Five reasons ITIL Version 3 is not "Best Practice"
Over a year ago, the IT Skeptic argued that ITIL is not best practice. Now Version 3 is upon us, has anything changed?
Back then I said best practice is one of those terms where the meaning gets gradually eroded by constant misuse, especially by vendors, analysts and consultants—the phrase gains currency and pretty soon everyone uses it.
By now, “best-practice” has been so abused perhaps it does only mean “we wrote down a way of doing it." But ITIL is two decades old so let us assume that when ITIL was first created they really meant best-practice.
OGC [still] defines best-practice as “Proven activity or processes that have been successfully used by multiple organisations. ITIL is an example of best-practice.”
This strikes me as evasive: What has this to do with “best”?
The itSMF has in the past defined best-practice as “the best identified approach to a situation based upon observation from effective organisations in similar business circumstances.”
Now itSMF have wimped out to something just as limp-wristed: "A Best Practice approach means seeking out ideas and experiences from those who have undertaken similar activities in the past, determining which of these practices are relevant to your situation, testing them out to see if they work, before incorporating the proven practices in your own documented processes."
What do "relevant", "if they work" and "proven" have to do with best?
Wikipedia (the Skeptic’s favourite source of the Zeitgeist) defines best-practice as “a management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc.”
Yes, that is what "best” means, isn’t it? “More … than any other …”. Calling something best-practice is (or was) a brave statement. It led with the chin. “This is superlative. There is no better way of doing it.”
So why are OGC's and itSMF's definitions nowadays so wimpy? Because ITIL isn’t best-practice. It is good practice. It is generally accepted practice. But it isn’t "best."
There are good arguments why ITIL is not the ultimate approach to IT operations:
- It is still improving. Optimal process does not need a refresh.
- We could not know if it were the best, as we have no objective measure of efficacy of ITIL against any other approach.
- ITIL is not based on any rigorous research so there is no proof of efficacy, and there can be no evidence-based process of optimising it.
- ITIL is designed, created, edited and reviewed by individuals, acting as a committee. Although they are highly knowledgeable, experienced professionals, they are still people with opinions and personal biases, and they still need to reach a consensus among several diverse positions. It is hard to imagine this process ever reaching the best result (something about design of camels comes to mind).
- Even if ITIL were best, it is best as defined by a narrow group of people drawn from consulting firms and a university, all from the Western European culture and all working with major corporations.