By Andrew Graf, Chief Product Strategist, TeamDynamix

First developed in the 1980’s, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a library of volumes describing a framework of best practices for IT service management (ITSM). Since its introduction, ITIL continues to evolve. Today, it includes five books, each covering a different ITSM lifecycle stage. These stages include service strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual improvement.

What is the difference between ITIL and ITSM? Simply stated, ITSM is the “what” while ITIL is the “how.”

ITIL was never intended to be proprietary – its main purpose was to centralize best practices to outline standard procedures and support the government as it moved towards a heavier reliance on IT. Of course, it quickly became clear that these best practices could support not only government, but the private sector, too.

The current iteration of ITIL, version four, contains nine guiding principles that were adopted from the most recent ITIL Practitioner Exam, which covers organizational change management, communication and measurement, and metrics. These principles include:

  • Focus on value
  • Design for experience
  • Start where you are
  • Work holistically
  • Progress iteratively
  • Observe directly
  • Be transparent
  • Collaborate
  • Keep it simple

Now – perhaps more than ever – IT leaders are faced with increased expectations and more complex support and services without any increase in staff and resources. This is especially true for state and local governments. There is a constant pressure to do more with less and a need to increase efficiency – and ITIL enables IT leaders to select which aspects make sense for their operation. A local government in a small town does not have the same needs as a Fortune 500 company – and ITIL allows leaders to scale back as necessary and address specific pain points.

Part of the ITIL framework is knowledge-centered service (KCS®) – which can empower both internal and external stakeholders to seek answers to their questions independently thus allowing for better resource management internally, and higher constituent satisfaction externally. Previously, ITIL and KCS were separate – now, they are very much intertwined. If ITIL is the toolbox, KCS® is the collection of tools.

Of course, ITIL is not a silver bullet. Resources are already strapped – and many governments are resistant to change. IT leaders should focus on what specific goals need to be achieved – and how ITIL can help – rather than attempting to fully implement ITIL. Much like a regular library, where you don’t go in and read the entire collection, the best practitioners focus on specific processes that will help them towards their goals.

In order for state and local governments to embrace ITIL, adoption must come from the top. In an environment where resources are scarce and priorities are competing, it is essential for an organization as a whole to be committed to change. By design, ITIL is not all or nothing. This enables leaders to choose which aspects of their operations would benefit most – and they can begin there.

ITIL is not organization specific – the fundamental idea is to integrate the processes and procedures with the organization’s strategy. The best approach is one where an organization crawls, then walks, then runs. By focusing on specific pain points, a strong foundation is built, and more processes can be added as necessary.

In addition, governments must ask two key questions as they explore implementation.

  • First, how does this adoption help employee’s day-to-day? ITIL enables processes and procedures that ultimately make each day more consistent – there are fewer fires to put out and tedious, time consuming work is reduced, allowing for more time to be spent on higher priority and transformational work.
  • Second, how does ITIL enhance an employee’s career long-term? There are five levels of ITIL certification – and this knowledge follows a professional throughout his or her career.

By identifying specifically how ITIL will help and getting the appropriate buy-in, organizations raise their odds for successful implementation.

ITIL benefits government employees and citizens alike – and both deserve a quality system. Citizens expect the government to provide a variety of services – and for those services to be available when they need them. For example, when tax season comes around, systems need to be running at peak performance 24/7. Citizens expect to get the information they need when they need it – whether they need to download a form or ask a question – and they rely on the government to meet this need. On the opposite end, government employees are tasked with using these same IT systems to ensure those services are delivered in a timely and cost effective manner. Without a robust and reliable IT foundation, services cannot be delivered to standard.

ITIL is not the same for every organization – and state and local governments of all sizes can tailor it to suit their specific needs. Successful implementation can lead to reduced IT costs, more efficient IT services, and improved citizen satisfaction – results that benefit any government organization.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs