ITIL Irritates IT Managers

Demonstrating compliance with ITIL thresholds threatens to cause headaches for IT

September 23, 2006

4 Min Read
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CIOs and IT managers are bracing themselves for the impact of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), an emerging standard for delivering IT services. The last thing IT departments need, they warned, is yet another compliance headache.

Increasingly, IT managers are coming under pressure from their own boards, who see ITIL as a way to tie IT and business more closely together. The framework, which is growing in popularity, is a set of best practices covering application management, security, and IT service delivery. (See Afcom Sets Standards.)

Essentially, ITIL locks down service levels for specific applications such as email and provides detailed procedures for systems and storage management. For IT, the paperwork and administrative overhead associated with documenting compliance with these thresholds threatens to completely overwhelm.

"It's going to get shoved down your throat, whether you like it or not - ITIL is a term that you will need to know," said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, at an industry event this week in Boston. "It's completely pervasive."

IT managers are already dreading the demands of ITIL compliance. "Our IT department is small, and it's stretched to the limit," said Sean Hite, IT purchasing agent at The May Institute, a Randolph, Mass.-based healthcare organization. "There's only 24 hours in the day."For Hite, ITIL is more a people than a technology challenge, and the exec is steeling himself for a slew of ITIL-related paperwork and administrative hassles. "It will take a lot of people to work through the framework," he said. "I could see how the C-level people will see this concept and lock onto it."

Others also voiced their concern that board level execs, possibly spooked by the penalties they face for compliance shortfalls, will dive headlong into ITIL compliance without considering the impact on their IT departments. "The business couldn't give a crap about IT," warned an IT manager from a telecom firm, who asked not be named, adding that his own internal customers already expect extremely high service levels from IT.

Another publicity-shy exec, a systems administrator from a Boston-based nonprofit, warned of possible service disruptions while his IT team wrestles with ITIL. Email in particular, he warned, could be subject to disruption, while his team works out how to apply ITIL to existing applications and SLAs. "The IT department will be viewed as the really bad guys, because we will be blamed for the organization not being able to do what they want to do."

Despite such ambivalence, some high-profile firms are moving towards ITIL adoption. Yesterday, for example, telecom firm Sprint announced that it has adopted the framework across the IT operations used to support its managed services customers. (See Sprint Announces Adoption.)

Another user relying heavily on ITIL is General Motors, which is in the midst of a $15 billion overhaul of its IT infrastructure. (See GM Goes for New Outsourcing Model, GM's Eggs, and HP Grabs $700M of GM Biz.) The U.S. Pacific Air Force (PACAF) Directorate of Communications and Information is also using ITIL as part of an effort to restructure its technology service desk. (See Dell Helps Pacific Air Force.)But these organizations are in a minority, at least according to John Swainson, CEO of Computer Associates, who touched on ITIL during his keynote at this week's Interop event in New York. For many users, he explained, IT is still not sufficiently linked to their business processes. "In many ways, in fact, IT is the choke point for compliance."

CA, of course, sees ITIL as a window of opportunity to increase its software sales. Earlier this year, for example, the vendor unveiled a set of technology, services, and training programs, all geared towards ITIL. (See CA Accelerates ITIL Adoption.)

Certainly, compliance initiatives such as ITIL are likely to make a dent in users' wallets. Analyst firm Gartner has already predicted that IT compliance spending will jump to between 10 percent and 15 percent of IT budgets this year, up from less than 5 percent in 2004. (See Compliance Takes IT Bite.)

IT managers at the Interop event also echoed the compliance concerns of their Boston counterparts this week, complaining that they are now forced to navigate a jungle of costly, complex, and often contradictory regulations. (See Compliance Remains Elusive Target.)

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)

  • The Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • Gartner Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Sprint Wireless

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