Down under ITIL
Despite its existence since the late 1980s, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) only began gaining recognition in Australia in 2001. But why was a country, both internationally focused and a vital player in the IT world, at first slow to take on ITIL? This article examines the reasons behind the recent embracement of ITIL by Australian organisations in the last couple of years.
During the 1980s a group of IT specialists in the United Kingdom put their heads together to come up with a set of best practices, which became known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). The popularity of ITIL in the United Kingdom grew increasingly throughout the 1990s and nowadays ITIL is enjoying widespread fame in, amongst others, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States and more recently Australia. The adoption of a best practices method to improve the IT Service Management (ITSM) has proved to be advantageous for many companies and government departments. Yet the initial infiltration of ITIL into Australian companies was somewhat stagnant.
The Dawn of ITIL
Many IT organisations in Australia were initially reluctant to adopt a framework that was once favoured by the British government, and later by the Australian government. Steve Bittinger, analyst at Gartner, provider of research and analysis of the global IT industry, sees Australia’s slower uptake of ITIL in comparison with America as being due to “the pressure on companies in America to demonstrate consistency and cohesiveness in their IT service delivery because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act 1. Pressure of that magnitude does not exist in Australia, which is why we have seen only pockets of adoption, such as in the government sector.” Yet two years ago ITIL really took off in Australia. It is now on the rise in terms of adoption by both government bodies and private companies.
ITIL in demand
Last year analysts at Gartner conducted a survey of ITIL adoption in the Asia-Pacific region. 126 organisations with more than 500 employees from both the public and private sectors were surveyed. At the time 44 percent of organisations had adopted ITIL in Australia, compared with 22 percent in Singapore and just 6 percent in Hong Kong. Bittinger claims that currently, “Australian organisations are generally more advanced in adopting ITIL practices”. ITIL skills at least seem to be in demand in Australia these days. A job search through the IT sector of two Australia-based job search websites produced numerous hits for positions requiring, amongst others, ‘a strong focus on ITIL’, ‘ITIL specialist’ and ‘qualified to ITIL management level’.
Last year marked a milestone in Australia’s aspiration to jump on the ITIL bandwagon. In August 2005 Victoria’s State Revenue Office was the first government agency in the world to gain ITIL certification2. Prior to this only 35 organisations - all commercial entities, including IBM and Siemens - had achieved ITIL certification globally. One of the main reasons behind the decision to adopt ITIL was cost control. According to corporate services executive director Tony Whelan, prior to the implementation of ITIL, 20 percent of the department’s budget was being outsourced to a service provider.
Another government body also recently made the decision to take on ITIL. HP was awarded the task of carrying out the ITSM implementation at Centrelink, the Australian government’s welfare agency. The multi-million dollar deal, the completion of which is expected in December 2006, is one of the largest service desk implementations in Australia. The project came about as Centrelink recognised the need to optimise the running of its IT systems and the service delivery of its IT department in order to better assist customers.
The adoption of ITIL by a government body and only at a later stage by private companies has taken place in the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. The same trend now appears to be taking place in Australia. Just as in Britain, ITIL in Australia was initially used primarily in government sectors. Karen Ferris, an IT Service Management consultant, trainer and practitioner in Australia, sees a healthy future for ITIL’s role in Australian organisations: “Now that government agencies like Defence, (department of) Trade and Centrelink have picked it up and are going full-on, other organisations will see the benefits that government gets and adopt it”. Fujitsu Australia was one of the first organisations to see the advantages that ITIL has to offer in the longer term, and customers are enjoying improved service as a result.
The future of ITIL
There’s no doubt about it - ITIL is vast. It is both bewildering and costly to implement. Yet as many organisations are beginning to realise it doesn’t have to be intimidating. The development of ITIL is ongoing and version 3 is due for release in the near future. As the ITIL bug continues to spread throughout the IT world, supporters of ITIL are managing to convince organisations that time and costs invested in the short term will produce results in the long term. Following the example set by government bodies, companies in Australia are beginning to catch on to this phenomenon.
FACTS + FIGURES
• 20,264,082 inhabitants (July 2006 est.)
• 14,189,544 Internet users in Australia (2005)
• 241 secure servers per million inhabitants
• 16.48 million mobile telephone users (2004)
• 4.1 per cent - Australian ICT industry’s contribution to GDP
• US$38 billion – value of Australian ICT market
1. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 is legislation enacted in response to the high-profile Enron and WorldCom financial scandals to protect shareholders and the general public from accounting errors and fraudulent practices in the enterprise. The act is administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which sets deadlines for compliance and publishes rules on requirements. It is not a set of business practices and does not specify how a business should store records; rather, it defines which records are to be stored and for how long. The legislation not only affects the financial side of corporations, but also affects the IT departments whose job it is to store a corporation’s electronic records.
2. For further information regarding ITIL certification, please refer to:
University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.