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.

Have You Heard of Oslo?


Oslo, developed by Microsoft, is the development code name for a set of modeling technologies created by Microsoft to provide significant productivity gains across the lifecycle of .NET applications. First announced in October, 2007, it was initially envisioned as a multi-platform modeling tool.  However, with it’s November 2009 CPT (Community Technology Previews) release, Oslo was redesigned to work with only Microsoft’s SQL Server and rebranded as SQL Server Modeling. Through the use of SQL Server Modeling, developers, architects and IT professionals will be able to more effectively work together in the SQL Server/.NET Framework application development environment.

According to the .NET Framework Developer Center on MSDN, SQL Server Modeling “provides a SQL Server 2008 database with preinstalled models, a series of data language features to enable rapid and customized data-based application design and development, and a visual data analysis and display environment.”

SQL Server Modeling includes:

  • SQL Server Modeling Services – a database designed for models, built on SQL Server 2008, that is highly optimized to store data schemas and instances with system-provided best practices for scalability, availability, security, versioning, change tracking, and localization.
  • Quadrant – Microsoft’s code name for a user-friendly, graphical tool for browsing any SQL Server database without writing a line of code. “Quadrant” allows the ability to browse related tables by dragging and dropping icons that represent the related data. Data can be filtered in Quadrant by writing “M” queries (without the knowledge of Transact-SQL).  Additionally, the data viewer can be customized to display data in a user-friendly graphical window, rather than viewing the physical database implementation.
  • M – A human friendly language for building domain models and working with data.  M enables the user to model (or describe) data structures, data instances, and data environment (such as storage, security, and versioning) in an interoperable way. It also offers simple yet powerful services to create new languages or transformations that are even more specific to the critical needs of a domain. This allows .NET Framework runtimes and applications to execute more of the described intent of the developer or architect while removing much of the coding and recoding necessary to enable it.

Together, the SQL Server Modeling components support modeling techniques to make building data-driven, SQL Server-based, .NET Framework applications easier and more productive for a larger number of people, even in enterprise- or Internet-scale environments. In addition, the same tools make building metadata repositories easier for enterprises of all sizes.  (Source: MSDN).

For more information on the various components of SQL Server Modeling, check out the following links:

MSDN Quadrant Overview

Data Development Center – M

Data Development Center – Quadrant

MSDN Model Driven Applications

Video Production for the Web: A Primer

Panasonic AJ-HPX3700Production

Just like the scope of a web video project, the tools necessary can vary widely. The basic materials needed are a video camera, microphone, and a computer or other device with an application to process and edit your recorded video. Video camera can range from professional-grade equipment (like Panasonic’s $60,000 model) to computer webcams to mobile device cameras to cheaper, low-end digital cameras like the Flip Mino. Microphones vary similarly in quality and price, from boom mics to handheld models to small devices that a speaker can clip onto his or her collar. Many low-end devices these days have embedded microphones for ease of use.

Once you have selected your equipment, then you can focus on your technique.  For a quick video on hand held video camera shooting techniques, check out this video from Videomaker.

Post-Production

Once video and sound have been recorded, either separately or in tandem, it is necessary to edit the video into a more polished work. A wide range of video editing applications are available, with the most popular options including iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro and Roxio Creator. iMovie and Roxio Creator are cheaper and more consumer-friendly options, while Final Cut Pro, at $1,299, has been used to produce Oscar-winning films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, No Country for Old Men, and Cold Mountain (source).

YouTube on iPhoneDistribution

There are a slew of options for sharing your masterpiece. In addition to the ever-popular YouTube are alternative sites such as Veoh.com and Vimeo.com that function the same way, allowing you to create a personal profile and video library. If you want your video to be seen, shared and commented on by the largest audience possible, however, YouTube is still the way to go, boasting the 4th most traffic of any site in the US and similar numbers in many other countries around the world (source).

Additional Resources

For more information, check out Hillman Curtis’ article on adobe.com about his preferred tools and techniques for web video creation.

Zoho – Leader of the Pack!

This week in class we have been discussing the growing trend of Rich Internet Applications or RIAs.  RIAs are web applications that provide the rich functionality of desktop applications via the web.  One growing area of RIAs is business productivity applications.  The last several years have seen the emergence of many players in this arena, but two stand out with functionality and usability – Google Docs and Zoho.  And now, Microsoft is making a play for market share with its offering – Microsoft Web Applications 2010.

We have all used business productivity applications.  In North America, the most widely used is the Microsoft Office suite of applications which includes a word processor, spreadsheet application and presentation tool.  Where required, the suite can be expanded to include a database, project management tool and publishing tool.   The trouble is that these feature rich applications come with a hefty price tag along with a hefty resource commitment – both in memory and user interface code.  However, there have not been many viable alternatives.

In the past, business productivity applications available via the web were limited both in feature set and web capabilities.  However, with the growth of web programmability and the open-source software movement, these limitations have been lifted.  Google Docs, Zoho and now, Microsoft Web Applications 2010, provide a rich productivity feature set with usability and performance over the web which includes the required word processing, spreadsheet and presentation capabilities.   However, Zoho stands out by providing many more useful business applications.

Zoho Home Page

With over 20 applications, Zoho goes much further and provides business applications not normally found in office productivity suites.  Included are a project management tool, customer relationship management (CRM) solution, web conferencing tool, invoicing tool and database.  Interestingly, even a human resource component is available.  The most significant feature – most applications are free!  Zoho, with its comprehensive set of productivity/collaborative tools and business applications is definitely the leader in on-line business productivity applications.

New to Mac?

I’m a new Mac user and spent some time today with my local Mac guru, Mark, at the Northpoint Apple Store.  He shared with me some very interesting sites for tips and tricks and general information.  If you are a new MAC user like me, you might appreciate the following links:

Apple – Find Out How – Mac Basicshttp://www.apple.com/findouthow/mac/

Mac Tricks and Tipshttp://www.usingmac.com

More Tricks and Tips – Mac User http://www.macuser.co.uk/

Want to stay updated on the latest news concerning the Mac?  Check out these links for the latest news and information about the Mac and other Apple products…

Computer Reviews, News, Mac Software for all Apple Productshttp://www.maclife.com

Apple Mac News and Information – http://www.insanely-great.com/

Macsimum News – http://macsimumnews.com/

Evernote – Your External Brain

Have you ever taken a picture and couldn’t find it?  Is your ‘Favorites’ list so long it scrolls off the screen?  Can you find anything you’ve saved in 5 minutes or less? I’ve just discovered a solution to my disorganization – Evernote!

Evernote is a multi-platform organization tool available on the web, your desktop, on your phone or the cloud.  You can capture tasks, notes and research, web pages, whiteboards, business cards, wine labels – what ever you can think of – and save it.  With state of the art recognition technology, including handwriting recognition, Evernote analyzes and tags your images, web links and notes while saving and synchronizing across all your devices.  You can then organize as you wish.  And best of all – it’s free.

Evernote’s published goal is to “give everyone the ability to easily capture any moment, idea, experience, or object whenever they want using whatever device or platform they find most convenient, and then to make it all easy to find.”  I think they have accomplished their goal!

I’m just beginning the learning process, but I wanted to share it with all of you.  Check it out for yourself at www.evernote.com.

More additional information tips and hints, check out:

http://www.lostintechnology.com/software/10-great-ways-to-use-evernote