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Feb. 27, 2015
Michael Scarborough


Learn the ITIL® concepts of accountability, boundaries, and consistency (the ABCs) and discover how ITIL helps establish, manage, and maintain the ABCs.


Service management, as defined by the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) is a complex topic that takes individuals years to master. While individuals may have difficulty mastering all aspects of the ITIL framework, much less the more esoteric parts, organizations often have significant difficulty understanding how the ITIL best practices fit into their environment. ITIL consists of five core books, with each book focusing on a specific stage of the lifecycle approach to service management. The five core books are very detailed, complex, and at times difficult to understand. It is easy for both individuals and organizations to become overwhelmed with all of the detail provided in the ITIL books.

As a result of these challenges, individuals often experience difficulty in effectively understanding and applying the various ITIL best practices, and organizations often fail to realize an acceptable return on investment from their service management initiatives. One thing that can help both individuals and organizations is approaching ITIL with a simple, clear understanding of the best practices utilizing a common theme.

One simple way to understand ITIL by utilizing a common theme is called the "ABCs of ITIL." The ABCs stand for:

- Accountability

- Boundaries

- Consistency

ITIL provides numerous best practices that help organizations establish, manage, and maintain accountability, boundaries, and consistency in an organization, resulting in increased quality and cost-effectiveness.

This white paper will describe the concepts of accountability, boundaries, and consistency (the ABCs); discuss how ITIL helps establish, manage, and maintain the ABCs; how the ABCs relate to quality and cost-effectiveness; and how individuals and organizations can communicate ITIL in a simple way using the ABCs.

What is Accountability?
Accountability refers to the assumption of liability, answerability, and responsibility for personal and organizational actions, policies, decisions, and behaviors. With respect to service management, accountability includes the explicit agreement to understand, describe, and be liable for personal and/or organizational outcomes, regardless of whether the outcomes are desired or unacceptable.

For example, an organization's service desk receives a call from a user notifying them of an interruption to service. A user is unable to perform critical reporting functionality in a key business application. The service desk agent receiving the call, following the organization's policy, opens an incident on behalf of the user in the company's service management ticketing system. The service desk agent attempts some basic troubleshooting with the user on the phone, to no avail. The service desk agent informs the user that their incident will be escalated to the next level of support for investigation and resolution. The service desk agent then concludes the call with the user, and moves on to other work.

In this simple example, who is accountable for restoration of service to this user? Is it the user, the service desk agent, or the person at the next level of support that takes the escalation?

Ideally, accountability should be clearly defined, and handled according to a specific set of rules in all situations. In this case, the single point of contact for reporting incidents should be accountable for the incident from open to close. In other words, the user should feel assured that once they've reported the incident to the service desk, the interruption in service has been documented and will be handled according to the organization's prioritization policies. Organizations that fail to leave their customers and users with that level of assurance are making the enterprise less efficient.

Furthermore, the simple example above illustrates an important concept in the world of service management. That concept is that accountability and responsibility, where it makes sense, are often handled by different people. In the case of incidents, particularly those that the service desk cannot directly resolve, it is the job of the service desk to marshal the necessary resources to resolve the incident and restore service, and to be accountable for the overall handling of an incident that may in fact involve many different people and groups. This is different from some aspects of responsibility, such as the escalation to the next level of support, whom we can presume are performing activities to restore service to this user.

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