Archives For ITIL

We’ve been preparing to implement the ITIL standards in my district for about a year now. Now that five of us have achieved the foundation certification, I think we’re poised to make some significant headway this year. This presentation from the TIES Conference is a description of some of the ITIL fundamental concepts and a summary of my thinking about how we’ll tackle them in Buffalo. This is most definitely a work in progress.

I’ll post my slides here after my talk, but for now you can follow this links to learn more about ITIL:

Update: Here’s a link to my slides from this talk. I think most of them will make sense on their own, but anyone who looks at them will obviously miss some key things that were discussed in my talk at the conference.

I’ll be at this year’s TIES Conference next Monday and Tuesday doing a couple presentations, connecting with old friends and colleagues, and scoping out the vendors. If you’re in the neighborhood, here’s the info on my presentations. I decided to go a little more geeky for a change this year. Now I just have to do the last bit of cramming to get ready.

Introducing Virtualization Technology: Options, Implementation and ROI

Monday, Dec 10, 11:20 a.m.–12:10 p.m.
Virtualization technology in the data center is revolutionizing the way servers are deployed and managed. Participants in this session will review current virtualization technologies, see a demonstration of VMware and hear how Buffalo schools achieved a one-year return on investment of over 100 percent by virtualizing most of its servers.

Implementing IT Best Practices: A District Case Study

Tuesday, Dec 11, 10:00 a.m.–10:50 a.m.
The Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District is in its first year of implementing the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practice standards for IT service management. Participants in this session will learn about ITIL and gain insights into one district’s successes and challenges reengineering key aspects of its IT support system.

See you there!

If there’s a distinguishing characteristic of educational reform, and reform efforts in general, it’s the lack of patience in sustaining difficult effort over time. We criticize students who can’t seem to exercise delayed gratification, but don’t seem to notice that educators, government officials, and the general public aren’t any better.

Reference: Taylor, Sharon, and Ivor Macfarlane. ITIL Small-scale Implementation. London: TSO, 2005.

Silver Bullet Lifecycle

Last weekend’s On the Media on NPR had an interesting feature on Second Life, the online virtual world that is all the rage these days. The largest portion of the piece was devoted to describing how former Virginia governor and likely presidential candidate Mark Warner held a news conference in Second Life recently. Just when you thought you were safe from candidate blogs…

The Second Life phenomenon is really fascinating. I’ve never been much of a gamer, but I think it’s crucial for teachers to understand the gaming world as much as possible. The point from the report that hit home most with me was from one of the guests who suggested that elements of our “first lives” (the real world) will need to become more game-like as more people become comfortable with artificial worlds. In other words, we begin to relate to real-world situations through the lens of video games and virtual worlds.

I guess I’ll reserve judgement for now on whether or not that would be a good thing. I do know that we should be using games and game-like simulations more effectively for teaching and learning. My recent experience as a student in the ITIL class is a perfect example. We sat for over two days paging through PowerPoint slides trying to absorb material. It would have been so much more interesting to learn the ITIL processes in a simulated environment where the “player” has to manage an IT department and his or her success depends on the extent to which the ITIL processes are implemented correctly. Will we ever get to the point that using immersive simulations is the norm?

I can think of a million other examples of learning through games and simulations. (And I’m sure many of these have been done.) Some examples: learn about the election process by managing a candidate’s campaign or being a candidate in a virtual world yourself; learn ecology by managing a virtual national park and ensuring that animal and plant populations remain viable; learn French by teleporting to a French-speaking world (need better speech recognition for this one); lean about viruses by becoming one and figuring out how to defeat a body’s immune system. Here’s something you can take to the bank: tomorrow’s technology will be cheaper and faster than today’s. Within ten years we will have cheap virtual reality technology that will allow students to enter these simulations in ways that we can barely imagine now.

Are teachers ready for this change? Can you imagine the professional development challenges that await us?

second life, otm, on the media, mark warner, gaming, npr, simulations

We talked a lot about disaster recovery, monitoring system availability, and financial accounting for IT services on day #2.

Does your school district (or other organization) have a disaster recovery plan in place that lists each IT service and how fast you plan to recover back to full operation? Have you had a conversation with other leaders in your district to prioritize your systems and the data they contain? Updating that plan is one of my top priorities for the next few months.

I appreciate Michaels’ comment on my previous ITIL post about the applicability of business principles to educational environments. I’m not put off by business world comparisons for a couple reasons:

  1. Most of the best thinking in IT management has been in the corporate context. ITIL, Six Sigma, TQM, and a host of other quality frameworks have proven records of improving efficiency and effectiveness. We need to take that seriously.
  2. Is IT Service Management really that different in the corporate context than it is in my education world? Isn’t the goal in both cases to help the organization meet its “business objectives”? (The business objectives are obviously quite different.) There wasn’t much in the ITIL processes that I couldn’t connect with something in my world.

I’m going to continue thinking about the financial stuff too. I have no idea at this point what it actually costs to deliver specific IT services in my district. How much do we pay to maintain our GroupWise system (considering software, hardware, and people costs)? I don’t have a very good idea. Would we save money by switching to Exchange? (I doubt it.) How can I decide if I don’t know what I’m paying now? I don’t think it has to be complicated to make some reasonable cost estimates.

This ITIL stuff is good. I should find out if I passed the test in a few weeks.

itil, itsm, it service management, disaster planning, it accounting

Whew! That’s a lot of material. I walked into class this morning and had a thick binder full of detailed ITIL info waiting for me. The terminology is dense and there are a lot of new concepts to absorb. There are only six of us in the class, and I’m the only one from the K–12 world. I asked a lot of questions, most of which seemed fairly intelligent sounding at the time.

I continue to wonder how best to map these IT service management concepts from the corporate culture to the work I do in a school district. There’s so much that is common between all of us who do this work, but there are some key differences. Our instructor works for Northwest Airlines. If their IT systems fail they might lose huge money in lost reservations. (I don’t think he worries much about planes falling out of the sky.) If mine fail I might have hundreds of students and teachers whose activities are ruined for a period of time. Those are both high stakes, but the way to measure them seems quite different to me.

Measuring performance is very important in the ITIL processes. My stack of materials has key performance indicators (KPIs) for each process. Here are a few examples from the Incident Management process (IM in ITIL-speak refers to what most people recognize as a traditional help desk/tech support request):

  • total number of incidents
  • mean cost per incident
  • incidents processed per service desk workstation
  • number and percentage of incidents resolved remotely, without an on-site visit

Does your school district’s IT department measure their performance like that? Mine doesn’t…yet. 😉 My ITIL book stresses the importance of collecting baseline data and measuring performance against it. I don’t have any baseline data. It’s never been collected.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what metrics make sense in a school setting. Something like “number of students and teachers affected per incident” or “instructional time lost per incident” perhaps. I need to find a way to incorporate metrics like that. It will make them more relevant to our “business” and communicate more clearly to teachers and administrators than the geekier alternatives.

What other metrics would make sense for a school IT department? I’d love to hear some suggestions. I’ll keep posting on this, but for now I need to dig in and do some studying. I’ve got the exam on Friday.

itsm, tech support

Back to class

12 Sep 2006

Starting tomorrow morning I’ll be in three days of classes at the U. of MN working toward an ITIL foundation certificate. The foundation course will cover all the basics of ITIL, and I’m hoping it will help me as I continue to rethink how we deliver IT services in my school district. I discovered ITIL in December, 2005 and I’ve been looking forward to implementing some of the key processes ever since.

I’ll do my best to post some reflections and notes about the class here.

itil, itsm, tech support, umn

I was listening to an IT Conversations podcast of Michael Disabato’s talk from the Burton Group Catalyst Conference recently and discovered a fantastic resource. ITIL is the IT Infrastructural Library and the ITIL Website describes it as:

ITIL (the IT Infrastructure Library) is essentially a series of documents that are used to aid the implementation of a framework for IT Service Management. This customisable framework defines how Service Management is applied within an organisation.

It’s clear that schools don’t operate their IT systems like businesses, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Schools and businesses have different outcomes in mind. But at the same time I recognize that schools have a lot to learn from large enterprises who have learned an enormous amount about how to build and maintain complex technology systems. The ITIL Toolkit is a comprehensive set of planning guides that are intended to help enterprises establish best practices. The Toolkit costs $199 and can be purchased from the Web site. Given what I heard in the podcast and what I’ve seen of the Toolkit online, I think that would be $199 well spent to make some significant improvements in a school’s IT department.