MSPs adopt ITIL for better service

Updated: Aug 1 2005, 05:30am hrs
Managed service providers and BPO outfits have seen the light and woken up to the need for ITIL bringing, as it does, best practices and helping them trim the cost of managing IT infrastructure, says Abhinav Singh.

What is common between managed service providers (MSP) such as OpSource, Microland, HP and a BPO player like 24/7 Customer Well, they all happen to swear by ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). For MSPs, adopting this standard has become necessary to excel and adhere to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). ITIL has become the most widely accepted approach when it comes to IT service management as well. It provides a comprehensive and consistent set of best practices for IT service management, promoting a qualitative approach towards achieving business goals and efficiency in the use of information systems. There is widespread adoption of this standard by organisations operating out of India and MNCs that have streamlined their IT processes accordingly. The adoption of ITIL has also prompted many organisations to achieve certifications such as SAS 70 (Statement on Auditing Standards 70) and BS15000 (British Standards 15000) to further enhance their service delivery levels. Let us take a close look as to what is driving organisations to adopt ITIL and the benefits they are accruing from it.

Better service delivery

Organisations have gone in for ITIL for varied reasons, but the foremost of these has been to deliver on their SLAs. According to Dinesh Arora, General Manager, Services, Presales and Middle East Operations, Microland, an organisation which has been practicing ITIL for over five years, "ITIL is a comprehensive structured methodology of managing day-to-day IT infrastructure-related services fully. It brings in a culture of how one should look at imbibing a type of culture, which can help us in managing things better. It also helps in demonstrating to our customers that we have IT assets that help us consistently meet SLAs."

24/7 Customer has tied up with an ITIL-compliant MSP. Although there was no pressure on the company to adhere to this standard, it found the comprehensiveness of ITIL to be attractive. Mohit Jain, Chief Information Officer, 24/7 Customer, explains, "ITIL lends a service perspective to the way our organisation works and delivers. Apart from helping us understand and appreciate what goes into delivering SLAs, ITIL helps create a platform for evaluating the state of IT maturity in our organisation." Once ITIL is in place and a company has the necessary IT systems in place to collect data from different systems, it can weave them into performance statistics. Additionally, many MSPs feel that the ITIL standard has helped them enhance their ability in managing incidents, problems and disasters, and define predictability levels of an organisation, thereby enabling the service provider to say up to what extent a service level can be maintained.

Says Bithin Talukdar, Manager, Market Development & Alliances, Software Global Business Unit, HP India Sales, "ITIL has helped HP change the organisational mindset from being an information systems organisation to an information services organisation. It has also paved the way for HP to rise as a global IT organisation, in which significant cost savings and quality improvement can be achieved through unified processes."

A common communication platform

Many MSPs have also been able to define a common communication platform by going in for ITIL. The US-based OpSource, which recently started its Indian operations and its Indian centre, is playing an instrumental part in managing the complete IT infrastructure of companies such as Agile Software and Novartel Wireless. ITIL has helped create common standards between its Indian and US operations.

Treb Ryan, Chief Executive Officer, OpSource Inc, remarks, "ITIL is a proven approach towards delivering round-the-clock monitoring and managed services. By adopting ITIL, we have been able to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our managed service operations.

The adoption of this standard has also paved the way for the adoption of certifications such as SAS 70 and Sarbanes Oxley compliance across our organisation." The major benefit of ITIL for OpSource has been that since ITIL-compliant processes were already in place, it became easy for it to go for SAS 70 which otherwise is a difficult certification to achieve. Vikram Chandna, General Manager, OpSource India, explains, "Now with SAS 70 certification, it is easier for us to improve our market value in front of prospective customers in the market and attract business from new customers."

Not an easy road

Sustaining the tough norms of ITIL and adopting it is anything but easy for organisations, especially for MSPs. To sustain the standards of ITIL, organisations are groping with the challenge of putting metrics and measurements in place and keep reviewing them on a regular basis. Arora of Microland says, "To support our processes as per ITIL, we have gone in for a Six Sigma practice which has helped us ensure error-free delivery, and has reduced the defect rate of our processes. ITIL has helped us get metrics in place, which in turn has led to added productivity. We have been able to get the BS15000 certification which is difficult to achieve, and it is mandatory for organisations going in for BS15000 certification to be ITIL-compliant."

Organisations have felt that while going in for ITIL, it is important to probe each IT asset individually, and this data needs to be collated and applied to determine whether SLAs are being met or not as the case may be. Jain says, "Adopting ITIL requires huge investments which can be a difficult proposition for an individual organisation such as ours. This has created an opportunity for managed service providers who can provide their services to companies like us."

Beyond ITIL

After going in for ITIL, many organisations are contemplating following this up with BS15000 or SAS 70. Microland has already gone in for a BS15000 certification and the ITIL standard has paved the way for it. Similarly, OpSource is going in for SAS 70 certification. Broadly speaking, all these certifications are difficult to achieve and ITIL has helped these organisations in achieving such stringent certifications. With competition on the rise among MSPs, many Indian players are expected to adopt ITIL.