After nearly eight months, Communications and Information Systems (CIS) personnel at Commander, Second Fleet are nearing the end of their implementation of a brand-new process to govern the Navy’s information networks.
The idea for using the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) came about after a joint task force exercise showed that there was a critical need for such a program.
The ITIL framework of "best practice" guidance focuses on key areas of successful organizational effectiveness: customer satisfaction, service delivery and support, application management and security management.
ITIL provides a methodology for integrating and aligning IT and organizational/business goals and implementing continuous process improvement.
"When we first realized this problem we immediately sent two personnel to a [ITIL] Foundations course sponsored by Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic which showed immediate benefits in the alignment of processes.
"The ITIL framework works such that it will show benefit and can be established at the individual command level, which will tie into other instances easily for operations," said Information Systems Technician (IT) Senior Chief Carl Schlitt.
Under the leadership of Capt. Diane Webber, 2nd Fleet’s Director for CIS, one major section of the project was to build a process-oriented framework for better management of 2nd Fleet’s information networks.
After the framework and ITIL courses were completed, the 2nd Fleet ITIL implementation began in September 2007, with a one-year Plan of Action and Milestones and goal of finishing in August 2008.
With the combined efforts of Windward IT Solutions contractors Russ Herrell and Chuck Mitchell, and 2nd Fleet staff members completing ITIL training for Practitioner-level, the second-level for ITIL certification, the program was on its way to full implementation.
"The program started with a full-court press of key personnel receiving Foundations training and development of roles and responsibilities," Schlitt said.
"The Foundations training made it readily apparent that there was a viable solution to the current issues being dealt with in the Navy’s IT infrastructure, and more specifically, here at COMSECONDFLT," he continued.
ITIL is being implemented at 2nd Fleet in phases. Each phase, Incident Management, Problem Management, Configuration Management, Change Management and Service Level Management, implements a specific process. These processes are integrated to ensure successful IT governance.
The first phase, which implemented the Incident Management process, required a large cultural shift within the IT community itself. Many IT organizations operate in a reactionary survival mode most of the time. COMSECONDFLT looks to focus on proactive service delivery which tends to stay ahead of problems. In today’s dynamic network environment, not all challenges can be anticipated. But ITIL provides the processes to minimize the downtime associated with those challenges.
A larger cultural shift will take a longer period of time throughout the entire staff, but will be made easier by the evident benefits of being able to rapidly accept, understand and accomplish the mission with high change rates.
"We saw immediate and rapid benefits such as faster and more complete incident management," Schlitt said. "This allowed for users to be restored to service much more rapidly."
Another benefit was the ability to more accurately track IT man-hours and plan for balancing workloads more effectively.
"The service desk function makes it much easier to track my resources," said Information Systems Technician First Class Anaya Carter, who is the ITIL incident manager, "both people and computer systems alike."
The program also contains high quality tracking for the assets and the relationships of the infrastructure which helps in scheduling preventive maintenance, and reducing overall downtime.
Information Systems Technician Second Class Jonathan Calhoun, who is part of the change and release build team, sees the ITIL program as "a good way to rapidly implement changes without endangering the live environment."
"The hardest part of the implementation is the concept of ownership," Schlitt said. "Our COMSECONDFLT program is built so that we leverage the enlisted ranks to act as the managers of the various processes. This required quite a bit of training and significant coaching to gain individual project ownership."
The CIS team is currently implementing the Continual Service Improvement process. The baseline process is in place and active, and is now being validated and updated as the staff learns and adapts to its changing mission criteria.
Information Systems Technician Third Class Ross Ebbinghaus sees value in the fact that "I have policies backing me up which makes good sense, and the incident process allows me to know what I’m doing and when."
"ITIL is at the core of how we run the networks and other IT assets here at COMSECONDFLT," Schlitt said. "Several Navy organizations are implementing ITIL, and the NGEN CONOPS [Next Generation Network concept of operations which will replace the Navy Marine Corps Intranet] just signed uses an ITIL framework as well. We hope many other Navy organizations will join us in implementing their own ITIL framework."
Key to sustainment of a successful implementation effort is the commitment from management and ownership by the IT team.
One of the most important processes put in place is continuous improvement and the COMSECONDFLT CIS team is already thinking about how to keep their new process-driven approach current over the long haul.
"It is more important to build a good process and train your people to use it, than to try and buy and use tools to manage your networks," Schlitt continued.
"ITIL focuses on people and processes, then seeks to take those best practices and automate those it can for a better, more efficient IT Infrastructure."