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ITIL: The Hidden Driveway of IT Service Management

06/11/2012 by: The SunView Team

Here in The States, we have lots of road signs. Of course, having always lived here, when I see road signs from other countries I always giggle and smirk a little bit about how different they look. They just always seem a bit out of place.

Now, it's not simply that the signs in other areas of the world may be in a different language, that is of course part of it. However, many times even signs in English seem a little bit off. The lines are too narrow, or perhaps the numbers seem place in an odd way. With the exception of street signs, there's just nothing more clear than those I see every day. Of course, there are a few outliers.

One of the most common road signs in the US, that is seen fairly often, and still leaves me inquisitive, is that of the "Hidden Driveway." I've only ever seen this sign with plain text, no ubiquitous hieroglyphics like those showing a slippery road. Also, it's typical to see these on, almost-but-not-quite-major roadways.

The thing is, I get the warning, there is a driveway, that just perhaps might not be easily visible, and there might be cars backing out of, or pulling into, this area. I should, for sake of the sign, be cautious. Maybe I should slow my speed a little bit, make myself more aware of my surroundings.

Being the safe driver I am, I do this. Much to my dismay, I tend to miss the hidden driveway. Never actually seeing it. The sign, and oracle-like prophecy of hidden pathways, has failed. You see, unlike many other road signs, there's no actual indication of law, or course of action I have to take. In fact it is probably so rare, that anything will be coming out of, or pulling into, the driveway, there may be no real need for the sign. At least, that's the view from my perspective.

The perspective is likely quite different for the driver pulling out of that driveway, or the one slowing to pull in. That sign offers some caution, maybe even a bit of peace of mind for them. They might not even be thinking about it, but having that sign there helps. Though there is no law backing it, like a sign indicating lawful speed, or requiring cars to stop, it has an impact, far greater than you might initially assume.

This, in many ways is like ITIL. ITIL for all intensive purposes is a warning to IT organizations everywhere. While it doesn't have the bite that other standards such as COBIT or SOX might. In fact, many times it can be overlooked, undervalued, or easily dismissed. However, adopting even the core set of best practices can offer tremendous value to an organization. ITIL can, just like the funny little road sign here in the US, can help your team be more cautious, maybe even more aware of potential issues with processes. Though, it does, like the sign, puts much of that responsibility on the organization itself.

This value is inevitably hard to see though. This is because you can survive most, if not all, the time without it. In a sense, you may drive that road every day, and never see a car entering or exiting. That doesn't completely devalue the warning though, and a more practical approach is not to struggle to find the driveway, but apply it as necessary to your situation. Think of this as a practical approach in application verses a literal directive.

To bring things back in, your IT organization operates in the same way. You don't have to over-analyze and implement every facet of ITIL, you can actually apply best practices that match where you and your organization are today. It's not a set of rules or governance you must abide to, and in fact few organizations could strictly follow ITIL to the letter and see results without even a slight bit of modification.

The lesson here is to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Essentially, understand what ITIL is, and what it can offer your organization. Don't fret over the thought of implementing twenty-six processes today. Don't promise your leadership you will roll out a set of ITIL implementation projects that will revolutionize your business. Instead, take a cautious, practical approach to improving your IT organization. Remember, ITIL is more like an informative road sign, not a legal obligation. You may never need it, but you are better for knowing it and applying its warning.

If you are just getting started with ITIL, a great place to begin is with the Getting Started Guide: Understanding the ITIL Language. With definitions for thirty five of the more common ITIL terms, you'll already start to understand what all the buzz is about. Think of it as a way to more clearly read and understand all those road signs you are about to get introduced to.