ITIL processes have been used for decades to streamline IT service management in organizations across the world. The processes ensure the highest quality of IT services and customer satisfaction without overstraining the resources or budget.
Even then, reading about ITIL processes can be a bit daunting; the processes appear too complicated and difficult to implement. But the fact is, ITIL is a set of guidelines, not a set of rules or standards. The framework was designed for practitioners to pick and choose what works for them and disregard the rest.
Demand management: figuring out what your client wants, how much they want, and delivering it profitably
Managing the customer or client demand is not limited to ITSM; just about every business needs it. Overestimate and you may suffer a loss, underestimate the demand and you may lose opportunities for revenue and client satisfaction may take a hit. From an ITIL perspective, demand management is part of the service strategy phase of the ITIL lifecycle. It analyzes current IT usage, predicts future IT demands, and implements controls to ensure demands don’t exceed the predictions.
The demand management strategy developed in this process affects all the other aspects of IT service delivery.
Let’s consider the case of a fast-food chain that needs a cloud-based CRM solution integrated into its POS devices.
The system should keep track of purchases along with the customer ID, as well as the rewards they have collected. The sales and marketing team should be able to change the offers on different products (maybe it's 10 points for a pizza today which may change to 7 points the next day) which should be reflected across the entire chain. For supporting their IT infrastructure, they approach a third party.
And they need to manage the demand for effective service delivery.
As a first step, the business relationship manager from the IT service provider would liaise with the fast-food chain to collect usage data from the previous year. They will analyze the usage from previous years and notice that new customer data is received consistently throughout the week with a slight increase on weekends. As for changing the reward structure, that happens three times on average every week. From this, the IT service providers obtain the pattern of business activity.
This information would be further used for designing the service catalog. The same is also used further down the service lifecycle. For example, the IT service provider may have to invest in new infrastructure to provide the required quality of services. They may have to get more IT personnel to resolve issues.
But the role of demand management doesn’t end there. It’s also needed to ensure the actual demand doesn’t overwhelm the infrastructure; maybe due to unexpected business growth or rapid changes in marketing strategy. Maybe there’s too much customer data and not enough bandwidth.
To prevent losses due to this, the service provider may specify extra costs for usage after a certain point. Or they may suggest putting some technical limits, for example by throttling the bandwidth available for the marketing and sales team when the stores are open.
This is why communication with customers is essential for this process, and why business relationship managers take ownership of this process.
Capacity and availability management
The capacity and availability management processes and how they connect with processes up and down the service lifecycle is an example of how ITIL translates business goals and vision into the IT activities of the organization.
Capacity and availability management are in the second or the service design phase of the ITIL lifecycle. And they connect directly with demand management.
Once the demand for the different services is assessed, the organization needs to ensure that it has the necessary underlying components to support them. It also means that the components can meet the performance criteria as defined in the SLA. This is called capacity management.
Availability management is concerned with ensuring that the users are able to access the services as much as required. It’s about managing the risks that can take down a service and ensuring that all the services meet the availability criteria defined in the service level agreement.
Let’s look at a university’s website and how capacity and availability management is applied here.
Picture a university with around 500,000 students along with supporting faculty and administrative personnel. The students get every piece of information from their schedules to their grades from the university website.
The website should be available and all authorized users must be able to log in 24/7, with an acceptable downtime of 10%, including maintenance. From previous usage details, it is clear that on average there are 50 students and 10 teaching professionals logged in at a time during day time. But sudden spikes are expected when results are published, when up to 100,000 students may be logged in at a time.
And being a university website, occasional cyber attacks are expected.
Based on this the individual components, such as the number of servers required, the website firewalls, two-factor authentication systems, etc are calculated.
An SLA is reached between all the stakeholders. The SLA also defines the availability metrics, such as acceptable downtime, mean time to restore services (MTRS), etc.
The next step is to acquire the necessary components to build the service. Once launched, component health and performance are measured, as well as the availability metrics to ensure that they’re within what’s defined in the SLA.
Change management or change enablement is one of the most common processes in ITIL. The process is part of the service transition phase of the ITIL lifecycle and is used for everything from a small software patch to the complete digital transformation of an organization.
Every change presents a risk to the organization and to service delivery and the change management process is used to navigate this in minimal time, with minimal resources, and by minimizing the risk.
Let’s have a look at an organization implementing a new digital workplace solution
A large organization offering accounting services wants to make all of its operations digital and part of the initiative is to implement a digital workplace solution. Employees do most of their work on their company-issued devices, but the organization uses a large number of individual tools for different tasks. The goal is to bring this under one ecosystem.
A change of this scale would be treated as a normal change and would require approval from the change authority. The first step would be to record the change and the reason for it. This will clearly detail all the aspects of change, its impact, risk, and benefits. With change enablement, the responsibility is not on just a few people, but it's about getting buy-in from everyone in the organization and empowering them to implement it. And this means informing them of the change.
The next step is to plan the change, detailing the time frame, and how the change would be rolled out. At this stage, any other changes that may come in are also considered, for example, the software that will be replaced by the new system will have to be taken out of service. And the new digital workplace solution has to be built or purchased.
Once the change is planned, the next stage is to get it approved. This is one of the crucial elements; besides buy-in from the stakeholders, it’s also important to get active executive championship. If the c-suite executives understand the need for the new digital workplace, if they’re seen actively supporting the initiative, it can improve the adoption rates in the organization and the initiative is likely to succeed.
Once approved, it's go-time, and the new digital workplace is rolled out. It's important to get the employees trained to use the new workplace and provide them with enough information to ensure a high adoption rate. They should understand that they are responsible for the change and they should be empowered to do that.
Once implemented, it's important to review the changes. See if the new digital workplace is implemented well, if employees are able to and are using it well, and if the stakeholders are satisfied with the outcome.
Knowledge management: empowering your team with organizational knowledge
Knowledge management is a service transition process in the ITIL lifecycle and is in some ways essential for other processes to perform efficiently. The process is used to ensure that all knowledge produced in an organization is collected, organized, and made accessible to all the relevant parties.
Knowledge management empowers employees with the information for better decision-making, and to help them with their daily tasks. They make it easy to onboard new employees and train them. The idea is to make sure everyone in the organization has all the information to do their jobs right at their fingertips.
Let’s see how knowledge management can be used for a better service desk
Consider a bank with customers all over the country. All the bank employees have their own workstations and all the processes are completely digital. The IT department has a huge responsibility to maintain the complete IT infrastructure of the bank, including processing payments, maintaining the ATMs across the country, and keeping it secure from cyber threats.
Most of the IT processes are absolutely critical and can afford only the least downtime, and any IT issues must be resolved as soon as possible. And every process has to be documented thoroughly for compliance. For this, a robust service desk and a knowledge management strategy are very important.
As soon as a service request is received the service desk agents can look up the knowledge base to resolve the query, be it by sending an email reply or fixing an issue with an employee workstation. They can also clearly document the issues within the knowledge base and make the changes in CMDB for future reference or compliance. With an integrated asset management solution, the organization can constantly update and monitor the status of all of its assets within the knowledge base.
If a service desk agent leaves the organization or a new employee joins the service desk team, the knowledge management process can ensure that no organizational knowledge is lost. With automated employee onboarding, it can also make it easy to train and onboard the new employee since all the information is easily available.
Problem management: keeping problems from becoming a bigger headache.
Problem management is an ITIL process for resolving the underlying issue behind a series of incidents. It’s often confused with incident management, but while incident management is about dealing with one issue, problem management is about analyzing multiple issues to find the root cause and prevent further issues. Problem management is part of the service operation phase of the ITIL lifecycle.
Let’s have a look at how problem management was used to solve server failures at an accounting firm
Picture a large accounting firm that handles around 200 high-value clients a month and performs all of their work on their on-premise digital workplace solution. They back up all of their work every night and the process is completely automated.
Of late, they noticed that their servers are failing very often. And every time they fix the issue. But the repeated pattern made them wonder if there was an underlying problem.
The first step was to identify the problem. They spoke to the application developers and analyzed the incident reports. The incident reports had shown damage due to overheating. The problem was that the server room needed a new HVAC system; the old system was inefficient and the equipment was getting overheated.
The next step was to control the problem. They couldn’t stop the data backups, but the new HVAC system was too expensive and it will take time to install. It was noted that data backups usually happened over a 30-minute period and this was unnecessary; they had the whole night. As a temporary measure, they throttled down the data back up to prevent the hardware from overheating.
This example looks fairly straightforward, but identifying the root problem may not be. The process is used to prioritize the problems based on the risk and resolve them.