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The new IT library that HP reads, and writes

At last month's HP Technology Forum, the company organized a speed-dating ring of interviews for me. In less than three hours I was briefed by five different company officials about the HP products and strategies in Hewlett-Packard's talking points for the Forum. Most of the conversations revolved around products and services unavailable to run on the HP 3000 — but that's pretty much what HP has on offer now for a computer that it first shipped nearly 35 years ago.

One of HP's proffered products seemed a better match for the HP 3000 customer who's moving their IT strategy to a new, larger scope. HP says this kind of move can make "IT become a strategic partner to the business." Compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and ISO standards, like the new ISO 20000, make this expansion of strategy even more complex. Those standards are not going away, and most companies continue to expect more from IT investment.

A group of documents has helped some companies organize and spark this deeper strategy. HP was talking up the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) in many of my interviews. HP's even got an on-demand video about ITIL. One HP manager said that Hewlett-Packard has 5,000 people certified in ITIL, adding that a handful of HP employees had a role in writing the Operation volume for the library — which just got a new version on May 30. ITIL was front and center alongside HP's "midsize getting bigger" IT offerings for networks, security and services.

Josh Buckley, Program Manager for HP Services, offered up one new solution, HP Best Practices for ServiceCenter. For any company that's found OpenView to be a useful framework for IT practices, HP's 2006 acquisition of Mercury Interactive has made that long-standing network and systems management software an even more comprehensive solution. HP has even retired the name OpenView, in lieu of something called HP IT Service Management (ITSM), the OpenView software, plus years of experience, "to transform your IT into a real business and competitive differentiator."

For the HP 3000 shop heading into deeper waters in the wake of a merger or an acquisition, committed to HP's Unix solutions, ITIL and ITSM options are a point of the IT compass to watch. ITIL is no cure-all set of practices, but it's a place to begin a resurgence of IT's structure. A first-rate summary of ITIL is available on the Web, explaining with an interactive guide how this set of practices born in the UK in the 1980s has become a key tool for some think-big IT managers.

Buckley said the HP product is a good match for the customer "who's struggling with regulatory compliance, so it helps mitigate risk — not only from a project implementation perspective, so they actually have a better chance of creating a more aligned ServiceCenter implementation, but so they can map their processes against their SOX or COBIT requirements."

Best Practices for ServiceCenter contains preconfigured fields, forms, roles and rules that can be uploaded from the HP Software ServiceCenter database.

Behind much of HP's best practices lies the accumlated knowledge of ITIL, an industry standard of advice on how to run service, support, help desks, app development and more. The five volumes are named Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement — because after all, IT lives to serve the corporate mission.

HP's service to the IT manager is to offer software that can look at the whole picture of IT services in a single view. Buckley said these best practices can help identity management practices align with, say, SOX and COBIT and ISO compliance.

CIO Magazine, which lives for this kind of high-tower policy discussion, breaks down the pros and cons of ITIL in a lengthy online article. "We help write these books," Buckley said, "but HP also expands on what ITIL has done."