ITIL reform needed: not letting the money changers and hookers into the temple, just some sort of protestant reformation

The latest ITIL Refresh newsletter reveals that OGC sees keeping the community informed as the same thing as keeping the community involved. This is an elitist patronising attitude so typical of British government in general and OGC in particular. It is time ITIL went from a closed to an open community.

The usual rah-rah remarks from Pippa Bass (OGC Director) warrant closer study than these things usually do. The message is headlined "Keeping the Community Involved", and says

Keeping the ITIL user community up-to-date with the progress of the Refresh project is essential to ensuring the continued success of this well-established service management guidance.
As I write, a public review of the new version of ITIL is currently underway and this will be complete by the time you read this.

So keeping the community "involved" consists of sending them newsletters; and releasing the books in secrecy to a hand-picked list of reviewers is a "public review".

Perhaps the IT Skeptic is over-sensitive and reading too much into a subtle distinction between words, and poor Ms Bass meant "informed" rather than "involved", but I am a believer in the freudian slip: that people's simple mistakes with words reveal a lot about inner thoughts, attitudes and beliefs.

I have said in an ITSM Watch article how OGC has failed to build any sort of community mechanism for ITIL (nor has the itSMF). These recent remarks just serve to reinforce my perception that the OGC attitude is that ITIL consists of carved tablets of wisdom to be handed down from an enlightened priest-hood when they are good and ready, for the edification and improvement of the grateful masses receiving them. There is no need for feedback mechanisms for the "Great Unwashed" to have their say because the content and quality of ITIL is safely in the hands of the elite. We involve them by occasionally giving them a peek behind the curtains to see what the annointed ones are up to in the inner sanctum.

I will be accused of a backflip when I do my blog entry questioning the validity of the Web 2.0 "wisdom of the commons" in the near future, but there is a spectrum of positions from the Cathedral to the Bazaar, and OGC are firmly wedged off the Cathedral end of the scale.

It is high time the owners and hangers-on of ITIL got off their high horses and opened ITIL up to the community collaboration so easy in this millenium (and described in my article). If I may continue the analogy: not to the extent of letting the money changers and hookers into the temple, just some sort of protestant reformation.


Quote from recent email "I took part in a PMBOK review "

Quote from recent email correspondence:

I took part in a PMBOK review where the entire PMI membership was invited to take part.

I worked on the Classification and Accreditation stream. It was good to work with practitioners from around the world and from many different industries and sectors. The engineering and construction guys had the best stories and added the most value to my development.

Perhaps if input were sought from the practitioners the [ITIL] story could be better.


IEEE Software Engineering Body of Knowledge (SWEBOK)

I felt that the IEEE SWEBOK effort ( struck a good balance between professionalism and participation, showing how a membership-based professional organization can develop significant industry guidance. This would be an advisable model for the ITSMF to follow, if ITSMF decided to take on the development of its own IP.


...or if OGC decided to leap into the 21st Century

"if ITSMF decided to take on the development of its own IP"...or if OGC decided to leap into the 21st Century

Many thanks Charlie

Of course on the other side

Of course, some of the SWEBOK criticism ( sounds a bit familiar:

"Within [the supporting voters] were professional trainers who stand to make substantial income from pre-licensing-exam and pre-certification-exam review courses, consulting/contracting firms who make big profits from contracts that (such as government contracts) that specify gold-plated software development processes (of course you need all this process documentation—the IEEE standards say you need it!), and academics who have never worked on a serious development project."

Charles T. Betz

PS. Note the participation of Steve McConnell

PS On the Guide itself,, note the endorsement of Construx software (as well as other highly distinguished engineering parties). The Construx logo means that Steve McConnell (author of Code Complete, the definitive reference for software construction, as well as many other notable works) is lending SWEBOK his imprimatur. Further evidence of a leading membership-based industry body doing the right thing, with the right people involved, and having apparently worked through intellectual property issues constructively.

This is what world-class industry guidance looks like.


PPS. The Configuration Management section in SWEBOK is worth a read, for a related yet distinctly different perspective from ITIL's version.


OK, let me put in a couple caveats before everyone beats me up:

Yes, ACM did pull out of SWEBOK. Yes, the Agile folks don't like SWEBOK. Yes, the final voting was in the hundreds.

BUT - all of those "deficiencies" I would argue are actually signs of SWEBOK's maturity vis a vis ITIL.

- We don't see HDI and ITSMF (for example) trying to collaborate on an ITSM framework, even unsuccessfully.
- We have no major community of practice like the Agile movement able to articulate an alternative vision and systematic critique.
- And there certainly is no voting or meaningful mass parrticipation... (Per Cem Kaner, "only" 500 people participated in SWEBOK and "only" 300 voted for it.)

ITIL should have such problems!

Charles T. Betz

it is so British Government it is amusing

There were reportedly 500 ITIL V 3 reviewers?? SO that side of it sounds pretty good. What I think was missing was at the start of the process, in terms of

  • public discussion on deciding the major architectural changes for V 3
  • canvassing corrections and inmprovements for the V 2 core content (whether or not they were finally included)
  • public debate of some of the contentious issues

..and I do think there could have been one iteration of public review before the final V 3 content gets set in stone.

As well as neglecting a huge, free IP base, OGC are failing in Cultural Change 101: get participants to feel involved and consulted.

As I've said before, it is so British Government it is amusing.

Reviewers vs. participants

In SWEBOK, it was 500 participants through a multi-year process. Not 500 reviewers producing material that the primary authors will have mere weeks to sift through...

Charles T. Betz

I went to the BCS thing

I went to the BCS thing yesterday

BCS represents a different audience than ITSMF

So in the past 2 years or so since this started, I have seen a lot of updates and announcements about v3 coming from on high and from the the likes of yourself

If the great unwashed masses failed to get involved - because a) they are satisfied some one else is or b) just dont care; they get what they get.

I think the new version is going to try to correct failings inthe last version.

We shall see.

But hey now you have more subject material to use

And just how would the masses get involved?

And just how would the masses get involved? Via the official OGC forum? Via the online feedback form? Via the written feedback form in the books? Via public discussion seminars run locally by itSMF? Via emailed surveys to all itSMF members? By contributing to the online wiki where the next version gets written?

None of those mechanisms exist. As far as I know, the only way to contribute is by being one of ten organisations worldwide who get to be authors, or just happen to be in the network of those ten.

Don't forget...

Hi all,

It's probably worth remembering that ITIL v2 has been around for years and the problems / issues with it / need for clarification have also been debated publicly and privately for years too.

Therefore I think it's fair to say that the authors HAVE had a huge pool of information in terms of what the ITIL community thinks was wrong with v2. Would further inclusion been nice? Yes of course it would. Would the books then be ready for May 2007 - I highly doubt it.

The opportunity for the public to be 'involved' was really only with the QA from what I've seen. The various roadshows over the past year have been about informing rather than involving. That said, there may have been lots of consultation with people who are great examples of current best practice and it simply wasn't advertised to everyone. It sounds to me like you want more true transparency about the whole process to assure yourself that v3 is going to be best practice, and not just the views of a favoured elite.

For my part, I also took the opportunity to be involved with QA and would like to think that the comments are being taken into serious consideration (though that said, with a publication date so close I think if anything was fundamentally 'wrong' it would have to wait until the next version). Call me naive, or an optimist. I'm sure no skeptic ;) I'm hopeful, and time will tell.

Skeptics can be optimists too

Skeptics can be optimists too. I have positive expectations for R3.

Becuase of the lack of transparency and the lack of community involvement I have less positive expectations for the reception and perception of R3.

I don't think the process folowed was a hopeless one that will produce a bad product. I do think it could have been done better to produce an even better product for a more involved and hence supportive community.

We missed the bus on getting ITIL 3 out for ISO20000. We missed the bus on CAR. I don't think there was any excuse for rushing V3, especially if we are to live with it for another six years.


IT Skeptic wrote: "We missed the bus on getting ITIL 3 out for ISO20000. We missed the bus on CAR. I don't think there was any excuse for rushing V3, especially if we are to live with it for another six years."

Actually, I agree with you on that. Though I wonder how much time the authors would have been willing to commit to the process; after all it's no small task.

I don't think there would be any problem getting authors

I don't think there would be any problem getting authors: they are getting paid while at the same time getting priceless kudos, exposure, knowledge, experience and contacts, and shaping ITIL in their own image. I'd crawl over broken glass for a gig like that.

Critical Mass

The approach of outsourcing OGC IP to commercial providers is a well established part of the OGC model, and has worked well in other areas, such as project management. I'm not convinced it works so well as a model for ITIL - largly because of the IP issue. I know several individuals and companies who balked at the idea of contributing to ITIL 3 because it would have meant handing over rights to novel IP in a commercial arrangement.

AS to involvement of the masses, well there were 500 Public QA reviewers. I just wonder what a good job has been done of taking their views into account, considering that the review finished at the end of January and the current publication date is 30th May.

10000 contributors would have been better than 500 reviewers

"critical mass" - I like it :-)

The IP issue goes away in a 21st century collaborative environment like a wiki or other more controlled submission mechanisms. open content can be built as rapidly and well as open source. See my ITSM Watch article.

10000 contributors at the start would have been better than 500 reviewers at the end: it only reinforces my point that the content flows from a controlled elite out, instead of drawing from the experience of the now huge community using this stuff

yes, only minor revisions would have made it back into the books. they were hardly going to make major change as a result of review.

So what you are objecting to

So what you are objecting to is that the ITIL books were written by 10-12 people - who from the seminar yesterday - were selected because they submitted a bid back in 2004 through OGC and met the criteria for what OGC wanted to be authors

Merely having the masses contribute 'me too' seven hundred times or 'i dont like that' or something similar does not make it right

A lot of people may have wanted to contribute but they did not want to take the time (unpaid ?) to get involved.

Did you attempt to get involve (other than your blog) ?
I did not because I did not have the time to do so nor was I asked. I participate in the seminars, meetings, and forums in itSMF as best I can.

I'm going to regret saying this....

10 to 12 people were selected by the OGC commercial selection process, but as the skeptic says there was hardly any public debate before then about how ITIL should develop. The volume I reviewed was written by two people who I know well and like very much, but who are nowhere near the leading edge in the subject they have written about. On the other hand several people who are at the leading edge held back from contributing because they did not want to lose copyright.

There is something to be said for the "wisdom of crowds" that I may or may not agree with, but my point would be that there wasn't a meaningful debate beforehand.

The authors were paid, whereas as a QA person I did 22 hours of unpaid work.

Dont regret

Exactly Jimbo,

IP and copyright issues prevented some people from putting their data and details into the ITIL process, and I bet a number of these same people are grousing about the fact that the creative audience was not open up to an larger audience.

Sounds like a binary problem - If Q then not P

So IP and copyright was deemed more importent to some.

I have no problem puting my 2 cents in

BTW: Why did you volunteer / assigned to QA the volume you did for the 22 hours ?

Did you do it because you wanted the volume in question to be the most accurate, because you had nothing better to do or ..... because some one asked you to.

You could have said no. So you did 22 hours of unpaid work... in a week/month/quarter/year ?

If you belong to an 'organized' group from Al-Anon to fans groups, certain people do work for free because they want to or are thrust into it.

I am glad you took the time to QA the volume. If I meet you, I would probably buy you a drink.


But .. the point is that OGC, itSMF decided to upgrade/improve ITIL. They had to make a decision as to how many people should go through the books to 'upgrade' it, if they said 2000 people, then some one would have have to manage those 2000 people divided over the 5 books - which is 400 people.

So some poor sod (sods) would have to herd 400 cats to ensure that the process moves forward.

And every group would always have one or more people who would hold up their zection as the most important and gum up the works - until their section is raised above the other. Once that is done, well the version v3 would have been ;'stuck in Committee' (Yankism) until forever.

So the OGC narrowed the group focus to a number that they could manage without causin much delay.

They were not going to rewrite the whole thing but correct some problems

Do I think the right people did the work....

Dont know....

If not, refresh v4 would be in 5 years more than likely

If I am happy, I am happy


Why did I do 22 hours unpaid QA? Because I've spent 15 years of my life believing that ITIL is important.

I think it is so important that like the skeptic I think we needed a public debate about V3.

I'll let you buy me the drink in Brighton in November!

there is a HUGE pool of willing resource out there just busting

ITIL is owned by the OGC in a way that "true" open content is not. (This is not necessarily a bad thing: the Bazaar can be as chaotic as the Cathedral is inbred.)

This raises IP ownership issues but I don't see much difference between giving a not-for-profit giovernment body ownership or giving the public domain ownership.

Jim's comment about unpaid work points up the weakness of the current OGC approach: there is a HUGE pool of willing resource out there just busting to be part of ITIL. Sure you have to manage and filter it, but open source has proven that it works. And in many ways content is more forgiving than code.

Mass mediocrity

So the logic is this: The collective is all-wise. Ergo a mass collaborative ITIL must inevitably be an improvement. After all, just look at Wikipedia.

I can ignore the fact that ITIL has an owner and no arguments about online-collectivism undermines their legitimacy.

I can forget the legendary revision wars of Wikipedia. Mob rules, after all, can be revised.

I can even set aside the risk to true scholarship or innovative voices drowned out in a rising tide of mass mediocrity or collective stupidity. (Not really)

But if an open ITIL replaces original sources, where will this open ITIL find the outside compass of authority?

Do you not see that there's a danger of proving 2+2=3 with this flawed approach? Closet systems abound. You can pick them out by how vigorously they shout down detractors. Betz and Gibert, for example.

The basis for any intellectual work is not democratically determined. Talent is not equally distributed though it seems the confidence in one's own views apparently is. A true Skeptic would understand this.

Wikis aren't trusted for important and contentious areas where there's a difference of opinion about the facts. Words that describe this very community.

C'mon. It is time to admit you need the OGC. Who else has made this whole thing work despite the willingness of this community to spit in the trough from which they feed.


Not sure why I merited that gratuitous and hurtful swipe. Most of what I write is more about the "how" than the "what" and therefore in theory complementary to ITIL. ITIL for example would never publish a reference distributed systems architecture for IT. My doing that is not competing with ITIL, but rather with ITIL consultants, every one of whom has a "closet system," i.e. "secret sauce" implementation guidance that is their value proposition. Only difference is that I'm sharing many of my insights for free (and the rest in my book). I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

ITIL deliberately avoids giving much implementation guidance; I deliberately focus on it - and in focusing on "how" from an enterprise architecture perspective, have found many issues in the "what." ITIL v2 had a marked operational bias, a number of well known self contradictions, and some notable blind spots:

- Enterprise architecture
- IT portfolio management
- Data management

These are well-established IT communities of practice that are hardly "closet" systems. I think that controversy around ITIL is due in part to this insularity the Skeptic has also highlighted. The ITIL v2 weaknesses and contradictions are evidence that at the end of the day, the material was written by human beings whose professional standing I may respect, but am not in awe of.

Your admiration of intellectual excellence and horror of mass mediocrity overlooks one key point: nothing *brilliant* was ever written by a committee, whether of 10 or 10,000. Strengths are subtractive and weaknesses additive, too often. Talent and authority vests in the individual, and is accompanied by certain signifiers such as positions held, vetted publications, and speaking invitations. Now, if ITIL had been written by Paul Strassmann, or Peter Drucker...


PS. I did do QA for v3.

It is hard to imagine a body better suited to own ITIL than OGC

It is hard to imagine a body better suited to own ITIL than OGC. Yes we need it. I agree with what you say. As I said "I will be accused of a backflip when I do my blog entry questioning the validity of the Web 2.0 'wisdom of the commons' in the near future" so I do intend to make precisely the criticisms you do of open communities, but I also said "there is a spectrum of positions from the Cathedral to the Bazaar, and OGC are firmly wedged off the Cathedral end of the scale." I'm not advocating revolution, I'm merely pointing out the opposite end of the spectrum so people can understand just how far off OGC are.

To be clear: I advocate a closely involved community whose views are heard and who get to debate and vote on contentious issues. I also advocate content owned by OGC (or someone) and contained in books written by a selected group of expert people. Everybody has a right to a say in the content. An expert group has final say. Look at how Linux is developed. Anyone can submit code for the core or for complementary content. The same is true of the CMS this site runs on: Drupal. The architecture is the work of a very small number of experts. Acceptance of core contributions is the decision of a larger group. The potential pool of ideas is immense.

What I don't like is people writing the books based on their own positions and opinions and those of the people they choose to consult with and listen to. That approach was necessary in the '80s just to make the books practical. It isn't now. It isn't best practice and it is debatable whether the result is best practice.

I don't think it was too hard. I think they didn't care.

Did I get involved? No. Did anyone ask me? No. Was any attempt made to solicit my opinion on what ITIL 3 should or should not contain? No.
How did OGC decide that V 3 should be lifecycle based? I have no idea.

Where did all the individual authors get their input from? I have no dea.

[All the above is plain wrong and I retract it: see my apology]

How do they know it is "best practice" if "best" has not been publicly debated, say on a forum?

There are going to be furious debates over some aspects of V3, and those debates should have been had back when things were still pencil sketches.

There are many ways to contribute to content these days. Having two supposed "experts" lock themselves in a room for a year is so last century. I don't mean 400 authors. I mean 400 opinions, ideas, fragments of good content to consider for inclusion, votes on the authors' ideas... yes they gathered input at the start, but they could have had 400 active collaborators as the process goes along, to test things on and to find the consensus. Not that the consensus should rule, but it should always be taken into consideration.

If you want to involve the public during the process it is not hard. There could have been a V3 forum on the OGC website, email surveys sent to the user base, and a wiki for those who had small pieces they considered better than V2 "best".

I don't think it was too hard. I think they didn't care.

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