The Skeptical Informer, December 2008, Volume 2, No. 11

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

It has been a month of alternate realities for the IT Skeptic. Nothing to do with picking the wrong mushrooms though: the journeys into other worlds have been intentional and non-chemical. I was going to say "controlled" but the first and biggest of them was not really: I've been exploring Second Life. For those of you who - like me - live under a rock, Second Life is an internet-based alternate virtual reality. It is like a MMUD but if you haven't heard of Second Life you wont know what that is either. They took the principle of multi-user three-dimensional immersive role-play games and took the game bit away. Second Life is all about arts and leisure and shopping and business and buying land and building and working and selling and meeting and partying and ...ahem... sex. There are 16 million registered users and half a million of them log in at least weekly. The currency is convertible (to and from a number of currencies including US$). It is probably riskier than the Zimbabwe Dollar but the exchange rate is better (and more stable): 266:1 against the greenback. So land and other virtual stuff bought and sold have some tangible value, and about US$100M quarterly turnover (which is probably better than Zimbabwe). The hype and bullshit around SL are immense, but there is something interesting there, and dammit it's fun. SL or things like it offer business something that falls between video-conferencing and real life, but is different to either. So I'm going to try it. Look for an IT Skeptic Conference there soon. My plunge into the SL alternate reality cannot be described as controlled. I overdid it and as a result the November Skeptical Informer did not appear. I'd like to be contrite but I can't get the smirk off my face: I haven't had this much fun with computers since the character-based Rogue or Larry the Lounge Lizard. I don't play computer games much but this beats SimCity and Trainz combined. Even more fun than this blog. So, um, sorry. Snicker. Another alternate world I explored was IT Governance in general and COBIT in particular, when I attended the ISO international IT Governance Conference which was conveniently held here in Wellington. Actually I much prefer the term promoted by Prof Wim van Grembergen: Enterprise Governance of IT, or EGIT. IT is not governed by IT: it is governed by the governors of the enterprise, i.e. the Board of Directors or equivalent. The IT Skeptic has discussed this before: governance is not management and it most certainly is not project management. The many at the conference (not to mention the ISO38500 standard) who hammer this point are of course paddling against the tide. "Governance" will go the way of "management" - a word debased into almost meaninglessness. Remember when "managers" were the ones who ran the company? Another alternate reality was visiting Singapore and Bangkok for the itSMF conferences there (where the IT Skeptic presented on whether ITIL projects should even happen). Everyone was kind to the Skeptic, and I finally got to meet Sharon Taylor, who is as nice in person as I had been led to believe. Trust me, if you want mind-altering, try going from mad-bad Manila to antiseptic Singapore to boiling Bangkok all within a five-day period. No wonder I got into SL: I needed somewhere predictable to escape to. The final alternate reality was of course the new world of the Recession (come on, say it). Even a new government in New Zealand couldn't lift the world's gloom. Oh and they had a change of government in the USA too. [I'm overjoyed in both cases, but I have to say that I'll be most pleasantly surprised if Obama survives to end of term. The USA is so awash in gun-toting bomb-making rednecks that he is going to have to live in a pope-mobile]. Some time in October the consulting phone stopped ringing and it hasn't come back. This means the IT Skeptic may have to do some real work (*shudder*) and that means the blog will be under even more time pressure. But we'll keep it going as long as we can, and you can do your bit by buying the books. Yes "books". The first one, Introduction to Real ITSM is of course published, and at a special reduced price for Christmas presents (you can send the book direct to them). The second, Owning ITIL, is in review now for final revision this month. I'm working on the draft of number three (working title The Worst of the IT Skeptic) and I'm planning number four. So a dizzying couple of months since last I wrote to you. No doubt you shared some of it. If so, escape off to Second Life for some weird normality. And if you do, look me up. I'm ITSkeptic Scribe and I live at Two Hills World Headquarters in Ho Su. That's me on the right. The guy on the left is Twohills Scribe (= Rob England in Real Life).


We can do without all this angst about "Should we do ITIL?" That is the last question we should ask ourselves.

[Updated 13th May 2010]
With seemingly everyone gouging the ITIL user these days, is there an alternative for those of us who can't just (or just can't) get the boss to pay the exorbitant prices? You bet.

There is much excitement about the potential for Web 2.0, in particular what is known as the Wisdom of the Crowd. Wikipedia becomes the repository of all knowledge, Google search statistics are the zeitgeist of the times and MySpace is the face of the world. Page rank is a measure of authority. Corporations appeal to the public for solutions to problems. The ivory tower is replaced by the democracy of the commons; the proclamations of the cathedral displaced by the hubbub of the bazaar. Not so fast.

As promised in a comment recently, I have published an article on ITSM Watch about "on-demand CMDB". The idea is that we only need to keep a minimum of data in the CMDB and we assemble the rest as needed. [Updated: the article is now included and revised on this blog]

Come on people, say it: "recession". Enough of "these troubled times" and "the current conditions". Stop tiptoeing around and face up to what will certainly be the biggest recession in our working careers and in the worst case the first depression since the 30s. Euphemisms only mask the problem and retard preparations. Batten down the hatches. And don't expect business as usual for ITIL.

John M. Willis, a.k.a. Botchagalupe, or possibly a close associate of Botchagalupe, asked me to answer five questions which he posted on his blog, and to ask five questions in return. Here are my five questions for John. He works on Tivoli with Big Blue but if you can get past the vendor thing :-D John is a battle-scarred warrior of IT operations with a suitably hard-bitten view of the world that aligns well with my skeptical outlook. Enjoy his responses:


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Looking for something as a Christmas present for an ITSM geek? Tough isn't it? How about a copy of Introduction to Real ITSM, the IT Skeptic's reportedly funny spoof on the whole ITSM world? To help you weather the recession, the price of the book is reduced to $19 for the next four weeks. Merry Christmas!

Second Life

Any readers who are in Second Life please contact ITSkeptic Scribe

From the blog

A reader, Eppo Luppes, asks the question "Give three reasons/statements why ITIL V3 is an improvement over V2 and also three reasons why it is NOT". Most readers can guess my three (which I may give later). What do you think?

Recently we looked at the Folly of the Crowd: how in all but the largest of online communities the supposed consensus community content is actually created by a fanatical few. This is made worse by the online world's distaste of people making a living.

Here is an opportunity to have your say on the future of ITIL V2. EXIN is running an anonymous poll of public opinion regarding the future of ITIL V2. Despite the Dutch error messages and the limited opportunities for additional comment, this is a worthwhile initiative. The ITIL Money Engine wants to kill ITIL V2 as soon as possible - add your voice if this is not what you want.

APMG and the ITIL Qualifications Board are insisting on using multi-choice exams to certify ITIL V3 competence for Intermediate and Expert level qualifications. We have discussed this already across the blog but allow me to summarise the arguments against it here.

Past discussions on this blog have suggested that a process fixation such as ITIL's engenders an inflexibility and ponderousness in an organisation. Whilst I am a process fan, there is an important point to be addressed here about how ITIL relates to nimbleness and adaptability.

An ITIL V3 report from Sunrise Software is rich in crap factoids, since the report itself suffers from all the methodological deficiencies we have described before. Mercifully this one may not get much airtime so we rate the risk Medium.

Service Management is always on about Continual Service Improvement, as if this was a holy grail and an assumed permanent state of change. What seems inadequately discussed is where does it end? Do we improve forever? Surely not. We must encounter diminishing returns until eventually we are just gilding the lily. Is the "to-be" always different from the "as-is"? or rather is it always sufficiently different to justify doing something about it?

In ITIL, a Service Level Agreement is a set of Service Level Targets. Somebody please tell the vendors.

What's the big deal with Twitter? As far as I can see it is a mechanism to allow large quantities of low value noise into your life while at the same time being a device for ego stroking. No I'm not interested in your every idle non-thought, and I don't need to feed my ego hourly. And it doesn't work very well.

ITSM Watch might do me out of business soon... but it is great to see some good IT skepticism. [Updated: fixed a link]

Much of what we read about CMDB is actually singing the praises of asset management, network discovery or other simpler technologies. Other benefits attributed to CMDB actually come from process improvement and do not depend on the technology at all. When all you want to sell is a hammer...

Many people argue that there is no such thing as ITIL compliance because there is no exact standard to audit against. Perhaps it is all semantics but I don't take such an absolute position - it seems to me that it ought to be measurable or at least assessable in some way. On the other hand I think the opposite statement is clearly true: There is no such thing as ITIL NON-compliant software tools.

Here is a high Crap Factoid alert from Chokey the Chimp:
We recently demolished the EMA paper on CMDB adoption but nevertheless the paper in question is being misquoted by bITaPlanet as saying that "there’s been a dramatic jump in the number of companies that have completed their CMDB, from just 9 percent in 2006 to one-third in 2008". This is nonsense but it is nonsense that is now turning up elsewhere. Be on alert and keep the CFirehose ready.

Some recent stats point to lots of ITIL practitioners worldwide.

There are two references to Known error sub-process in the SO book.
For example Chapter 4 states:
Problem Management involves root-cause analysis ... and a Known Error sub-process to allow quicker diagnosis and resolution if
further incidents do occur.

In the Problem Management Process there is no reference to this sub-process and I cannot find the description anywhere.

Here's hoping the upcoming (any day now, apparently) COBIT User's Guide for Service Managers is closely followed by a certification. Imagine "COBIT Certified Service Manager". Wouldn't that put a cat amongst the ITIL pigeons?

The IT Skeptic is not anti-ITIL V3. ITSM View suggests "There are plenty out there that are seemingly wanting to derail ITIL v3". I'm not one of them. Nor can I think of anyone who is. That blog post has the heading "Where is the love?". Let us not confuse reluctance to leap immediately into bed with active animosity.

One of our readers, Red Pineapple over at Thinking Problem Management posted a list of "blogs that rock" and was nice enough to rate the IT Skeptic at five pineapples, the highest rating so far.. or maybe the lowest, since pineapples represent problems (stickly and prickly see?). Check out the list - there are lots of interesting sites.

On the other hand David Wheeldon's statement that this (the Skeptic's) blog is "bollocks" is currently showing as "confirmed" on Red's myth-busting poll so not everyone agrees with Red :-D

In a previous post we looked at excitement - hype even - about the potential for Web 2.0, in particular what is known as the Wisdom of the Crowd. But majority does not equal truth. Voting is good for social decision making but not for advancing knowledge. It isn’t even a majority anyway that fills the forums and blogs and wikis. It is the voice of a fanatical few. And the Crowd equates fame with wisdom. The Crowd also fails to discriminate between sources of information.

The itSMF Singapore conference is over and I write this en route to Bangkok for the Thai annual conference (a tough gig I know). The highlights for me were meeting Sharon Taylor, and a panel discussion on CMDB, and congratulating David Wheeldon on his last presentation ever. And a couple of good bits of gossip...

There is an excellent online credit calculator on APMG's ITIL Official Site that I hadn't noticed before (thanks to Rocky K.K. Lam) .

As Don Tennant pointed out, ITSM is not the most exciting subject. Some days I'm just over it. On those days, this is my kind of CMDB: the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.

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