Do we have to do ITIL to do Service Management?

[Updated 28th February 2009]
Of course not. To look and listen around the IT industry these days one would think so, but there is actually more than one game in town.

  • ITSM Library published by itSMF. For interesting historical reasons, itSMF find themselves owning and approving an “alternate” set of books originating out of the Netherlands, mostly based around ITIL but often cheaper and often easier to follow.
  • MOF from Microsoft is of course focused on their own Windows environment. It is a little different to ITIL but basically a variant (how unusual that Microsoft should create their own, slightly incompatible, version of a standard). Talk is that future versions will ‘return to the fold’.
  • USMBOK is an extensive body of knowledge that has had a rocky history but also has enthusiastic supporters, and the powerful mind of Ian Clayton
  • “Implementing Service and Support Management Processes: A Practical Guide”, Higday-Kalmanowitz and Simpson Ed., HDI, 2005 from the Help Desk institute is, not surprisingly, a callcentre slant on ITIL. If you look around it can be downloaded for free by registering with some vendors ;-)
  • COBIT: The IT Skeptic believes that COBIT has matured to the point where the supporting books constitute a body of knowledge (BOK) that is coming close to a credible alternative to ITIL

If you just want to assess your capability, i.e. measure/benchmark your business, then there are several better alternatives. “Better” because there is no agreed standard for measuring ITIL: every consulting firm, including the OGC itself, use a different methodology to get different answers. ITIL is about defining “how” not “how well”.

  • ISO20000 (and its ancestor BS15000). Despite some impressions given to the contrary, these are not 100% the same as ITIL. There are major extensions to ITIL and some differences. But it is the closest thing to an “ITIL assessment standard”.
  • COBIT is very comprehensive and widely embraced, especially for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance audit, and it is free for download along with an extraordinary amount of other material.
  • The “owners” of CMM, Carnegie Mellon, have produced the eSourcing Capability Model. It provides incremental assessment for IT services whether they are internally or externally sourced: it includes both a service provider model and a client model. It also addresses the governance issues that arise in a multi-vendor environment. eSCM contains both a best practices model and an assessment methodology.
  • The IT Service Capability Maturity Model uses the CMM maturity measurement model. It seems to be a very good model but has had little uptake since its release in January 2005.
  • For Very Small Enterprise (VSE) look at NOEMI

…and other new approaches are emerging all the time. This is still a maturing area.

If you are looking for something simpler than ITIL, then there are several options:

  • Check out the much anticipated “ITIL Lite”: ITIL Small-scale Implementation, Office of Government Commerce, The Stationery Office Books, 2006. it looks useful but the proof is not in. The 1998 version (IT Infrastructure Library practices in Small IT Units, Office of Government Commerce, The Stationery Office 1998) seemed to me to be good but it got very little attention; it remains to be seen how this one goes or what the results will be. (BTW, what a great name the old book had: "ITIL in SITU" - how could they not reuse that?).
  • ISM, the “out-of-the-box solution for IT Service Management”. Always a bold claim but if anyone can pull it off Jan van Bon can.
  • FITS does not get near the attention it deserves. Developed for UK schools, it is a nice simplification of ITIL
  • The lighter COBIT Quickstart
  • Core Practice (CoPr or “copper”) is an interesting new development that bears watching. The premise is that we have a fixation with Best Practice. It should be limited to areas where there is a business case for it, and in other areas there should be no shame in just do the minimum necessary.

So don't get swept away on a tide of ITIL. Take a look at what best suits your business. ITIL is very good at what it does. It may be the right thing for you. Or not.

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Are you serious ?

Come on Skep, you don't really believe this. Who really wants to use more than one BOK ? And who would risk to go against ITIL ? No one's ever been sacked for implementing the industry standard. I strongly believe the risk of a failure is the same whatever BOK you choose. You say "Take a look at what best suits your business". I say focus on your project, not on the BOK selection. More often than not BOKs are just a good way to sell change to people who don't want to change.

Use multiple BOKs

By combining some of these through research, it is surprising how much they agree on the order in which to tackle service management practitioner domains. There is definite agreement among many of them how to methodically rollout a new ITSM program. It is valuable to use multiple.

nobody has heard of all this crap but they've heard about ITIL

I think we are agreeing here.

Too many initiatives start with ITIL as a solution and go looking for a problem. the choice of BOK should come up after we have defined objectives, approach, problem ... and looked at the size and wealth of the organisation, amongst other things. THEN we look around for a BOK, or occasionally BOKS, that will give us a head start.

That's the theory. As you say, the practice in most cases is that nobody has heard of all this other crap but they've heard about ITIL. A good consultant in favourable conditions on a lucky day might sell a more appropriate solution. If i can get some people to ask the question some of the time I've made progress.

ASL, the "ITIL for Application Management"

Thought it might be of interest to point out the existence of ASL - the Application Services Library.

ASL is the "ITIL for Application Management", an approach in the public domain, supported by the ASL Foundation. It addresses in depth the specific AM issues (like maintenance) that ITIL - including ITIL AM - just skirts around and is welcomed, particularly by the apps community, as a logical addition to ITIL. ITIL v3 will include ASL as one of the Global Standards with which ITIL interacts.

You can find additional information including about a hundred best practises that have been selected from contributions by various organisations (although more in Dutch than in English) on (select English).

Ah yes, I came across that

Ah yes, I came across that recently. Thanks for that

Wikipedia IT Service management

I just updated the Wikipedia IT Service Management definition - and THEN saw this article. Kind of scary; we're quite on the same page I think.

Would appreciate your adding to my initial attempt!


I made some additions. Thanks for that.
Charlie, if you register with this site you can get email notifcations of new posts :-)

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