ABC Cafeterias

Too many software vendors stretch the facts when claiming ITIL support in their products. Perhaps they misunderstand ITIL.

Here is a thought experiment. Apparently Google and other high-tech employers are in a bit of a chef war – competing to see who has the best staff cafeteria(s) with the best chef(s). Suppose that the ABC Staff Kitchen Handbook became the accepted standard for how to run elite company cafeterias, and staff advertisements started mentioning "ABC-compliant cafeteria". But there is no formal standard by which to measure ABC compliance (this is a rare state of affairs but I can think of one other instance where it has happened: ITIL of course).

So what happens if the self-indulgent Gen-X to Gen-Z employees decide that ABC compliance is a real selling point for a prospective employer, and companies scramble to get their cafeteria up to scratch?

Suddenly vendors pop up everywhere with ABC-compliant products. Miracle Cutlery company touts how their knives help a kitchen achieve ABC. ZipZap Floor Cleaner - as used in the best ABC kitchens! The Whizzer Garlic Slice, essential equipment for all ABC chefs. The Frosty Refrigerator Monitor supports six different ABC processes. MacCreedy's Frozen Carrots: delivering ABC.

Now none of these claims are untrue but they are stretching the point somewhat. Even a cash register manufacturer or a refrigerated display cabinet company would be stretching the point to suggest that their product is delivering ABC kitchen processes.

And yet some software manufacturers get upset if one suggests they do just this (no not kitchens! ITIL! Try to keep up, OK?).
But they do. I've done it.
"This RFP wants ITIL Financial Management. Quick, how do we support Financial Management?"
"Asset Whizz stores the supplier name and purchase cost, so say it does".

Who's going to prove you wrong? In fact, you're not wrong. Just as a hair is indeed one part of an elephant, so Asset Whizz is one part of FM. Not a very important part, but a part. Not a part that actually manages or supports or automates or delivers the ITIL-defined Financial Management process, just a source or store of data, but a part nonetheless. Just. Kinda.

So it is, to varying degrees of fact-stretchedness, with so many products that claim to "deliver" or "support" or "monitor" ITIL.

A Service Desk tool (Incident, Request, Problem, Change, Release, Asset) is nearly indispensable for ITIL (though Post-It notes work, if badly). A Service Level Management (SLM) system – meaning Service Level Agreement (SLA) definition, tracking, measurement, alerting and reporting - is very useful. Project Portfolio systems are great for those venturing into the rarefied heights of Service Support. The only monitoring tool of great interest to ITIL processes is an end-to-end monitor that measures the user experience of a service. Automated event alerting is of benefit, especially by service not CI.

Then there are a whole bunch of monitors and managers and reporters and data stores that come in handy for IT people to do their jobs, but they don't particularly pertain to ITIL process as such. Try to tell the vendors of them though.

By the way, while we are on the topic of SLA measurement and reporting, many IT operations software vendors seem unable to distinguish between a Service Level Target and an SLA. 99% availability of Service X is an SLT. An SLA is a contract between one customer and IT, listing multiple SLTs for multiple services. If you can’t measure/aggregate and report all kinds of SLTs for all services, by customer, you aren’t doing SLA measurement or reporting, dude.

In fact some vendors struggle with the concept of SLT. A network monitoring tool does not measure the availability SLT unless it can see the availability of the service as experienced by the user at the user’s end device. Server availability is not service availability.

It seems some vendors (or at least their marketing people) do not understand IT Service Management… or they are counting on their prospects not understanding it.

Next: we help the vendors out with ITIL101

This post first appeared as How Software Vendors Lie About ITIL Support (the IT Skeptic did not write the title)


Value of the USMBOK

The USMBOK should be on every book shelf, It is a valuable tool for anyone at any level that is truly involved in service management. It goes far beyond IT service management and has more depth and breath. It is well organized and easy to follow. We use the USMBOK as a guideline in just about everything we do.

Ron Lester

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