The Skeptical Informer, March 2007, Volume 1, No. 2

The newsletter of the IT Skeptic. All the IT skeptical news that is fit to print... and then some!

This is the second edition of The Skeptical Informer™, a regular newsletter to be published at the start of each month, summarising activity on the IT Skeptic's blog at We are continuing the pictorial theme of quirky views of nature. The newsletter seems a bit long this month - I hope you like it - let me know your feedback. Please feel free to pass this email on to others who would enjoy it.

This month the activity on the blog has revolved around three things: CMDB (topic du jour for IT it seems); the scope of ITIL change management; and the looming release of the V3 Refresh.

I must say the big disappointment of the month is continuing reports of training vendors furiously making hay while the sun shines: flogging V2 training to people with narry a word about the implications of V3.

The root of the problem lies deeper, with OGC and APMG studiously ignoring the problem. Possibly this is because of all the politics and disruption surrounding the outsourcing of accreditation and certification to APMG, but that is a reason not an excuse. The fact is there has been a total failure of governance here, with not one jot of guidance from the organisation which has at least a moral responsibility for the best interests of the ITIL consumer: OGC.

Coming a close second in failure to act is of course itSMF, which is proving once again that it does not exist to represent the interests of its members. As I have pointed out in a recent ITSM-Watch article "The Pillars of ITIL", it doesn't even claim to do so, but I believe that would come as a surprise to many members.

And then tawdry third are the perpetrators themselves. It beats me how some people sleep nights, but then there are many more time-share and used-car sales people who don't look too tired either. At a bare minimum, all ITIL certification and training vendors should be pointing out to prospective clients that there is some uncertainty over the status of V2 qualifications after the V3 ones come out. Oh sure, sure, everyone bangs on about how they will still be "recognised". That's like saying that after a currency devaluation your peso is still a peso.

It now appears that you will have to do bridging training before your V2 certifications count as a prerequisite for any V3 ones. Any training vendor that fails to mention that is defrauding their customer through mis-quoting the true cost.

Right now your $10,000 V2 Manager's certificate will stand you in good stead when job hunting. But if the IT job market ever goes back to being competitive again then it will be another story.

And most of all, nobody knows what the status of V2 Practitioners' certificates will be, as the whole practitioner structure is being torn down and re-done. Selling Practitioners' certification right now without explaining that is simply dishonest. The IT Swami sees a few class actions next year.

As a product ITIL is a Good Thing. It works. It is useful. Heck, it is GREAT. And I'm hoping the V3 books will be even better. What alarms me more is the management of the ecosystem that has sprung up around the books. Right now parts of the ecosystem are polluted by:
  • secrecy in governance
  • undeclared vested interests
  • questionable trainer practices selling V2 certifications
  • questionable vendor influence
  • failure to adopt changes in "best practice for best practice"
  • lack of independent user representation

These are the IT Skeptic's picks from the comments of March 2007. It was tough choosing; there was much good material this month. So after selecting for quality, I have gone for brevity:

Jill (ITSM.TV) (not verified)|
...Journalism thrives on anonymity, and always has...

Charles T. Betz |
...[I asked them] Do you see Change Management as
" 1) a holistic process for initiating all changes to IT services, including cost/benefit analysis and approval of major change initiatives even pre-project? Or
" 2) a primarily operational process with a 1-4 week lead time, focused on specific configuration changes to managed environments, for the purpose of communication and coordination?"
100% of the people chose #2. And there was a lot of muttering as people digested this. Some didn't even seem to realize that ITIL calls for #1.

It isn't the guy with the best tools who wins, it is the guy who operates with more effectiveness and efficiency than his competitors...

skeptic |
...I took the step to become ITIL certified ... for which the vultures are charging $5-10K for several weeks of training to get (I got mine through self study of materials off ebay). Take that you over charging educational vendors...

Ian Clayton (not verified) |
...As a member of the US community that was requested to take part to represent the itSMF USA members we are keen to see how many of our requirements are actually reflected in the final product... since offering our input in Dallas nearly two years back we have received zero, nana, zilch feedback from the review team - nothing that remotely resembles a proven requirements management process whereby the needs and wants are carefully morphed into an objective and service level target...

skeptic |
...the mainframe applications of old... the developers disappeared into back rooms for two years; then TA DAAAH produced a finished multi-million-dollar set-in-concrete system... Obviously best practice in process development is still some ways behind application development.

Ian Clayton (not verified) |
...We are still receiving an embarrassingly large number of shocked calls from (new) customers who are turning to us after NOT hearing the full story from others... So who polices the training companies - the exam institutes? How is it policed - where is the complaints committee - how do unsuspecting US clients (the hugely vulnerable victims in this due to their complete lack of involvement in the ITIL process) protect themselves? ...

DeniseMarie |
I spent my Christmas break contacting every training organization in the U.S. that offered ITIL Service Manager training. All but one remained silent on the current issues of ITIL training and certification. All but one never even mentioned the refresh. All but one quoted me prices never less than $7000 (and yes, up to $10,000, not including T&E). All but one were ready to register me immediately for a class or put me on a waiting/interest list without even an explanation of V3 and how that might affect the certification scheme. All but one were willing to immediately take my money without batting an eye... Is this a question of ethics? You bet it is... If the unethical practices of the other training providers are the norm, then our field is in deeper trouble than just struggling with a new version of ITIL.

cmdbmaverick |
...“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” Albert Einstein

cotswolddave |
...there is a market for stand alone CMDBs... Standalone CMDBs do exist and deliver value as they get round people, technical and organisational barriers. This might be heresy to the purists, but some people have day jobs and have to deliver against real needs

Realist (not verified) |
...I've worked in service and systems management positions for a number of years now and although I find ITIL to be a common sense approach, the CMDB rhetoric and "cornerstone" status of any successful implementation has and will continue to be complete bollocks... So why do people hanker after the CMDB? ... They... hope that if they had something which described their assets and components in more detail ... that it will somehow make them into a proactive efficient unit...

ianclayton |
we once had a situation where a business fax turned out to be a critical component of an order entry system, responsible for receiving orders from folks in the field... The true expanse of a service can be very, very suprising.

dool |
..."I didn't compete because I didn't want to surrender IP," sounds like self-important posturing at best. A bit like saying, "I didn't compete for the olympics because I didn't want to reveal my running technique."

jimbo |
...I haven't seen anything in ITIl 3 yet which appears to indicate there has been a massive injection of IP. The discusssions about CMDB and service catalogue going on in this blog indicate the books still have a way to go to catch up with the best real life thinking going on.

skeptic |
...this gadfly hovers on the other end of the spectrum to try to restore some balance... It is a bit like Greenpeace. I cancelled my membership years ago... yet I value their existence and acknowledge the necessity of what they do. I wouldn't have them moderate their stance. Democracy is the balance of opposites, and if nobody is on that end of the seesaw it don't work.

skeptic |
...To slate all the other vendors' solutions as not being CMDBs because they don't meet a particular standard for what is, is like saying Toyota only entered the car market once they offered the Lexus...

Ken Briscoe (not verified) |
...a lot of the mainframe disciplines were "lost" when distributed computing, PC's and client-server came in - and then the Web! Well and truly the cowboy era... Then, to my joy, the disciplines were rediscovered by the new IT generation as this wonderful thing called ITIL. To my greater joy, and financial benefit, I found that all the stuff I had learnt and developed as a dinosaur mainframer, was now right up there in terms of this modern new methodology...

skeptic |
...the white British colonial slant of ITIL (none of USA, Canada, SA, Aus, NZ will like being refered to as British colonies but you know what I mean), even more so in version 3, diminishes its effectiveness for Asia...

Ian Clayton (not verified) |
...You are so right - ITIL is being written by those who profit from its existence. I just hope that this time they try and help us all address problems with what they write instead of giving us more theoretical rhetoric. The US will never adopt ITIL until it does. Don't confuse book buying and certification with implementation success.

kingmail53 (not verified) |
The Vendor and British ITIL cabal are busy redefining their closed, theoretical "framework" to include everything under the sun. And, they seem to be doing it for the express purpose of advancing the vendors sales performance... ITIL went from ignoring the two-thirds of the IT budget that is purchased from vendors, and a pitiful financial mini-note, to, with v.3, taking over procurement and all negotiations... What next? CRM and ERP are soon to be part of ITIL because these same vendors sell that software too?

jimbo |
I think ITIL 3 is set to be the least anglo centric version ever, there is certainly no sign of a British Cabal... I do think [Microsoft] and IBM sometimes give themselves more credit than they should for their involvement in it's development... Having read the draft of ITIL 3 I can't see much vendor bias, either.

steve (not verified) |
I read your strong statement against configuration management, whereas I would state that configuration management is the single most important thing that any project needs, and could be almost the only process that a project needs... I can only offer the reality of actual projects that recovered when all other processes were stripped and CM was applied

Charles T. Betz |
There are at least three definitions of configuration management:
- project configuration management (including document management, software config, source control, and all that)
- element configuration management (the management of "configurations," baselining them, controlling drift)
- enterprise configuration management (mostly what ITIL is talking about, including management of inventories and their dependencies)

skeptic |
...ITIL needs fundamental transformations when taken below some minimum size of organisation. You can't just prune it, you need to genetically re-engineer it.

Visitor (not verified) |
Im a techie, through n through... I have seen Itil being implemented and Service 'improved' to the point of no one competent on the helpdesk tha knows anything about the local set-ups... Axing staff so the remaining cant cope with the workload... Why is it we have to always put up with the non IT implementing impossible target based systems on techies that just want to do their jobs? Service is a thing of the past fellas... Common sense has taken a leap out of the window... Whens the next fad?

skeptic |
...There are three kinds of people in this world:
- the inner circle that make things happen
- The ring around them that watch things happen
- The largest outer circle who say "WTF happened?"
May I suggest you are not reading the winds of change in the IT industry. If you choose to remain a "techie through and through" then I put it to you that you are not serving yourself or your family...

Visitor (not verified)|
...Google has to have their own way of managing their massive IT organization. They should come out with a Google Service Manager product and under price Microsoft...

dool |
...The more we invest in knowledge over time, the higher the payoffs. ITIL is part of this virtuous cycle...

dool |
...As I read the CCMI-SVC draft, I thought to myself, "Nicely detailed bullet-lists for practices and subpractices. The process boys are going to love this." As I reviewed the v3 draft, I thought, "Wow. Insightful, well-researched and somewhat provocative. The process boys are going to hate this."...

skeptic |
It would make a good book for some (other) hack journo: The Making of ITIL, The Inside Story. On the other hand, knowing some of the players, I suspect it would be a bit light on sex and violence.


This article has been podcast

In preparation for the release of Microsoft Service Manager (previously known as “Service Desk”), Microsoft made a surprise joint announcement today with IBM.

Something is afoot with the ITIL Refresh. Here we are two months out from worldwide launch in seven countries, and what have we heard about plans for the events? Strange hints as to who is paying for and organising the whole thing mean the IT Skeptic smells a rat.

For a revised and expanded version of this article see ITSMWatch.

The major operations software vendors have finally released a white paper describing how they plan to cooperate on ITIL CMDB. Don't hold your breath waiting for anything to come of it.

The hype wave of Web 2.0 approaches a crescendo. Apparently it is going to transform IT and reengineer the business. The IT Skeptic thinks not. Actually I think "not again".


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Books by the IT Skeptic

Rob England is the IT Skeptic. Under the pseudonym of the IT Skeptic he has published the following books:

book Plus! The Standard+Case Approach
See service response in a new light

book Basic Service Management
A 50-page guide to every aspect of service management

book Owning ITIL®
A skeptical guide for decision-makers

book Introduction to Real ITSM
A satire on IT operations

book The Worst of the IT Skeptic
all the good stuff from three years of this blog

book The IT Skeptic Looks at CMDB
the case against CMDB!

Full details of these and Rob's other books are here

The IT Swami

The IT Swami is the IT Skeptic's alter-ego. While the IT Skeptic uses known facts to draw inference or predict outcome, the IT Swami is not so constrained. He uses instinct, second sight, crystals and patchouli to wildly speculate on the present and future.

Posts about the IT Swami

All-time favourite blog entries

Recent podcasts

A podcast of the original article. In preparation for the release of Microsoft Service Manager (previously known as “Service Desk”), Microsoft made a surprise joint announcement today with IBM.

This is a podcast of the original article: "When you don't run IT as a business, the inevitable results: bad business decisions".

For too long we have made many decisions in IT based on whether something will be "better" (faster, more flexible, more space, cooler) without asking the real question: "Show me the money". If the return does not exceed the investment, don't do it.

A recent patent application appears to indicate that Microsoft is applying to patent CMDB. This issue is not attracting the outrage that it ought to. Next time you see your Microsoft rep, ask him/her WTF they are up to. And if you get anything like a rational answer, post it here so we can all understand.

A podcast of the original article "Should you do ITIL certification training with ITIL version 3 looming?"

There have been recent allegations on the IT Skeptic blog that ITIL training providers are not letting prospective customers know about ITIL version 3 looming, and the implications for certification. Whilst there must be an element of caveat emptor in all this, it does raise some questions about what is the ethically correct position for vendors to take and who oversees that, and what advice should be given to prospective purchasers of certification training. The IT Skeptic will advise you

A podcast of the original article ITIL's CMDB can't be done, no-how

Continuing our discussion of CMDB, let me reinforce two points: ITIL's CMDB can't be done, no-howLet me reinforce two points please: (1) CMDB can't be done because of the data and regardless of the implementation and (2) I'm talking about CMDB as specified by the ITIL books, not any old database. It can't be done."


Classic Skeptic

This article has been podcast

Since this is a skeptical blog, it is high time we examined the evidence. Where is the evidence for the benefits of ITIL? There isn’t any. Not the kind of hard empirical evidence that would stand up in, say, clinical trials. There is more evidence for quack alternative medicines than there is for ITIL.

From the blog

Just when I say that all the hype is in CMDB and that ITIL in general is ticking along fairly soberly, along comes someone to prove me wrong. Two people actually: someone hyping their own significance; and what passes for a journalist on the web these days uncritically lapping it up.

Man, news gets old fast. I've just finished giving itSMF heat for lack of an announcement and then today we get this: itSMF Version 3 will be launched June 5 in London. The interesting aspects of the announcement are....

The spell is broken, the honeymoon is over. After a year of my raving about Westhost's support, the transition to the IT Skeptic's new server was not as smooth as advertised. They're fallable after all.

What is it about these big software companies and their inability to come up with decent branding of their products (and companies)?

Slowly we unravel the real story behind the impact of ITIL Version 3 Refresh: it seems that your Version 2 Foundation training might be "recognised", but it will not be a recognised foundation for a Version 3 certification. You'll need to do a bridging course first.

A recent comment (reposted for your convenience) in response to my item about Microsoft trying to patent CMDB, said

Microsoft is worse than ITIL?
The Vendor and British ITIL cabal are busy redefining their closed, theoretical "framework" to include everything under the sun. And, they seem to be doing it for the express purpose of advancing the vendors sales performance.

Virtualisation, CMDB, autodiscovery, swappable CPUs, intelligent media devices, systems and availability management, capacity modelling... The mainframe worked all this out decades ago. Here's a story I heard from fairly close to the source so it is probably fairly close to the truth. Whatever, it makes a good story

Everybody is piling into the CMDB frenzy now, including dodgy journos and madly re-inventing software companies... and this blog. ITIL may not be a fad but the IT Skeptic thinks CMDB now is one.

Looks like I'll never work in Asia again :-) I've taken some flak in CIO Asia magazine regarding views expressed on a Datamation forum.

Measuring a service as a black box is essential. Simply because it is impossible (in a practical sense) to discover and measure every link in a service chain, it is impossible to build a complete composite view of a service's performance bottom-up from the component CIs.

Can somebody please explain how a stand-alone CMDB supports Incident and Problem and Change management if it is not integral to the Service Desk. How do incidents and changes get linked to a CI?

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