Killing the Goose, another ITIL skeptic

In Killing the Goose: The Commercialization of ITIL, David Mainville joins the crowded field of ITIL skeptics. I agree with the phenomenon he is seeing, the over-commercialisation of ITIL, but I don't think I agree about it causing complexity, or that the complexity is wrong.

David rails against the commercialisation of ITIL and regular readers know I heartily agree (except I spell it with an "s" not "z"). What i can't agree with is that it is "making it overly complex, bureaucratic and less effective". Unless you are very familiar with my writing, you might be surprised to learn I like ITIL V3, at its core. Yes V3 is big and complex, but I don't have a problem with that if only we had provided some accessibility, some advice and mechanism to get there in stages. And I certainly don't think that complexity stems from any commercial motivation.

I love David's line that with distributed computing "the IT industry not only forgot its past, but it went out of its way to ignore it.". That hasn't changed enough either: the cowboys still ride the range (e.g all the Cloud challenges are supposedly technical ones, and people still seriously suggest agile development is appropriate for a production business environment).

In fact I agree with all David's historical summary except for one small point: to my knowledge ITIL was never "built by dedicated volunteers". It was built by paid employees of the British government, commissioned to do just that job.

But then I feel his argument gets inconsistent.

The article says

it’s fairly easy to design a process or buy a tool. If you want success in ITSM you have to do the hard work. It’s not enough to design an incident management process and install a tool to support it. You need the dedication and governance to make sure people understand why they have to enter an incident; that they enter the right information into the incident record; and that someone uses the information for continual improvement.

with which I wholly agree (it's about changing Attitude Behaviour and Culture, not just the process and technology artifacts), but then

The commercialization of ITIL is taking focus away from doing the hard work and is placing it on certifications, compliance schemes and on taking something relatively simple and making it overly complex and bureaucratic. The introduction of ITIL v3 has placed the focus squarely in the stratosphere with the introduction of dozens of new processes, roles and CMDB-like data-stores.

Well yes most of the known universe agrees the compliance scheme is crap, but how do we "make sure people understand why they have to" without certification (along with lots of other cultural change and education activities)? We can't "make sure ... that they enter the right information" without accountability (=roles) and management (not governance) which implies additional overheads of audit, reporting and yes paperwork. And if "someone uses the information for continual improvement" they need to get the ionformation from somewhere. I'm no fan of CMDB, but there do need to be data stores.

As for all the new processes, ITIL is still too narrow, which is crystal clear when one looks at the mapping to COBIT. It is no use "focusing" on the 10 ITIL V2 core processes and saying that makes us "focus on our customer, namely the business, and help them do things faster and with better quality" because it doesn't. ITIL V2 was an inward-looking IT-centric body of knowledge that paid only lip service to business alignment and line of sight to the user. The addition of processes such as Demand, Portfolio, Catalogue and Request, and the emphasis on real service design, are all great improvements in making ITIL genuinely customer-focused. (With regard to the inward-loooking processes, Supplier, Event, Testing and Evaluation were all essential additions to basic functionality).

The comercialisation of ITIL is damaging the way we approach compliance and certification but we do actually need both of them. The success and runaway growth of ITIL means we need greater complexity to deal with it. The complexity is not a result of commercialisation, just increasing sophistication and maturity in the ITSM industry. I too pine for a simpler time in the era of the mainframes, but that day is gone. Nothing gets simpler (until the day we bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age).



ITIL V3 could do with some more guidelines on the "adapt" part. The best book in ITIL V2 (in my opinion, although not perfect) is the Planing to Implement Service Management. It's even readable and offers some guidelines on the "hard" part. Doing process design and implementing tools has become a commodity and even though we have been talking about the importance of organisational (notice the s, not z) change management for many years as an important part (maybe the most important) of a service management program (program, not project) it's still neglected. Most (all) of the attempts of doing service management that I see failing is because of this.

I think I heard that PISM is on it's way for ITIL V3 as a complementary publication, but I have no knowledge of when or who is writing it.

ITIL books are good.............................sleeping medecin

Permit me, Michael, to disagree slightly with you. I've very, very recently gone through all 5 V3 "books" and discovered a lot of things I would like to dig in further. Especially the implementing part. In ITIL V2 99% of the people considered ITIL to be The Red and The Blue book, where not too much guidance on the "how to" par was to be found In the current 5 books i've found quit a lot of it. Of course real IT people are looking for a method that always delivers the same and good thing IT Servive Management is peoples work and unlike computers people might not always react the way we predict or would expect (little understatement ...;-) )

Please let's not forget that ITIL is called "best practice" and not "The Ultimate Perfect Practice" and that like any good cookbook is also requires a skilled and creative cook to make a nice meal.

Little disclaimer: Gone through all 5 means in this case that I did not read them form cover to cover but picked relevant parts to pass the intermediat exams (this week all nine intermediates in 3 days and just failed one).

P.s. The ITIL books have still not lost one of their biggest virtues (present since version 1) and that is that they are the most excellent medecine against insomnia. Better than whatever homeopathic or traditional medicin. For patients with severe insomnia: If the Strategie book does not get you into sleep than forget about ever sleeping again, ..jawn... ;-)

there isn't one jot of advice

Two things:

First, I agree with michael that while ITIL may give dribs and drabs of guidance in specific processes and functions, it has zero holistic guidance on what i call the meta-lifecycle, the lifecycle of the lifecycle mechanism itself, except where guidance on managing services accidentally also applies as guidance on managing ITIL.

Second, nobody does ITIL as one huge lump, especially not ITIL v3. Nobody sane does anyway. What guidance there is - as above - does NOTHING to describe the journey to ITIL. How do you get there? in what stages? Oh yeah yeah every site is different. Remember my analogy: every human is different but we still have anatomy textbooks. And even if they are all different , how the **** do you APPROACH it? How do you decide how to break it up into stages? What are the milestones? How to design a stage that works, is viable on its own? What are the considerations and criteria when designing your roadmap to ITSM? WHich bits of ITIL fit where? When to mix in other things? (lord knows ITIL is insufficient on its own). there isn't one jot of advice on this in either core or complementary books. That's why ITIL V2 is still so popular - the red and blue books are a far more accessible first step.

Implement specific areas, or ITSM as a cultural change.

I think you got me wrong Peter. I was talking about the management of organisational change and ITSM implementation as a whole, where the ITIL V2 PISM book gave some good advices. The specific details in an area I agree that you can find in the 5 core V3 books (at least to some extend).

A good story

What worries me about V3 is it doesn't read like a bed time story. V1 had a natural narrative that we imposed on it, V2 made the narrative more explicit, but somehow V3, despite the life cycle model, has lost that compelling story.

Imagine a jigsaw piece. There is more than one and less than n defined ways it can interface with the existing world view, and more than one way but less than n ways it can interface with the next part of the puzzle,

V3 seems to have lost that narrative thread. The content might be good, but it doesn't lay out a compelling story.

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