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Wed 11 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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The Middle East can bank on ITIL

More so than in any other industry, financial services and banking organisations have the most to lose when something goes wrong with their IT service delivery, writes Linda King, product manager Axios.

|~|itil200.jpg|~||~|Collectively, financial services generate more revenues per hour from their IT applications than from any other information intensive sector. When IT systems go down, the impact can have disastrous effects on revenue as well as customer service.

In today's business environment banking cannot survive without reliable IT services. Increased expansion, merger and acquisition activity, increasing customer demands, and rising regulatory and compliance activity are driving the industry to place further emphasis on improving technology, service and operational performance.

As the Middle East becomes a rapidly developing service economy, it is critical that underpinning infrastructure support services are of a 'world-class' standard. Banking is one industry where the service economy is particularly demanding. Providing and continually improving those services is a daily challenge for IT professionals aiming to keep up-to-date with and anticipate the changing needs of their customers and users. IT-related services no longer provide a mere support role - they have become a strategic function in an organisation's business structure.

Because of all these reasons, banking organisations in the Middle East need ways to help ensure IT reliability as well as achieve performance improvements. The requirements today demand that IT is able to support the business and one of the best ways to do this is through the use of IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which is a best practice framework for IT Service Management (ITSM).

ITIL has proven invaluable to thousands of organisations in all industries across the globe as a best practice framework to manage and improve effective IT services.
Since its inception in the late 1980s, ITIL has become the single most important and accepted framework for ITSM. It has long since been regarded as the de-facto standard for ITSM, but in 2003, the British Standard BS 15000 was launched, a new framework based on the ITIL disciplines.

Two years later BS 15000 was accepted as the worldwide standard under the official name of ISO/IEC 20000.
The level of interest in ITSM, ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000 has risen dramatically across the Middle East in the last 18 months. Changing business attitudes amongst end-users combined with increasing investments in complex hardware and software technologies continues to drive this rise in interest.

However - many organisations are seeing the benefits that 'best practice' can bring and are expressing a desire to experience these benefits and become 'ITIL-compliant' without necessarily knowing what this means or what is involved. What should be realised though is no one can be "ITIL-compliant" - it is not a regulation, it is a best practice, standards-based approach to ITSM. It is quite simply the best way to do it.

When implemented well, ITIL can deliver a host of benefits. It can improve service quality and reliability by introducing a consistent set of best practice processes which highlight shortfalls and encourage a pro-active improvement approach. Shortened resolution times, better management information, more reliable IT services and the implementation of permanent solutions to formally acknowledged problems are just some of the many ways ITIL can help revolutionise the IT services of the banking industry.||**|||~||~||~|ITIL can also reduce cost by applying ITIL best practice to IT operations; financial enterprises can take advantage of improved cost control and cost reduction. Benefits such as increased efficiency and productivity, lower incident volumes, faster incident resolution and less business disruption because of service failures will ultimately lead to a lower Total Cost of IT Ownership (TCO).

It is no longer enough to simply adjust and upgrade the IT infrastructure after the need has arisen. Today's CIOs are expected to support corporate success by planning and actively shaping the business IT environment - an ITIL based pro-active approach to change management can help make your business ready to face the future.

ITIL also helps to optimise IT investment. Financial services and banking companies spend on average almost 10% of revenues on IT - the second highest amount of any industry next to telecommunications. IT is a significant investment therefore for banks. Almost two-thirds of this amount tends to be spent on hardware and software assets. Given the size of these investments and the complexity associated with managing them, the board can quickly see the opportunity that ITIL presents for optimising the return on their companies' IT and facilities investments.

Given that ITIL has already been successfully implemented to the benefit of many businesses around the world, the Middle East is today in an excellent position to learn from other countries and organisations that have already gone through the ITSM and ITIL adoption process. This will allow them to 'fast-forward' the adoption of ITIL to realise the business benefits sooner.

To be truly successful at implementing ITIL, banking organisations need to look at the bigger picture - Middle East organisations implementing ITIL practices should be looking at how becoming ITIL compliant benefits the business rather than getting people ITIL certified just for the sake of it. If you're going to do ITIL, do it right - there is no point just paying lip service.

It is not enough just to implement an ITIL based solution. If organisations want to truly benefit from the adoption of ITIL best practice, then they need to have that belief and focus through all levels of the organisation. It is important that they understand fully the need for its people to be educated in the new service oriented processes - it is not sufficient to just implement the policies and tools. Key IT service and support staff will benefit from undergoing formal ITIL training and certification, with an emphasis on relating this training to the needs of their current organisation.

It is vital to choose a vendor that can be trusted, as the chosen vendor will ultimately be the company's ITIL best practice 'partner'. When sourcing an ITIL-based tool to support ITSM, the vendor needs to have a proven track record in implementing ITIL solutions in the financial services and banking industry. The vendors' consultants need to be highly experienced and ITIL service manager certified.

It is also strongly recommended the chosen software solution was designed from inception around the ITIL processes and not recently moulded to fit to meet the ITIL market hype. Another careful consideration when choosing an ITSM solution is to ensure that out-of-the-box means out-of-the-box. The total cost of ownership of an ITSM solution can skyrocket when customisation and tailoring is required. This customisable approach, however flexible it might be, can be difficult to support, which makes upgrading impossible without re-implementation and gets very expensive.

There are countless benefits to be gained from undertaking an ITIL-based approach to IT Service Management. The world is moving towards ITIL because best practice makes sense. The Middle East is in a position to dramatically improve IT operations and ensure this is aligned with business needs. It is time to embrace ITIL.||**||

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