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ITIL: Guidelines or Gospel?

02/17/2015 by: The SunView Team

All hail the IT Infrastructure Library, supreme overlord of the IT service management industry! For a long time, that was the sentiment of businesses digging deep into ITSM. ITIL was like gospel and if you wanted to have a successful ITSM system, you needed to follow it as closely as you possibly could. This turned ITIL into the bane of many IT leaders' existence as they were forced to learn every nook and cranny of the regulation and figure out how they could align their strategies and processes within the framework. This has led to dissenting opinions for ITIL in recent years.

ITSM needs have been changing in a big way across a variety of sectors, and IT executives that are still treating ITIL as overlord have found themselves pulling their hair out trying to remain as flexible as their business needs them to be while still complying with ITIL. However, there is nothing in ITIL that forces you to treat it as gospel. It is not a regulatory document. ITIL's role as the ITSM ruler was not created by ITIL, but instead by its users. As IT requirements have changed, more businesses are starting to use ITIL more flexibly, and better aligning it with the way their organizations are run.

Understanding the Need for a Flexible ITIL Framework
Elasticity is obtainable within ITIL, and the key is to treat the best practices as guidelines instead of approaching them as a "be all end all.". This may sound like a small alteration that ends up being nothing more than semantics, but the reality is that treating ITIL as a set of guidelines brings about a cultural change that allows businesses to become more responsive to changing technology requirements.

Cloud computing, widespread mobile device use, the data center without walls, big data and the consumerization of IT are all coming together to create overwhelming technology demands in the enterprise. These rising tech requirements come with an increased need to create revenues, making business-technology alignment critical. This is where ITSM strategies are so important. An IT service desk solution can serve as the intermediary between business and tech users, allowing support teams and IT workers to quickly and easily respond to new operational demands and perform change and release processes efficiently.

ITIL is flexible enough to meet these demands if it is implemented to provide structure where it is needed and integrate processes where needed.

Using ITIL as a Guideline
Successfully transitioning away from ITIL as gospel and considering it as guidelines can empower your IT teams to build a process framework that makes the most sense within your configuration. In many cases, this involves gaining an intimate understanding of what ITIL has to offer and discerning how its different principles work within both your short- and long-term strategies. Having this clear knowledge of ITIL best practices and your own organizational needs allows you to capture the spirit of ITIL as you make decisions that go beyond what the ITSM framework dictates. From there, you can flexibly choose when to follow ITIL exactly as it is written and when you should apply it as needed.

Much of the discussion around changing IT requirements centers around the idea that day-to-day system administration becomes a bit easier as automation, virtualization and cloud tools alleviate the operational burden for IT teams. While this is true, the fast-paced operations brought on by these advances create strategic and overarching configuration management challenges. Following ITIL blindly is not going to deliver the flexibility you need to meet these new demands, but organizations that treat ITIL as a guideline can take full advantage of the foundational stability that ITIL creates while still maintaining the elasticity needed to respond to rapidly changing requirements.

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