When exploring global outsourcing, it helps to have a good map. Many technology pros are turning to the IT Infrastructure Library, a collection of eight manuals for sound service management created by the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom. Using the manuals can ensure that both customers and service providers are on the same page.
"Choose a framework that is pretty well-known, like ITIL," said Nancy Markle, former CIO at Arthur Andersen and now president of I4T, a consultancy in Sarasota, Fla. "It helps you understand expectations. In the U.S., were not always clear what expectations are. We tend to be sloppy around that."
Louis Rosenthal, managing director for group shared services for IT at ABN AMRO, said the Dutch bank adopted ITIL-based practices to manage a bevy of services companies operating its infrastructure and application development.
"We pick and choose the parts of ITIL that apply to us," said Scott McKay, senior vice president and CIO of Genworth Financial, in Richmond, Va. "We take best practices from that and from our heritage of having done the work."
Working from a manual, both provider and customer can have a common understanding of problems as they arise. "It has to do with how a customer requests things and how the provider delivers them, so that we understand this term means this," said Rosenthal, in Chicago.
"When an application fails, a problem escalates into a more serious issue. When you declare level one, [you both understand] it means the following," said Rosenthal. "Thats just one example. You can think about what it means when you go up the value chain through all the control environments of a bank. Weve studied deals around the world. We have an operations manual for each application, including a level of services."
IT pros who have not adopted ITIL said that they intend to. "ITIL is something that we will move towards. We dont have those processes in place today, but we will move towards those for managing IBM from an infrastructure point of view," said Robert Greenberg, CIO of Nissan North America, in Gardena, Calif.
Greenberg said he plans to implement the ITIL framework in managing his relationship with IBM for IT infrastructure services by next year. "The changes will bring much more structure. Its the rigor that goes with that and the lessening of dependency on tribal knowledge, as opposed to whats documented."
ITIL frameworks are only one set of standards for dealing with providers, however. "Were looking at quality things beyond ITIL, like CMMI," said Rosenthal. CMMI, or Capability Maturity Model Integration, has levels one through five, each designating a different level of competence. It helps both providers and customers understand at which CMMI level they operate. It is not always optimal or realistic to shoot for Level 5, when, say, Level 3 is more relevant for a given endeavor, such as application development. Further, both provider and customer need to have organizations operating at the same CMMI level. If one organization is at a lower level than the other, the work will be done only in conformance with lower-level standards, both customers and providers said.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management from CIOInsight.com.