Service Turns to Industry for Best Practice Assistance

February 15, 2008

The U.S. Air Force is centralizing its network operations using IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices to increase efficiencies and to boost security. The move will bring 113 bases currently running individual networks into alignment and centralize the service’s help desk into a single point of support for all issues related to information technology equipment.

According to David Proctor, many airmen have trained in the ITIL framework, but the practices have never been enforced. Instead, most commands have developed their own best practices with the assistance of the commercial sector, he relates. Proctor is a systems management specialist for the warfighter systems integration and deployment sector in the U.S. Air Force Chief Information Office at the Pentagon,

Work began on adopting ITIL practices as the Air Force-wide standard approximately two years ago. Maj. Brian Jenrett, USAF, chief of Air Force network-centric operations strategy, Office of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, the Pentagon, explains that by 2010, all of the service’s network command components will be based on ITIL and industry best practices.

This move helps the service address the shift in funding from information systems to weapons systems that has occurred over the past several years, he explains. In addition, the efficiencies ITIL processes bring to the Air Force will compensate for staff reductions called for in Program Budget Decision 720, which Maj. Jenrett says amounts to 4,000 personnel.

The U.K. Office of Government Commerce designed the ITIL library, which comprises a series of books that document best practices for information technology service management. It includes information about quality as well as the support needed to provide services.

The information has been revised several times; version 3 was published in May 2007. According to Sharon Taylor, chief architect of the latest version of ITIL, the update shifts from the information technology process-centric practices of version 2 to a more general service-centric approach that spans service strategy, design and transition.

Proctor maintains that by following ITIL, the Air Force will get more out of its information systems and processes. “If you look at any organization that has gone through this, there’s a huge efficiency gain,” he says. ITIL practices will provide better service as well, he adds.

Because implementation of ITIL best practices is at different levels of maturity at each Air Force location, just how much these standards improve network operations is difficult to assess. However, reports from commands that have had ITIL in place for some time indicate a positive difference in network operations, he notes.

Several companies are helping organizations adopt ITIL standards; the Air Force has enlisted BMC Software Incorporated in its work. Chris Olson, technical director of BMC’s public sector, explains that his company is raising ITIL awareness at several Air Force locations through education. It also is assisting personnel obtain ITIL certification through a three-day course. The course features an airport information systems simulation, first without the aid of ITIL practices in place, then with them. “The students see what a difference it makes,” Olson says.

In addition to training, BMC offers an information technology management suite called Remedy. The tool provides information technology managers with a common operational picture of an organization’s systems so they can detect problems, determine how the problems affect an enterprise and send resources to the location where they are most needed, Olson explains. This capability enables organizations such as the Air Force to work more efficiently, he adds.

HP is another company that offers both training and network monitoring products that facilitate ITIL practices. In fact, a number of its personnel have been intricately involved with developing the latest version of ITIL. David Cannon and David Wheeldon, both HP consultants, wrote Service Operation, one of the version’s five core books; Jeroen Bronkhorst developed the ITIL version 3 process maps.

Last year, the company enlarged its service management portfolio so it could position itself to assist organizations adopt ITIL version 3. The firm’s portfolio includes a set of six solutions. Education and consulting services as well as new capabilities also were added.

Information systems professionals are invited to learn more about ITIL on February 20 at noon during a free webinar offered by SIGNAL Magazine. Click here to register for this free opportunity to hear about the importance of adopting ITIL standards.