Running IT Like a Business

To run a strong, agile IT shop, it's no longer enough to be on top of the technology. Start thinking about processes, training and relationships.
Posted September 28, 2005

Sharon Gaudin

When Hewlett-Packard Co. needed to merge with Compaq, they had 7,000 different applications, 215,000 desktop computers, 21,671 servers and their network carried 26 million emails back and forth every week.

In one year, they had met their merger goals, integrating financial systems, reducing the number of applications to 5,000, eliminating overlapping systems and saving an estimated $3.5 billion, according to Mike Rigodanzo, a senior vice president for HP.

And Rigodanzo says they made it happen by relying on the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of best practices that basically helps IT run like a business. ITIL focuses on processes, increases IT's agility in dealing with change and links IT to the business side.

''Part of our approach was to get a standard IT architecture for the data centers, applications and the network,'' says Rigodanzo. ''They looked at everything in the portfolio in both companies and set standards. What do you keep? What do you discard? It was a big job.''

The ITIL best practices guided them in knowing what to get rid of, what to keep and how to merge the rest.

''It's the whole notion of having a standard architecture and then comparing everything to that standard,'' says Rigodanzo, who has been involved with ITIL for the past 10 years. ''That whole notion came out of ITIL.

HP has long been a proponent of ITIL with 8,000 ITIL-certified employees, and ITIL-based products like the OpenView Service Desk software suite, which automates ITIL best practices.

HP, according to Rigodanzo, also works with customers to show them how they can work better by buying into ITIL.

''A lot of the issues that cause problems in IT are not about the technology but are service-level issues,'' he adds. ''Missing processes. Poorly trained people. ITIL provides a framework for assessing capabilities and setting up processes. The methodologies of IT are more important than the technology.''

It's a major change for many IT professionals to become more focused on service and processes than they are on tech, says Steve Wrenn of Liberty Mutual Group.

''ITIL processes help you run IT like a business,'' says Wrenn, adding that IT should set up written agreements with business on things like network availability. ''There's no brain surgery involved. But 10 years ago, how many IT shows had written agreements? You've got to ease them into it. Show them how it works.''

Wrenn and HP's Rigodanzo agree that it's not an easy road to take when trying to get a company or an IT department to adopt ITIL methods. But it's still a road that needs to be taken.

''It's relatively easy to develop and ITIL environment compared to changing mentalities and habits,'' says Rigodanzo. ''Focus on the appropriate blend of people, processes and technology.

''Implementing ITIL is an arduous journey,'' he adds. ''But it's a worthwhile journey, so don't abandon ship.''

0 Comments (click to add your comment)
Comment and Contribute


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.