incident management. Those processes assign priorities to different kinds of service interruptions, spell out who must respond to each kind and specify how fast they must respond. Also, under the new regime, the service desk monitors incidents to make sure that response teams meet the standards. "We're putting out reports twice a day for any incidents that we're in danger of breaching," Lithgo said. "The service owners get copies of that report, and they get escalated internally before we breach them."

Each month, a team examines a report on any service breaches that slipped through the safety net, to see if they indicate a trend. If they do, the team tries to figure out the root cause.

One key to the project's success so far has been that each process design team includes people who actually use the processes, Lithgo said. "This wasn't a couple of managers going off in a corner and designing it and saying, 'Thou shalt do it this way.'" Another key was that leaders in the operating divisions assigned their best talent to the project, he said.

Disrupting Comfort Zones

Still, an ITIL project, like any initiative that introduces change, will spark some resistance. "You're disrupting comfort zones. You're changing roles in various ways," Lithgo said.          

Some employees embrace the new career opportunities that an ITIL implementation presents, while others resent the disruption.

"There'll be some tense months up front," Lithgo said. But issues get resolved as the project unfolds. "Sometimes it takes training, or there may be months when you have some metrics that don't look so good, or some meetings that can be uncomfortable. But we move past that."

With phase one complete, ITS already has gained significant benefits from ITIL. "Overall agency productivity improved 20 percent. Service desk productivity improved 30 percent with no increase in staff," Lithgo said.

Thanks to this rise in efficiency, the state is saving money. The average cost to resolve an incident has dropped from $1,300 to $750, Willis said. "That's $1.4 million a year in lower resources to resolve incidents, because we're doing it faster, cleaner, with less confusion."

North Carolina's IT professionals also are putting out fewer fires. In the past, only 26 percent of changes ITS made to IT systems were carried out according to a plan, Willis said. The rest were emergency changes made at the last minute. As of July, ITS was planning 76 percent of its system changes in advance. As a result, it was making 99 percent of those changes successfully the first time around, compared to 49 percent before the ITIL implementation.

In addition, technicians are resolving incidents faster. "If you'd looked a year ago, you'd have seen 200 to 300 tickets open more than seven days," Willis said. But a recent  report found only 11 trouble tickets open one week after the initial complaint. "Things aren't falling through the cracks as much," he said.

North Carolina still has a way to go in sharpening its service performance, Willis said. Using the metrics it has developed with help from ITIL, the organization continually benchmarks itself against its peers to find specific areas it needs to improve. Having this data available makes a big difference.

"Instead of managing by organizational line and turf, you're managing by numbers. You're going from unmeasured -- and to some significant extent, therefore, unmanaged -- to measured and managed," Willis said. "In a consolidation, or in a large organization with delivery goals that change, all of those things are great. They make for very productive discussions."


Contributing Writer Merrill Douglas is based in upstate New York. She specializes in applications of information technology.

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer