Book review: "I Think Something is Missing From ITIL" by Ian Clayton, reviewed by the IT Skeptic
Recently the IT Skeptic was given a review copy of the book “I Think Something is Missing from ITIL” by the author, Ian Clayton. While the influence of Clayton’s ongoing scrap with the ITIL powers-that-be colours the book and gives personal or negative content too much space, it still forms a powerful critique of ITIL, and even more importantly a fascinating set of ideas for where ITIL should be.
Ian Clayton is President of the IT Service Management Institute (more of that in a later blog), President of Virtual Service Management Corporation, a co-founder of itSMF USA and still active in that organisation.
While Clayton goes way back with ITIL (his organisation holds ITIL trademark licence 001 from OGC) and remains an influence in the USA, it is fair to say he is not one of the ITIL Club, the inner circle of ITIL players that we will look at soon on this blog. Nor I suspect is he one of their favourite people. The situation will not be improved by this book. It tears ITIL and the itSMFI to shreds.
It opens with a cracking metaphor: comparing ITIL to the story of “stone soup”. Remember the story of the guy who says he can make soup from stones, then when no-one likes it he gets everyone to add a little something to improve the flavour and pretty soon they have soup? In Clayton’s telling, ITIL is the stones and everyone implementing has to add their own practices and resources to make a working soup. Brilliant: nailed it in one. [See http://www.itsmi.biz/members/images/ITIL-Stone%20Soup%20Article.pdf for more]
Although it takes a hefty swipe at ITIL, the book’s greatest value is the section about what is to come in ITSM. In Clayton’s view it is Holistic Service Management (one of the claimed objectives of the ITIL Refresh) and his organisation provides a version, ‘Managing the Business of IT™ (MBIT™)’. I was particularly stimulated by the four roles of the Service Opportunity Board (p.51). (By the way, perhaps another name might be better. “I have to go present to those SOBs”.) The most powerful core concept is the “holistic” one: driving everything off the service, not treating the service as an emergent artefact from ten or thirteen or five loosely coupled disciplines. The resulting Service Provision Lifecycle™ is excellent. MBIT™ is good stuff. It really does point the way to the next generation of ITSM thinking. It rewards study. [See http://www.itsmi.biz/members/programs/fileinfo.cfm?id=18&action=display for more]
But then the book returns to ITIL-bashing with an itemised dissection of ITIL’s faults. No doubt it is (mostly) true, but even this ITIL skeptic found it heavy going: at times pedantic, occasionally harsh, even frustrated. Most of us know ITIL is flawed. Few of us want to read 501 itemised criticisms over 130 pages! This forms a valuable resource for those like Clayton who are developing the next big thing, (and would have been useful to those writing the Refresh if one thought for a moment they would have read it) but for the rest of us wrestling with the practicalities of ITIL it seems overkill.
In places this book has the slightly hysterical edge of one who has been a voice crying in the wilderness for so long. The tone gets stroppy: you can tell Clayton is a man on a mission, and riled. Like so many of the self-published books emerging these days, it also needs the firm hand of a professional editor to tighten up the structure and flow, weed out the personal, balance the content and tidy up a few errors.
For all that, Ian is clearly a deep and ground-breaking thinker about ITSM. So he should be with the likes of Edward van Schaik and other ITSM heavy hitters working with him.
I’m not sure this book will work for its intended purpose “to help any individual working within, or for an IT organization, to better understand the relevance and true value of the core IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) guidance to an IT Service Management (ITSM) strategy, and by doing so ensure they are more informed, and can better contribute to the direction and future of ITIL in and outside of their organization” – it may be too destructive.
But for those who make their living from ITIL and wish to seek a deeper understanding; and for those who venture onto this IT Skeptic blog - the philosophers and explorers of ITSM - I commend the book to you as a compendium of the faults of ITIL and as a beacon pointing the way forward in ITSM’s evolution.
And by golly he nails ITIL to the wall: “[ITIL version 2] failed to offer an operational model common to the support and delivery practices and explain how a service progresses from a business requirement to production and stays there in a quality and cost managed mode of operation” (p.35) …and he bloodies the itSMF: “The ownership of ITIL is not in doubt; it will remain with the OGC, but the closely held stewardship and vendor influence remains a growing concern amongst ITIL’s fan base, as the itSMF has failed to establish any governance scheme that encourages open contribution and dialogue amongst the ‘blue-collar’ ITSMers” (p.208)
Rollicking good stuff. The ITIL establishment will not enjoy it.