2012 #7 ITSM is discovery not invention, and ITIL documents it

The IT Skeptic's Skeptical Informer newsletter for 23rd December 2012.

The Skeptical Informer newsletter took a break last week. I was too upset about the gun madness sweeping the USA. In the end I chose not to write one. I still feel deep sorrow for the road that country is on since so many friends, colleagues and e-quaintances live there, and because that culture drips down onto my own. But I have calmed down enough now - just - that I can write about something else and restrict my ranting to twitter.

ITIL was certainly a fad. It followed the classic Gartner Hype Curve with a peak of inflated expectations followed by a trough of disillusionment. It is just now entering the third phase as things level out into normal adoption. ITIL is entering the mainstream as BAU, table stakes. Even the DevOps community are discovering the importance of ITSM after all (it's so cute watching them grow up, making all the same mistakes, finding their way...).

The fad was the adoption of ITIL, not ITIL itself. There's folks who think ITSM is an invention, like petrol engines or the hula hoop; that it will be displaced by something else. It's not: ITSM is discovery. It describes reality, like physics does. The world is a service economy - this is the Service Age (following on from the Agricultural and Industrial ages). Service management describes how the economy works. ITSM describes how service works in IT. There isn't a non-service version of IT, except from some vendors [joke].

ITIL will endure and evolve as a record of that discovery. It may get displaced by better descriptions of reality (COBIT 5 for example), but that doesn't need to happen if ITIL keeps up with new discovery and the changing world.

Following on from the last newsletter's "Relativity is exciting but Newtonian physics still matters" and carrying on the physics analogy, it is possible that ITIL is the phlogiston of ITSM, that it is completely wrong. But I don't think so. There are those who announce they have made a discovery that will sweep ITIL away entirely, but the evidence just isn't there yet. I see them in this analogy as the cold fusion of ITSM. With the data to hand, ITIL is a good description of the reality of ITSM.

Does ITIL need to evolve? Sure. Will we make new discoveries to extend it? Undoubtedly. I think Standard+Case is one of those. Will something come along to radically change our view of ITSM, as relativity did to physics? Certainly. I can't wait. But just like Newtonian physics, ITIL will still work in most common contexts long into the future.

Related posts from the blog (don't forget to check out the comments! Always good):

ITIL doesn't add overhead
I'm intrigued by the endless repetition of the chant "ITIL slows things down". No it doesn't. Doing things properly slows things down.

DevOps and ITIL
DevOps is a niche approach to service design and delivery, which won't have much impact in the near future on traditional Operations of core systems. The concept of better integration between Dev and Ops is good, but the cultural issues and most of all the risks speak against it. And the way some people interpret it is downright dangerous.

Evolution not revolution
What is this IT obsession with revolution? Revolution is destructive, counterproductive, the source of much pain. Revolution is to be avoided at all costs. The intelligent and civilised way to move forward is evolution: building on the work of others, retaining value and knowledge, growing, changing incrementally.

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