Lessons the world took from ITIL

ITIL aspires to be customer-centric. If only the reality matched the aspiration. If only the main lesson people took away from ITIL was customer value. In practice I think the world takes away quite different lessons.

Here is a bunch of awful fallacies that the world actually took from ITIL:

  • The relationship with the customer is through a contract for the standards of service, a portfolio of services for planning, and RFCs for change.
  • Practices are processes to be defined, and managed by numbers.
  • Improvement is driven by processes.
  • Change is risk.
  • Failure is bad.
  • Failure has a root cause.
  • Plan/define once, execute perfectly.
  • Everything can be standardised. Non-standard work is a failure of standardisation.
  • People can be managed by numbers.
  • Continual improvement comes after big improvement. CSI is the chock on the wheel of PDCA to stop backsliding. It is the fifth and last part of ITIL.
  • You can't improve until after you have controlled, defined, and measured a process.
  • IT systems can be fully described.
  • Knowledge is a bunch of static objects to be kept in a bucket.

    ...and most of all:

  • People work in silos ("processes"). Arrange roles and teams around processes. Design, plan, manage, and optimise your silo.
  • Making your silo better will make work better.

Kaimar Karu nailed it in a social media comment: ITIL is "aligned with the principles of ITSM but not necessarily with all current practices in ITSM".

Nor can we say that the world has moved on since ITIL 2011. The following concepts all pre-date that revision yet are notable by their absence:

  • Change culture: Kaizen, 1936
  • Stability vs change: Agile, 2000
  • People over process: Agile, 2000
  • Collaboration over contract: Agile, 2000
  • Focus on working software: Agile, 2000
  • The myth of waterfall: Agile, 2000
  • Complex systems: many, but Cynefin is seminal to ITSM, 2002-2007
  • System over silo: Lean, 1990s. Lean IT, 2007-2010
  • Case management vs standardisation: 2007-2013

(Antifragile dates from 2012.)

ITIL aspired at times to be a thought leader, but the reality is that it has always codified the accepted orthodoxy. It failed to introduce novel ideas (SKMS, the whole of ITIL V3 Service Strategy...), and it mostly ignored innovative thinking outside IT. That would have been fine, if the world had understood that ITIL is a lagging indicator of conservative accepted practice.

Syndicate content