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Monday, 27 August 2012 09:11

Taking ITIL beyond IT to leverage true value

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is the most widely adopted best practice approach for IT Service Management (ITSM) in the world. It provides a practical, no-nonsense framework for identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT services to the business. However, ITIL is simply a framework for service lifecycle management and improvement. ITIL practices, tools and software can be harnessed for many other areas of business. Leveraging the true value of ITIL means taking it beyond IT, creating a culture of service improvement throughout the organisation.

The ITIL framework and software designed to support ITIL practices are simply tools that can be adopted, adapted and improved. They can help manage collections of items that have certain dependencies and relationships. The IT department fits this bill, being a network of computers that are interlinked and interact with each other, but this definition can be adapted to include many other aspects and areas of any organisation. Any industry, organisation or environment that relies on processes; or resolves incidents; that require the management of risk and the impact of change, can also benefit from ITIL. By the same token, any organisation that is already using ITIL in the IT department can leverage greater value from the tools by applying ITIL in different areas of the organisation.

Public transport services is one area where ITIL can be harnessed beyond IT, with trains, bus routes and even airports being regarded as large networks. The challenge with these networks is that they are geographically dispersed. Using the ITIL framework and a good ITSM tool, it is possible to develop solutions that highlight stations, bus stops or airports as hotspots or important entities held in the Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Users can then expand or search each hotspot to find out more information. For example, problems that could disrupt transport as well as what equipment is currently located at which station, who is responsible for it, the equipment's history and what might be wrong with it, just like it could if it was a computer in a network.

Effectively this equipment, its relationships and dependencies are no different to a computer network, and the fact that the components of the network are not necessarily a computer, but a ticket machine, a gate, an air conditioner or anything else, is irrelevant. The system is still capable of managing these 'incidents' relating to this equipment in the same way as it would if this was a computer network. Using the ITIL framework, public transport service companies are able to manage services, processes and their interactions that typically are not related to IT.

Health services is another area where the ITIL framework can be exploited. Hospitals need to manage many things, often from a central service desk, most of which are not traditionally related to IT. From fleets of ambulances to surgeries, life support machines to laundry services, and understanding the condition of equipment, scheduling maintenance and making sure everything is running cost-effectively and trouble free is vital to the smooth running of any hospital or clinic.

There are many other industries and examples of ITIL being leveraged outside of IT. In the hospitality industry, ITIL can be used to manage room bookings as well as conferencing facilities and more. Other areas include casinos to manage various gambling machines, fire brigades and emergency services to ensure that equipment is managed and maintained, and even at ports to manage ships, offloading and docking.

Any service provider will need to make sure their services are stable, provide value for money, are fit for purpose and support their customer strategy. This is the same for IT services and non-IT services. Consideration needs to be given to planning, designing and managing incidents, events, problems and requests; new or changed services, accountability, risk; making sure there is sufficient capacity, security and agreed availability of services for current and future needs. All of the above and more are underpinned by Continual Service Improvement.

Ultimately, ITIL is a service lifecycle and process control mechanism, and ITIL process compliant software will follow set workflows or procedures no matter what the process is. Service management can be applied across departments and environments, which mean that service management tools and software based on the ITIL framework have multiple applications outside of IT. Taking ITIL beyond IT will enable organisations to leverage true value and efficiency from service management solutions.

Published in Software
Friday, 27 July 2012 12:05

First steps towards an integrated healthcare industry

First steps towards an integrated healthcare industry

The South African healthcare industry, like its international counterparts, is extremely complex. It is characterised by private clinics that deliver primary healthcare services - mainly to members that belong to medical schemes, Government 'in-patient' clinics that provide some primary healthcare services to 'uninsured' people as well as sophisticated private hospitals and global pharmaceutical manufacturers. This creates as a multi-layered and encompassing healthcare picture, if you will.

In this light, we are seeing a concerted drive towards a National Health Record which will create one, transparent picture for the patient and their service provider, based on a user-friendly system that mitigates repetitive information capturing and importantly provides real insight into the health condition of the country.

An integrated healthcare solution will play an important role in the establishment of a National Health Record and could also offer additional benefits such as the implementation of a shared services model within healthcare groups.

This will be achieved when access to patient records becomes a reality, allowing for the better management of healthcare risks. It will also provide a better understanding of the calculations of healthcare tariffs paid by medical scheme members as well as insight into what should be considered 'fair rates' with regards to payment from medical schemes to the healthcare service providers. One thing is clear; there will be a significant saving in costs by eliminating duplication and reducing unnecessary spend on non-healthcare providers.

Saying this, primary healthcare services must be affordable yet the quality of service cannot be jeopardised. Whether patients have a specific diagnosed condition managed by their Medical Scheme Clinical staff, visit their doctor with various complaints, have blood samples submitted for testing or a scan performed – infrequently or on a regular basis – access to trusted information is a key aspect of innovative medical care.

It promises to deliver healthcare to South Africans that meet the highest possible standards in quality and efficiency. Furthermore, affordability and accessibility to primary healthcare services is one of the most essential considerations in the development in any country's healthcare strides and using technology as part of an eHealth strategy is a crucial differentiator.
State-of-the-art Information Technology (IT) solutions provide an ideal solution in support of innovative medical care. This allows medical staff such as doctors and nurses to focus on healing patients and providing them with the best care necessary while technology handles the rest.


Currently, a lot of hospitals and clinics within the public and private sector run autonomously from one another. For example, a healthcare provider may run a number of hospitals or clinics that operate in silos; orders for the clinics are placed individually and financial reporting is provided separately.

Ideally, these clinics should run in a shared services environment that provides centralised financials, forecasting and purchasing. This in turn improves efficiencies and operational elements such as material requirements planning.

In order to realise these shared, centralised environments one has to consider the current IT infrastructure. It is not feasible to run individual healthcare solutions at each of these clinics and hospitals as it is more expensive than a centralised solution which will drive down the total cost of ownership (TCO).

We are moving towards providing integrated and pervasive solutions and services to the healthcare industry. Importantly, these shared, centralised environments can now be attained by most healthcare providers by partnering with the right service provider.

Foundation is key

In order to establish centralised, integrated and shared environments, healthcare providers have to – from the get-go – lay a rock solid foundation based on sound principles and underlying technologies.

Unfortunately, due to the volatile economic climate, companies are increasingly opting for point solutions to "save" on IT expenditure. Whilst this might demonstrate some benefits in terms of initial capital outlay, it is quite short-sighted as the foundation and tools are simply not there to develop an integrated, company-wide solution. In fact, by increasing the complexity of IT solutions, companies are increasing their TCO.

The integration of the healthcare sector can speed up communications, accelerate treatment, and deliver secure access to information, improving the quality of healthcare.

These shared and centralised environments consolidate important medical, administrative and financial information, boosting efficiency and the standard of care.

And importantly, it sets the foundation for a National Health Record.

Published in Software
UC projects fail when they don’t heed cultural impact on organisations

Unified communications (UC) is changing the way organisations operate, as their employees tend to be more available, productive and effective when invested with UC tools.

But report published in July from analyst firm Canalys points out that many UC deployments fail or don’t meet their goals because their cultural (people) impact and the related contexts of IT consumerisation ‘BYOD’ (bring your own device) and workforce mobility are ignored.

In Tellumat, we are in agreement that many UC failures can be avoided by approaching projects as a business transformation process in which the user experience is central.

Three key trends

Consumerisation is the increasing use by employees of technologies like smart phones, iPads, video and social networking tools in the enterprise.

As Canalys points out, organisations that fail to assimilate and take advantage of consumerisation (for instance, with a BYOD strategy) will find themselves increasingly at a disadvantage against competitors.

For example, organisations that aren’t visible on in social media will become remote from customers who want to communicate via an increasing number of channels. (Conversely, UC solution providers that do not recognise the touch points of the technology with consumerisation and BYOD will at the very least miss the opportunity to leverage existing consumer platforms.)

Vendors and partners must also advise customers on the impact of workforce mobility, on processes and information accessed by employees.

Workforce mobility is not a new concept, but due to the consumerisation of IT and BYOD, it is a rapidly accelerating trend, making it an IT priority.

The proliferation of mobile devices provides employees with greater access to tools like video collaboration. Increasingly, employees want to access business applications and social media while on the move. If mobility is not considered as an integral part of future UC strategies, then the investment will be wasted.

Expert guidance

To accommodate these trends in employees’ everyday workflow, organisations will need guidance from experienced UC partners. Issues that have to be thrashed out include:

  • The decision about which platforms to support (iOS, Android or BlackBerry),
  • The changing security ecosystem, and
  • Networking (the number of devices without Ethernet ports is on the increase).

But it goes deeper than processes and architecture, touching the very core of an organisation’s objectives. Technologies like UC, BYOD and mobility have impact far beyond the scope of just an IT department purchasing decision. They affect management, HR, marketing, sales, R&D and back-office integration, in countless new ways.

To prepare for the impact of the new technologies and accommodate them, organisations must ask themselves what they want the technologies to achieve, and within what parameters. The following considerations are common:

  • Organisations must work through changing access modes and trust accords very closely and apply corporate policies as well as IT security measures accordingly.
  • Education of employees is a crucial aspect of a holistic UC deployment: employees must understand their responsibilities and obligations in a world where they are able to freely move sensitive data from device to device and location to location.
  • Equally, the corporate culture of the organisation must embrace trust and openness in a mobile, UC-driven, BYOD environment, so that employees are able to take more rapid but well-informed decisions.
  • UC deployments that incorporate collaborative tools and social media work most effectively when the deployment is aligned with business goals such as improving customer satisfaction or streamlining decision-making processes.
  • Collaboration must enable individuals to identify other individuals in order to be able to freely form communities that can quickly come together to tackle specific company issues.

All these and more must be keen focus areas in the purchasing decision, to ensure that the organisation is prepared for the big changes that UC can bring, and that benefits will be realised.

Published in Mobile
Monday, 16 July 2012 11:56

Empowered by technology, SMEs can now go toe-to-toe with big business

Big Fish - Small Fish

There was a time when small-to-medium sized organisations had to make do with whatever they had to even stand a chance of survival. Not too long ago, the issue of technology procurement and application in SMEs or SMBs was shrouded in frustration and difficulty.

Decision makers who knew what ICT they wanted, but could not afford to source and implement it. Those who had the technology but required advice or guidance, received little in the way of meaningful support. Technical issues were viewed either as elephants in the room’ or a fire that had to be extinguished - and usually with money.

It is amazing what can happen in a short time. Today, the small-to-medium segment of the market is one of the fastest growing within the broader economy – a view shared by the leadership of established ICT and telecommunications companies.

One of the key game-changers for this area of the market has been the advent of the cloud. There is no denying that this model has changed the way technology is brought on board and used. It has radically transformed conventional processes and procedures related to technology ownership and application in the workplace.

Now those operating within this ultra-competitive space do not have to spend a fortune on infrastructure and systems to sustain the business. They are not obliged to detract attention away from core focus areas in order to look after technology or scramble to sort out technical issues that arise.

They have a clear opportunity to invest in and acquire the advantages of cloud-based service which, if correctly understood and strategically implemented to suit the business, does have benefits.

These include productivity and a flexible, more predictable price structure that enables more accurate and effective budgeting.

It is important for the business operator to be able to differentiate between the public/private or hybrid cloud model and truly understand what is the most suitable for the business. This is where service provision is emerging as an asset.

To illustrate, Vodacom and Microsoft recently established an alliance to rollout Microsoft’s Office365, the company’s cloud productivity service.

The service will be bundled with Vodacom’s broadband connectivity products that are tailored specifically for this area of the market.

According to a statement released by Vodacom Business Services, the Managing Executive from the company, Chris Lazarus, said it is imperative that SMEs are provided with the tools necessary to compete with big business within a marketplace driven by the need for fast turnaround times and proactive service.

I have to agree – and this is another facet of the current market that is interesting. Size is all relative. There is no more ‘small fish/big fish in the pond’ scenario. Technology has levelled the playing field and with access to numerous services offered through the cloud, the small operator has just as much opportunity as larger counterparts.

The network has always been – and will always be the lifeblood of any organisation. Whereas in the past IT administrators and Financial Directors would have to endure lengthy, arduous brainstorming sessions to figure out how to apply the IT strategy, there is far more room to manoeuvre today.

And this is a good thing because, according to statistics like those reflected in an IP Expo Corporate Cloud Survey in 2011, by 2013, 56% of corporations will be using cloud computing.

Moreover the relevance of undersea cable infrastructure cannot be ignored. The capacity offered by this infrastructure is expected to be 35 Terabytes per second by 2013.

Big data and the certain increase in Internet and mobile solution users mean that SMEs should position themselves to take advantage of the access and business opportunities.

It also means that networks will continue to be of critical importance.

Networks are becoming smarter, decision makers are more tech-savvy and have more understanding of what is actually required within the business and what is not. There is a far more analytical and strategic component to the purchasing of infrastructure and application.

Data analytics and mobility is driving network maturity and investment. This, together with innovation and multi-functional products, mean more power to the operator – irrespective of size or focus.

Published in Networking
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