ITIL in education: A possible framework for IT service management
Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Technology is essential to teaching and learning in every school district, as learning is impacted without reliable IT infrastructure and processes. The same is true for administrative functions throughout a school district. These goals require some educational entities to turn to frameworks like Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
Even though the ITIL framework is impactful, and is effective for some organizations in managing out-of-sorts practices, some IT leaders wonder what ITIL is and what it can do.
In the following, we’ll get into that and provide, well, a framework to help you determine if the concept is right for your district or if other approaches may be more beneficial.
First, some background: ITIL, as mentioned, is a structured framework of best practices designed to provide quality services for IT-related processes even within organizations with limited resources. ITIL is not a technology, nor is it a created solution or product.
Instead, ITIL is a set of directive guidelines that guide IT teams through certain IT implementations and management processes. The goal when adopting the ITIL framework is a reduction in incidents; problems support requests; and improvement of incident resolution times.
Recently released, ITILv4 is the latest in a long line of updates to the long-used framework. Developed in the 1980s by the Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), ITIL was a product conceived by the government in Great Britain. As designed, ITIL attempts to improve the quality of the IT services procured by the government in the U.K.
Axelos Limited trademarked ITIL in a joint venture created in 2013 by the Cabinet Office on behalf of Her Majesty's Government (HMG) in the United Kingdom with Capita plc. The joint venture allows for the management, development, and growth of the Global Best Practice portfolio.
This venture has helped ITIL become the most widely accepted approach to IT service management in the world. It's meant to help IT leaders realize business change, transformation, and growth.
Service management is a set of organizational frameworks providing value to customers in the form of services; “value” is described as a bi-directional relationship where value is co-created. Value is how the consumer of services experiences it.
The current version of ITIL takes four dimensions of service management into account: organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers, and value streams and processes.
ITIL in education
In academia, ITIL can be particularly valuable for IT leaders because it introduces (well-tested) structure into IT departments that often get mired in loose process architectures. For those who implement ITIL, there are some things to consider.
ITIL helps categorize incidents and service requests. Incident management is not the same thing as a user service request; a service request may be for custodial, facilities management, fleet reservations, the need for materials, or asset management tracking. An incident report is usually something more urgent than, say, a request for a particular technology needed at an appointed time in the future.
Incident management is a usual emergency. An alarm has malfunctioned, custodial is required immediately, or a computer network outage is affecting learning environments in a particular area of a specific location.
Categorizing service items differently than other things lets your IT teams track these incidents. Thus, patterns are identifiable, issues trackable, audits conductible, and even budgets adjustable as appropriate to best meet current and future needs.
In this way, you can stop being reactive while moving to a more offensive-based defense. Service requests, then, can likely be predicted, allowing your team to develop strategies to automate these services or cut them off before they become a bottleneck. The result may be fewer tickets submitted by users.
ITIL and ITSM prioritize service requests
Administrators, teachers, and even students must receive IT support promptly. In some cases, they can't afford to wait. Such incidents can mean that learning opportunities are at stake.
Through transparent processes and channels of service, incidents (and service requests) can be triaged and escalated as required by the situation. Lower resolution times means those on the receiving end of the service get higher quality outcomes.
For educational entities, what is usually of most concern for service management is how to establish a shared service desk and shared processes. There are many approaches to service management for schools. Some align processes and later change to a single shared service desk.
Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence (CSC Providence) is a French-language education entity in southwestern Ontario, Canada. It employed a solution well before it rolled the framework out. For nearly a full school year, the IT team was ready to launch, and after internal education and training, 23 elementary schools and seven high schools began to work with the solution.
Rhodes Colleges in Memphis, Tennessee, has multiple departments using its service management solution, including the library, IT, the front desk, campus security, student services, financial aid, the student service hub, and others.
Tierney Jackson, a member of the Rhodes College IT team, said the school's goal is to "centralize the service management solution as a source of help on campus. Our users want aggregate help with and information about the services Rhodes offers, and it's just a matter of us making the answers easy for them to find; this can lower the workload for our lean staff, allowing us to work more efficiently. Anyone can contact us, even a parent, and we'll help them."
Service desks can improve reporting capabilities. Most schools move into a shared service environment to track calls and emails, tickets and inefficient processes, but reporting provides visibility into operations, even allowing for higher levels of service while reducing the number of escalating incidents.
Service management doesn’t end there. Service management also allows for self-service action by users. Through self-service technology, staff can locate and identify solutions to their issues before contacting the service desk. Doing so reduces workloads of the service desk analysts.
Regarding ITIL and IT service management, one concept can be built upon the other for better outcomes and organizational efficiency.
Service management technology creates transparency, collaboration, and improves communication between departments, meaning school districts gain auditing capabilities so they can perform checks and balances to see where any failures are.
ITSM in academia can create efficiency while helping service departments evolve; for example, into the cloud or through other strategies. Most education entities employ service management technology to share information and solution sets with users; the technology means service desks users can interact with their data, share it, and shift that information directly to their users.
Additionally, the service management framework keeps service teams accountable to users. One of the primary challenges for educational-based service teams is that most are understaffed. In such cases, the team's members do the things that they think will best get the job done.
However, when these people leave the district or college, voids are left behind. Because of these voids, processes begin to fail. ITIL helps eliminate these voids.
ITIL clarifies and creates a structure for service management processes. ITIL is the framework upon which much may be built. ITIL establishes a foundation by defining clear terms within the service sphere, making it easier to break down communication barriers and develop clear pathways between various stages in the service management spectrum.
A lack of structure is a significant service management problem in academia. Many IT teams struggle with staffing and financial limitations, and “structure” often is one of the first things that gets eliminated, to the detriment of the organization.
ITIL provides a foundation the entire organization can build upon, where leaders from several departments within the school can use to their job done more effectively and efficiently while perhaps improving the educational environment.
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