Book Review - "IT Service Management from Hell! Based on Not-ITIL®"
A Review of "IT Service Management from Hell! Based on Not-ITIL®" by Brian Johnson and Paul Wilkinson, editor Annelise Savill
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IT Service Management from Hell is a silly book. And along the way it makes some serious points. A balanced view of anything is far healthier than blind obedience. Give this book to your staff to lighten the mood and stimulate discussion around ITIL.
This book is a spoof on the ITIL library. There have been two previous Not-ITIL books, for each of the two previous versions, so the reviewed edition is "Version 3: The 'Upgrade' Edition". Brian and Paul are close to the "inner circle" of ITIL: both were authors of the first version, and both are still active in the ITIL industry. And it shows, in a close knowledge of the insiders and the foibles of ITIL.
Only the best humour books are free from flagrant padding, and this is one of those books ... the ones with the padding, that is. The artistic use of white space, the worst jokes given a whole page to themselves, and a spurious appendix, show how good material has been stretched to the regulation book thickness. Never mind. Regard it as a frame or setting for some good content. The authors skewer the ITIL industry not the ITIL books, and they do it with a wickedness and a biting sarcasm that leaves the IT Skeptic feeling pretty tame. They go after the venality, the egotism, the cultishness, the bureaucracy, the sociopathic disinterest in the end user. Most of all they nail the crass commercialism. Even the IT Skeptic seldom uses words like "gravy train", "band wagon", "shame", "pompous" and "sycophants".
A warning for some readers: Brian and Paul are Europeans, and as such are not stricken with the debilitating malady of political correctness. Some readers of a more fragile disposition, such as Americans, may find fragments of this book hard to cope with. There is thinly disguised profanity: being Australasian that was no burden for me. I am reminded of the story about the apocryphal New Zealand Maori tribe known as the Whakawi ("Wh" is pronouced as a soft "f") because they always landed their canoes with the announcement "We're the Whakawi". There is sacrilege: the Christian sense of humour has improved since the Inquisition (unlike some religions) so they ought to take this in their stride. The book is at least dedicated to "God: the Greatest Upgrader of them all". There is sexism: which Sharon Taylor seems to take in good humour and so hopefully will most intelligent women, but you never can tell with women can you? Also, followers of Nancy Reagan may purse their bloodless lips at references to pharmaceuticals in Holland. And there is outright bad taste. Period.
One of the book's strengths is another potential hurdle for some readers: the authors' inside knowledge makes certain jokes inaccessible to those not in the know, either because they don't move in industry circles or because they have not been around long enough to understand who St Aidan is.
Finally, some of the humour is obscure, at least to this reader. I just don't get some of it. On the other hand it is not easy to get an old curmudgeon like the IT Skeptic to laugh, and laugh out loud I did. I guess I laughed less than I would like but more than I expected. Humour is in the eye of the reader, so there is only one way to find out if you think the book is funny.
In places the humour is just gags for gags sake, but more often there is a serious point to the japes. For the IT Skeptic, some lines resonated:
"Let us go forth and ask the world what they want in version three... and then tell them what they can have"
"The case studies of course are meaningless unless you are the sort who copies the exam answers from the student alongside"
"Unlike most languages, the IT Babble glossary doesn't evolve - it regresses."
"Quality standards commonly apply to the manufacturing industry. That is one reason you should work somewhere else"
Their take on Plan/Do/Check/Act is my favourite bit of the book (plan the wealth, do the customer...), closely followed by CamRSM, the Campaign for Real Service Management.
Last but certainly not least, the book features Paul's excellent cartooning. You may well have seen his work before in the ITIL world, not always with permission. He obviously could have made a fulltime living at it. The Indian chief says to the hotel receptionist "My name is Geronimo and I have a reservation". Cracked me up.
Buy this book, for two reasons: (1) the proceeds go to cancer support (2) a significant proportion of IT people are mature adults, well some anyway, who can form their own conclusions from a range of views. The hardest part of ITIL is people: the cultural change. Introducing a little levity along with the humourless self-importance of the ITIL books and training will make ITIL all the more accessible, while stimulating the healthy debate that changes minds.
[Read the IT Skeptic's own ITIL-related humour at Real ITSM ]