Asios System IT Service Management solution check out their website www.axiossystems.com.

For a more detail review of the Service Desk and its processes, check out itlibrary.org.

For an overview of ITIL and its processes, view these Overview Videos.

Are There Patterns in Software?

According to Google Dictionary, a pattern “is a diagram or shape that you can use as a guide when you are making something such as a model or a piece of clothing”.  Patterns are useful tools allowing things to be built or made with a more predictable outcome with less effort and fewer errors.  Christopher Alexander [Source:  Hillside], an Austrian born American architect, proposed the use of patterns in architecture.  Applied to architecture, Alexander defined patterns as capturing design ideas as archetypical and reusable descriptions.  Through the use of predefined, proven patterns, Alexander postulated that buildings, towns and even sitting areas could be built that better fit and adapt to the needs of all their inhabitants and users and their respective communities.  While the patterns idea has so far had limited impact in the building industry, it has had a profound influence on the information technology industry.

History of Patterns

In 1987, Ward Cunningham and Kent Beck, Smalltalk developers, were designing interfaces while studying the writings of Christopher Alexander.  They decided to try some of Alexander’s ideas of patterns and pattern languages in an effort to guide novice Smalltalk programmers.  They were surprised at the results and presented their findings at the Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications Conference, OOPSLA’87, in Orlando in the paper “Using Pattern Languages for Object-Oriented Programs”.

Discussions on patterns continued throughout the early 90’s with workshops given at OOPSLA’91, 92, 93 and 94. During this time, Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides met and expanded on the theory.  Known as the Gang of Four or GoF, they published the book “Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software” in late 1994 noting 23 previously undocumented software design patterns (see below).  Awarded  the Jolt Productivity Award and the Software Development Magazine’s 1994 Productivity Award, it quickly became the “bible” of OO design and a must have for all OO designers and developers.

Why is this Important to Software Design?

Critical to any science or engineering discipline is the ability to communicate its concepts.  For the software community, patterns provide a vocabulary for expressing its concepts of good design and a language for relating them together.  Patterns have given software designers and developers proven solutions to recurring problems encountered throughout all of software development.  Formally codifying these solutions and their relationships successfully captures a body of knowledge defining good architectures that meet the needs of users.  By applying patterns, the information technology industry has been able to improve the quality of software deliverables, more predictable outcomes with less effort and fewer errors.

Pattern Example – Adapter

One of the 23 patterns documented by the GoF is the adapter pattern (also known as the wrapper pattern or simply a wrapper).

The adapter translates one interface for a class into a compatible interface and is used when two classes, with incompatible interfaces, are required to work together.  The adapter translates calls to its interface into calls to the original interface by containing an instance of the class it wraps.

For more information concerning using patterns and Christopher Alexander, check out these resources:

Christopher Alexander: An Introduction for Object Oriented Designers

Design Patterns

OOPSLA History

Using Pattern Languages for Object Oriented Programs