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ITIL 3: executive validation for KM

A comprehensive and current CMDB allows the organization to view changes to the infrastructure in terms of all the interconnected configuration items affected. That goes for both scheduled and unscheduled changes. A release of new hardware, software or even process into the IT environment may be a major scheduled change; ITIL provides a dedicated process for managing releases in terms of their impact on the infrastructure.

The service delivery processes are designed to facilitate the overall management of the anticipated growth of the infrastructure, including planning to meet the growing capacity requirements of the business, building in disaster recovery measures to maximize the availability of assets, financing the growth of IT and managing the relationship between IT and the business so that business needs are met.

Higher heights

After seven years of application, the organizations responsible for ITIL recognized that building out the ITIL 2 processes, as in the chart above, would bring the enterprise to a static endpoint, in which the dozen distinct processes were often owned by separate teams and isolated in silos. ITIL 3 is intended to take the adopting organization to a higher level of process maturity, and among the explicit goals of the refresh are:

  • To remove the process silos,
  • To more closely integrate IT service management processes with the processes of the business, and
  • To create a more dynamic framework that recognizes that businesses—and IT infrastructures—constantly change. ITIL 3 embraces the concept of the IT service life cycle, and the need to manage services through recurring cycles of design, implementation, adoption, operation, feedback and improvement.

The dozen ITIL 2 processes are subsumed within five new life cycle stages, each represented by a new ITIL book, entitled as follows:

  • Service Strategy—development of strategies, policies and standards for IT services;
  • Service Design—where new services or changes are planned and developed;
  • Service Transition—managing the introduction of changes devised and planned during the service design stage;
  • Service Operation—the day-to-day delivery of services and implementation of the service delivery processes adopted by IT; and
  • Continual Service Improvement—monitoring and identifying structural service issues and development of practical ways to address issues and design service improvements into the next cycle of implementation.

The stages are presented in a sequential order, but each stage is seen as feeding back into all of the previous stages. And continual service improvement is not an end stage of maturity, but a point in a continuous, recurring cycle of service evolution.

ITIL 3 and knowledge

Until now, ITIL never explicitly advocated development of a knowledgebase, although the known error database, presented within the ITIL 2 problem management process as a key repository for infrastructure errors and solutions to those errors, can be recognized as a knowledgebase. ITIL has never specified how a known error database should be composed—it could be something as simple as a spreadsheet, or it could be a complex, enterprise knowledge management system.

The incident management process includes a step called matching, in which the analyst compares a new incident to past incidents, to classify and identify it in reference to known errors, and to suggest the appropriate workarounds or fixes. Those conditioned to see that as an occasion to consult a knowledgebase can easily do so.

KM can be a pervasive sub-process throughout IT service management, but ITIL has not specified how. It offers its first guidelines in the ITIL 3 release.

ITIL 3 proposes development of a service knowledge management system (SKMS)—a singular solution intended to capture knowledge from sources ranging from one end of the service management process life cycle to the other. Service Transition does not reference any particular design or vendor. But it clearly envisions an enterprise knowledge platform, as opposed to a point solution for problem resolution.

Knowledge assets flow into the SKMS from a variety of sources and directions, including data, housed in the CMDB, about the organization’s configuration items and how they relate to one another. Configuration data passes from the CMDB through a higher-level logical repository called the configuration management system (CMS).

Metrics for KM, as defined in Service Transition (by Shirley Lacy and Ivor MacFarlane, published for the U.K. Office of Government Commerce by The Stationery Office (TSO) of the U.K. government, 2007) include many of the conventional benefits ascribed to problem resolution tools deployed in service desks:

  • Better, faster, more accurate problem-solving;
  • Higher first-call resolution rates or lower rates of escalation to higher-level subject matter experts; and
  • Reduced training to bring agents to full competence.

But the ITIL conception of successful KM, especially during the service transition phase, includes broader metrics such as:

  • Successful, error-free adoption and implementation of new or changed services;
  • Greater "responsiveness to changing business demands," attributed to more successful information retrieval to resolve questions and issues; and
  • Improved access to and adoption of standards and policies.

Technology issues

So what exactly is a service knowledge management system, and what does it look like?

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