Date:
12 June 2022
Author:
Nick Austen

What is ITIL?

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a framework for the planning, delivery, maintenance and overall lifecycle of IT services within a business. ITIL provides a flexible foundation for organisations to integrate frameworks and approaches into their service offering and operational model. It also provides a framework for organisations to integrate best practices and focus on continuous service improvement.

At the heart of ITIL are the service value system (SVS), the four dimensions, 7 guiding principles and 34 management practices that are essential to ensuring a holistic approach to IT service management. 

The four dimensions are:

  1. Organisations and people
  2. Information and technology
  3. Partners and suppliers
  4. Value streams and processes

The SVS describes how all the components and activities of the organisation work together as a system to enable value creation.

The 7 guiding principles provide a foundation to be applied universally in an organisation to underpin the development of a holistic service management approach:

  1. Focus on value
  2. Start where you are
  3. Progress iteratively with feedback
  4. Collaborate and promote visibility
  5. Think and work holistically
  6. Keep it simple and practical
  7. Optimise and automate

Why ITIL?

ITIL was developed in the 1980s by the UK Government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) to address a lack of quality in IT services procured by the British Government. ITIL has evolved over the years to meet the ever -changing IT landscape. In its most recent iteration (V4) it encompasses best practices that address modern ways of working including agile and DevOps. The overarching objective has remained the same – enabling organisations to deliver IT services that focus on the needs of their customers.

The goal of ITIL is to create predictable IT environments that deliver the best customer service possible to customers and clients by streamlining processes and identifying opportunities to improve efficiency. 

What problems it addresses

Modern IT organisations or departments exist to support businesses that are evolving at ever-increasing rates to meet the demands of their customers. The challenge is to provide a high level of quality service in an environment of constantly evolving requirements and rapidly changing customer demands. At the same time, to remain competitive, service providers must remain cost-effective. ITIL provides detailed frameworks to guide organisations to provide services and meet these challenges.

What guidance/benefits it represents

ITIL 4 promotes stronger alignment between IT and the business, improved service delivery and customer satisfaction, better management of business risk and service disruption and a more stable service environment to support constant business change.

ITIL Management Practices

ITIL V4 provides guidance on 34 management practices across three categories of general management, services management and technical management. ALEXOS defines the management practices as “A set of organisational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective.”

General management practices cover 14 general management domains.Service management covers 17 domains including areas such as availability management, change enablement and service design. The technical management practices span the 3 domains of deployment, infrastructure & platform and software development management.

Relevance

Salsa has extensive experience delivering and supporting whole-of-government digital programs for the Australian Department of Finance (DoF) and Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC). These large, high-profile and publicly available programs require, by their nature, extremely high degrees of rigour, accountability, service quality and management. 

Adopting and applying the principles of ITIL allows us to meet the rigorous demands of the environment in which we work and the evolving needs of the end customers of the platforms we develop and support. There is a high degree of overlap with what whole-of-government programs require to serve and help them scale.

ITIL in practice — making in real

Salsa has adopted several ITIL management practices in its work with whole-of-government digital programs including GovCMS run by DoF and Single Digital Presence (SDP) run by the Victorian DPC. 

Below we look at some of the real-world applications of ITIL practices and principles in our day to day work with our clients.

General Management Practices

ITIL Practice: Knowledge Management

Purpose*: To maintain and improve the effective, efficient, and convenient use of information and knowledge across the organisation.

Salsa’s Implementation:

  1. Salsa develops and maintains comprehensive documentation including processes and policies that are routinely updated and collaboratively maintained by staff to ensure efficient knowledge sharing among staff.

  2. We also partner with teams at DoF, and Vic DPC to produce and share documentation (via knowledge bases) on common business processes, tasks and issue resolution guidance to end-customers so they can self-serve.

    This approach encourages collaboration and knowledge sharing across the programs. At the same time , it drives operational efficiencies for Salsa, our clients and the end-users of the platforms.

ITIL Practice: Measurement & Reporting

Purpose*: To support good decision-making and continual improvement by decreasing the levels of uncertainty. This is achieved through the collection of relevant data on various managed objects and the valid assessment of this data in an appropriate context.

Salsa implementation:

  1. As part of our whole-of-government programs, Salsa produces detailed reports based on data collected, collated and analysed from multiple sources including infrastructure level, application level and human-operated components such as Service Desk data. 

  2. Reports are shared with customers and often inform and provide guidance to support the continuous improvement at the process, systems, management and governance levels.

ITIL Practice: Continual Improvement

Purpose*: To align the organisation’s practices and services with changing business needs through: the ongoing identification and improvement of services, service components, practices, or any element involved in the efficient and effective management of products and services.

Salsa implementation: 

Salsa teams routinely meet with our partners at DoF and Vic DPC to conduct agile retrospectives and reviews, to identify and agree specific initiatives to enhance our product and services offerings. 

These include:

  • Technical reviews focused on security, performance, capacity planning and solution architecture and assessment
  • Service provision including Service Desk and application support
  • General governance reviews

Service Management Practices

ITIL Practice: Incident Management

Purpose*:  To minimise the negative impact of incidents by restoring normal service operation as quickly as possible.

“Incident management is not expected to perform root cause analysis to identify why an incident occurred. Rather, the focus is on doing whatever is necessary to restore the service”

Salsa implementation:

Minimising the impact of any incidents is a top priority for both our clients and our teams. 

  1. Salsa’s GovCMS team includes a 24/7 support structure, equipped with the expertise to respond and resolve any service interruption rapidly and with minimum impact. This includes site-level incidents as well as platform-level incidents.

  2. Incident management often involves a combined effort across multiple teams, from Salsa’s Service Desk and application support team, DevOps and SecOps engineers, infrastructure support and our client’s teams at the Department of Finance.

  3. End customers (government agencies) are either proactively notified or updated on the status and progress of all incidents via our Service Desk and StatusPage notifications.

ITIL Practice: Monitoring & Event Management

Purpose*: To systematically observe services and service components, and record and report selected changes of state identified as events, through: identifying and prioritising infrastructure, services, business processes, and information security events, and establishing the appropriate response to those events, including responding to conditions that could lead to potential faults or incidents.

Salsa implementation:

  1. Salsa implements a range of monitoring and event management systems across the platforms we support, to proactively identify service component states and security issues that may lead to potential faults or incidents.

  2. In some instances, platform components are implicitly designed to be elastic and to self-regulate. Automated notifications are also in place to ensure the right teams are aware of any unexpected state changes.

  3. Our multidisciplinary support organisation is structured to ensure that any infrastructure, services or security events are responded to promptly to prevent faults or outages.

ITIL Practice: Problem Management

Purpose*: To reduce the likelihood and impact of incidents by identifying actual and potential causes of incidents, and managing workarounds and known errors.

Salsa implementation:

  1. Salsa and the Department of Finance conduct in-depth analysis of the cause of any platform or site incidents via a post incident report (PIR) process.

  2. Salsa uses the blameless post-mortem philosophy when conducting PIRs. This helps the team focus on root-cause identification and priotises resolution over blame. The process involves a thorough investigation of the root-cause, impact and resolution to formulate, document and implement recommendations to mitigate the likelihood of future incidents.

ITIL Practice: Release Management

Purpose*: To make new and changed services and features available for use.

Salsa implementation: 

The standard Salsa development life cycle includes release management processes. We leverage Git-based workflows with automated deployments for all services that are managed. 

This allows us to tag changes with version numbers and provides clear accounts of how software has changed. When releasing code to production we follow the Git flow methodology for code and release management.

ITIL Practice: Service Design

Purpose*: To design products and services that are fit for purpose, fit for use, and that can be delivered by the organisation and its ecosystem. This includes planning and organising people, partners and suppliers, information, communication, technology, and practices for new or changed products and services, and the interaction between the organisation and its customers.

Salsa implementation: 

Salsa works closely with its customers to define services that are fit for purpose and meet requirements. 

  1. We include all aspects of program management and cover release management for services and agency projects. 

  2. Service desk and support services to manage ongoing interactions and provide a clear communication channel for feedback.

    The service design framework also introduces living documentation frameworks that live alongside the programs. These documentation policies ensure that service architecture for all aspects is clearly documented and process exists to ensure documentation is kept up to date as change is introduced.

ITIL Practice: Service Desk

Purpose*: To capture demand for incident resolution and service requests. It should also be the entry point and single point of contact for the service provider with all of its users.

Salsa implementation: 

Salsa maintains dedicated service desks for GovCMS, Vic DPC and Salsa-hosted customers with various levels of application, DevOps, security, infrastructure and platform support orchestrated via these services.

  1. The service desk portals and dedicated phone support provide single points of contact for all end-customers on the platforms. Both routine service requests and incidents are managed via the service desks.

  2. Regular reviews of demand and types of service requests and incidents are conducted by service desk managers to analyse patterns, changes in volumes or types of request to help shape growth and inform resource deployment.

ITIL Practice: Service Level Management

Purpose*: To set clear business-based targets for service performance, so that the delivery of a service can be properly assessed, monitored, and managed against these targets.

Salsa implementation:

Salsa’s partnerships with our customers are supported by appropriate service levels that reflect both our own contractual agreements and often the back-to-back obligations of our partners with their end customers. 

Performance against these metrics is closely monitored and routinely assessed.

Technical Management Practices

ITIL Practice: Deployment Management

Purpose*: To move new or changed hardware, software, documentation, processes, or any other component to live environments. It may also be involved in deploying components to other environments for testing or staging.

Salsa implementation: 

The Salsa technical team uses the open source Lagoon deployment controller and emphasis automation over documentation. The deployment workflow involves people and tools to verify and validate change. It uses automated testing pipelines to validate regressions and run test suites to reduce the risk of change. The deployment controller collates and presents build logs to developers allowing easy identification of statuses.

Cloud service configuration and provisioning tools are managed via configuration as code, which allows infrastructure services to be provisioned using similar workflows to the standard application development process.

ITIL Practice: Infrastructure & Platform Management

Purpose*: To oversee the infrastructure and platforms used by an organisation. When carried out properly, this practice enables the monitoring of technology solutions available to the organisation, including the technology of external service providers.

Salsa implementation: 

The Salsa hosting platform and infrastructure support team use an open source observability stack using tools like Prometheus and Grafana to monitor and alert on infrastructure and application workloads.

The cluster is Kubernetes-based and standard deployment processes augment workloads with self-healing and auto-scaling resources to allow for automated resource and infrastructure management.

ITIL Practice: Software Development & Management

Purpose*: To ensure that applications meet internal and external stakeholder needs, in terms of functionality, reliability, maintainability, compliance, and auditability.

Salsa implementation:

All applications deployed for both internal Salsa use and our customers undergo rigorous review of suitability from the perspectives of functionality, reliability, maintainability, compliance, auditability and risk management.

The bar is set high for Salsa’s whole-of-government programs and our customers are heavily involved in our assessments and will often have the deciding vote based on requirements, which may be more stringent than for non-government organisations.

Conclusion / Summary

ITIL provides a strong and flexible foundation for the design, implementation and continuous improvement of IT services within organisations, with a focus on customer needs. It helps shape the development of internal policies and procedures required for the success of large IT programs and projects such as whole-of-government digital programs like GovCMS and SDP.

The fundamental concepts, guiding principles and intention of the management practices are closely aligned with the operating model we strive towards both internally and in the provision of services and success for our customers.

* Source: https://www.bmc.com/blogs/itil-management-practices/