Review of Building an ITIL-Based Service Management Department
Some time ago I purchased the official OGC ITIL book Building an ITIL-Based Service Management Department but I have not got around to reviewing it until now. Part of my slowness stems from my disappointment with the book, and partly I was holding off to see what others thought. I hold Malcolm Fry in high regard: I expected much better and I wondered if maybe I had missed something. Apparently not.
The response to this book has been nil, as far as I can tell. This is puzzling: it deserves to be howled down as ill-conceived. Malcolm is entitled to his opinion, but for OGC to have given this the official stamp of approval is unacceptable. At the very least it is highly debatable. At worst it is wrong. I note that itSMF (or its body IPESC) has not ratified the book. While individual reviewers are listed there is no mention of any official review anywhere. I can't imagine how the ITIL "swirl" logo came to be affixed to this book - who ratifies this stuff? who decides what gets to be a Complementary Publication?
Why am I so critical of this book? Because it is common knowledge in the industry that ITIL provides guidance on process at an abstract level, and nothing about ITIL is intended to dictate the structure of an organisation. The whole point of the ITIL processes is that they should flow across organisational units and bring us together to work on an incident or problem or change or whatever. In fact I was prompted to finally get around to this review by Hank Marquis' recent article in DITY Weekly
A better approach is to consider the ITIL processes as oversight or governance over the work performed by staff. ITIL processes do not describe an organization, but rather the work an organization must perform.
At least I thought it was common knowledge that you don't organise around ITIL. Certainly I have seen organisations distract themselves or divert their organisation from its optimal structure by trying to organise around ITIL. The lack of any comment about this book has left me bemused.
ITIL's core Service Strategy has a whole chapter 6 on organisational design, that never once suggests ITIL as a model. Service Operation 6.1 talks about organising around functions and once again never suggests ITIL processes as a model. In section 6.7.3 it explicitly states
it is not a good idea to strucutre the whole organisation according to processes... processes are used to overcome the silo effect of departments, not to create silos... processes specifically exist to link the activities of different groups... Using processes as the basis to create departments can defeat the purpose of having processes in the first place
In the good old days, ITIL V2's Planning to Implement Service Management 5.5.2 also said
To organise Service Management dealing with ten [sic] processes in a well-balanced organisational structure is complex. Many units play a part in the activities. It is necessary to have a single line of command (accountability) to integrate these activities across organisational boundaries. Process managers tend to be functionally, and not hierarchically, responsible for the IT employees of different units...
Which guiding organisational principle is applied may differ from organisation to organisation. Each principle has its own benefits and drawbacks. There is no universal organisational structure for IT Service Management
So now TSO publishes this official ITIL publication (copyright TSO not OGC) which is entirely based on the concept of grouping "Fundamental Tasks" (yet another term for ITIL processes/functions/activities/domains) to create an organisational structure. A FT is "a function, activity or process that...". Most of the FTs are from ITIL though there is a chapter on "Identifying non-ITIL Fundamental Tasks". Extraordinarily, this chapter covers this topic without once naming COBIT or any other more-comprehensive framework as a point of reference, which seems to me a gross omission. The chapter is just weird. It suggests that ITIL eduction and ITIL core books and ITIL experts are sources of non-ITIL FTs, as are conferences and seminars, but not - as I say - any other framework.
Not only does this book violate the principles quoted above from the core ITIL books about not organising around ITIL processes, but this ITIL fixation causes a myopia that overlooks fundamental organisational requirements. For example the structure in figure 10.4 is supposed to be Service Planning but has no portfolio planning function. Figure 10.6 is supposed to be Service Support but there is no training fuinction. (There are also some odd placements, such as putting Availability Management under a grouping called Service Operation rather than Planning).
This book also annoyed the heck out of me by referring to projects to "implement ITIL", which is not exactly thought leadership. "Implementing" ITIL went out with blue blazers.
It seems to me this book can be summed up as what the English call a howler: a laughably bad blunder due to not understanding. The only thing that puzzles me is that surely Fry knows better than this. Did I miss the point somewhere?