Debasement of concepts by IT vendors and analysts
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The persistent erosion of meaning in IT terminology is a damaging practice endemic across vendors and analysts. When a concept gains some currency and everyone wants it, suddenly all the vendors have got it - often by re-labelling a feature of their existing product. And the analysts keep confusing the definition so no-one can call the vendors out for this obfuscation. I used to really struggle with this. I thought I kept getting the wrong end of the stick with new terminology, until I realised that is was other people moving the stick.
Most of us have been around the industry long enough to remember when "knowledge management" actually meant something. You added value to data to make information, and added value to information to make knowledge. Knowledge management was about gathering information into a knowledgebase, where it could be organised and accessed at a conceptual level, where the IP of the organisation would be captured and shared, and where new concepts and strategic insights would emerge. Now anyone whose tool stores files or lets you type text in has a knowledgebase. By some current vendor definitions, Windows Explorer is a knowledgebase.
Before that it was Executive Information Systems. EIS was about providing the information to support corporate strategic decisions, by distilling out KPIs, preferably in realtime. After a while, any end-user reporting tool apparently supported EIS.
In recent years, it has been ITIL. Suddenly every vendor has ITIL. ITIL is technology-agnostic. Strewth, you can do ITIL with Post-It Notes, and the way things are going it won’t be long before 3M are advertising Post-it Notes as “ITIL compliant”. But it seems to me that there are some clear criteria for a reasonable person's definition of “ITIL compliant”.
Ask your vendor about their supposedly ITIL-compliant or ITIl-supporting tool (including some Pink-Verified ones):
- ITIL is all about Quality Management [Service Support, p2]. How does the tool support this out-of-the-box (OOTB)? For instance, how does it support determining targets? or measure and report improvement over time? Does it explicitly implement a Deming Cycle (Plan, DO, Check, Act)?
- Service Management is nothing without Service Level Management. Regardless of whether it is a tool for Availability, Capacity, Service Desk, CMDB, whatever…. ask them how it is SLA-aware and how it contributes to the monitoring and reporting of SLAs.
- Does the tool support workflow? (Pretty odd if a process-compliant tool doesn’t). Does it come with the “standard” ITIL workflows (clearly flowcharted in the red book and blue book) pre-defined?
- If it monitors the environment, does it consolidate information to a service view? (“service” as defined by ITIL – there’s another grossly-abused term)
- For Service Desks:
- Are Incident and Problem and Change all separate entities? i.e. an Incident does not morph into a Problem: it spawns a Problem. The Incident must continue to exist (and be resolved) as a distinct entity from the problem.
- Do they provide Incident Matching OOTB? RTFM (Read The Manual): Incident Matching does not mean simple keyword searching - it is a clearly defined process [Service Support, p 102].
- Do they support Known Error and workarounds OOTB?
- Do they assess impact and report it meaningfully? Displaying the CMDB is not impact assessment.
- Do they provide Forward Schedule of Change OOTB?
It is far too easy to slap the word "ITIL" on any operations tool (or pay some firm to do it for you). This only serves to debase what ITIL means and to confuse the community.
More recently, the victim has been Service Oriented Architecture or SOA.
our own research shows, that organisations are increasingly confused by the seemingly endemic and varied use of the term SOA in vendor propositions. [Macehiter Ward-Dutton Advisors , May 04, 2005]
And now this, the last straw: from EMA, analysts who should know better.
"The point is the CMDB is not a 'thing', it's a landscape, it's a system," said Dennis Drogseth, VP of EMA. "So, the CMDB is exactly that political-cultural process of getting organizations to define a trusted source of information for a given environment and to share that info in a consistent way with parts of the organization." [ ITSM-Watch August 3, 2006 ]
No it isn’t. Leave it alone. It’s a thing.
Configuration Management requires the use of support tools, which includes a Configuration Management Database (CMDB)… The CMDB is likely to be based upon database technology that provides flexible and powerful interrogation facilities. [Service Support, p124].
CMDB is NOT “a landscape … a system” or a “political-cultural process”. Bullshit. I’m not sure whether this reflects the author’s ignorance of ITIL or blatant lack of respect for the meaning of terms, but either way: stop it!. Invent your own bloody terms and leave CMDB alone.