The Skeptical Informer, January 2009, Volume 3, No. 1

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

The Skeptical Informer seems to be shifting publication cycle from every month to every when I get around to it. Sorry about that. I would say that the recession has caused me to shift priorities and concentrate on chasing work, but I won't because it isn't true. I have been in the Southern Alps, with my son and some friends, in a hut with no power, doing very little and eating too much. Regular readers will know this is an annual thing. As is camping at Kaitoke (as in LOTR's Rivendell). We did that too. So the degradation in publication service levels is entirely due to the editor loafing. Actually the IT SKeptic has battened down the hatches. I've turned down three European conference speaking opportunities for 2009. Consulting work is scarce. In March I will definitely drop my lease on the big mother of a server this blog runs on, as the plunging advertising revenues will no longer cover the hosting. This means we'll be back to VPS sorry folks, with the consequent unpredictable performance. Annoying but not much I can do. It's not all doom though. I have several books in preparation that might bring in a buck, especially if you are nice enough to buy them :) If you haven't bought Introduction to Real ITSM yet you might consider it (please). Everyone says it is funny and god knows we could all use a laugh this year. This year sees three topics looming for the blog:
  • governance: which is hot in a serious way
  • cloud computing: which is hot in an entirely vacuous vendor-hyped way
  • alternatives to ITIL: which is not hot at all but I am predicting it will be
Of course we'll also have something to say about ITIL and OGC and itSMF and APMG. The whole certification debacle shows no sign of resolution - in fact APMG won The Coronation Street Pint For Longest Running Saga at the annual IT Skeptic Awards. COBIT and ISACA and ITGI will get attention too, especially as the two universes seem to be bumping together. If it turns out to be a matter/anti-matter thing then we could see some sparks. They certainly are different universes: like chalk and cheese, or like the Hitchhiker's Guide and the Encyclopaedia Galactica. The topic that interests me most right now is cloud computing. Look out for an article soon on how existing enterprise apps will never migrate to the cloud, and posts on how immature the whole thing is, how the vendors have already torn it to shreds by building proprietary solutions with zero standardisation, and how it is just another tech geek fantasy solution to a non-tech problem. Such technical solutions to non-technical problems often don't solve the original problem at all. They tend to introduce more problems of their own, and almost invariably introduce greater complexity to be managed, but IT loves them. They offer a silver bullet out-of-the-box fix to take the pain away, which is hard to resist. So it is with The Cloud. We don't learn. IT still runs after the latest silver bullet, or in this case the silver lining, heedless of the fact that a cloud represents a storm, poor visibility, dangerous lightning, and miserable conditions. Slowly IT is being drawn back into the business and taught to think like a business. One by one the tech managers are displaced by business managers. One by one the departments become accountable. One by one the cultures incrementally shift towards a focus on delivering service to the business and spending money as if it were their own. But it is obvious that we are still on a long road. We need to cut costs and increase scalability for sure. Spending many millions to float our existing business systems on a cloud isn't the right answer. Very few organisations see such wild variations in load that they need resort to the cloud for on-demand capacity. And the supposedly lower costs of management from service providers is a myth that the outsourcing industry still manages to perpetrate. When all the hidden costs - including lost IP, risk, migration, delays (ironically) and provider overheads - are factored in, the benefits are less compelling. Eric Knorr says “the ability to add capabilities quickly without capital investment is the real benefit of the cloud”. I disagree. Cloud capabilities are not exempt from the same considerations of robustness, reliability, accountability, compliance and audit as internal resources. Removing the capital component of the costs is not a significant saving overall. (Knorr has no illusions about cloud computing: “Fantasies of hyperautomated, self-organizing IT have been around for decades”). We should be concentrating on the non-technical aspects of IT, where there remains enormous potential for greater efficiencies in areas such as improved morale, better business skills, more efficient processes, reduced change failures, better project selection and management, server consolidation, open source, renegotiation of contracts for spare capacity onsite, and outsourcing of selected specialist functions in-house (such as network administration, monitoring, and provisioning). Cloud computing is another vendor-driven fad that adds complication, risk and expense. One day it may prove to be a useful tool in certain contexts, but it isn't the miracle fix it is touted to be. We won't save money by building ever more complex tech toys.


ITIL started out as just the books, but it is much more today: it is a movement, a professional group, and an industry. A great deal of activity goes on in promotion and support of ITIL worldwide. Much of it is ungoverned and ad-hoc. There are many pillars of the house of ITIL and OGC governs and manages only four.

The IT SwamiThe IT SwamiLate last night as I worked at my computer, I looked up at a sound in the normally quiet cul de sac that houses Two Hills World Headquarters Tower. From the back door of a police car tumbled the IT Swami, closely followed by his swag, which appeared to have been hurled rather than just fell. The police car then drove off while he picked himself up and examined himself for broken bones, or perhaps it was just some exotic late-night yoga - he does subscribe to strange practices.

In a familiar routine, I raced downstairs to hide the good whisky and cognac before he got to the doorbell. I slipped the smaller ornaments into a cupboard and put the kettle on. I knew he would need a coffee to sober him up.

Every year the IT Skeptic website starts the New Year with our Awards. (You can see last years' awards here).


Owning ITIL® - a skeptical guide for decision makers

Right now are discounting the book to $27 - that's 20% off! - I have no control over how long they will do this for so don't miss it!
(Note: while you are there, Amazon will offer you a bundled package with another of my books, the satirically funny Introduction to Real ITSM.)

British readers may prefer to buy Owning ITIL® from for £25 and free delivery. See also, .jp etc

Now on Kindle!

This page is about the book Owning ITIL® written by the IT Skeptic (Rob England). The resource page for owners of the book is here.

Owning ITIL®

This book is essential reading for all decision makers (IT-literate or not) who are presented with an ITIL® proposal or who are asked to oversee an ITIL project, or who find something called “ITIL” or “Service Management” in their budget. It tells you what the ITIL industry won’t.

For everyone else involved in ITIL projects, this book is just as essential to help you through the ITIL minefield.

Every IT department in the world is at least pondering ITIL. As the ITIL projects proliferate, this book is for the executives who must fund them or manage them, and for those who ask those executives for money.

The book explains, in lay-manager’s terms, what ITIL is.
It reveals what ITIL is good for, what it is bad at, what to expect from it.
It describes how to ensure an ITIL project succeeds, what to look for in the business case, and how to measure the results.

It does these things in business terms, written by an independent and critical observer.

Read the book to get an understanding of ITIL and a context for the recommendations. Or just read the recommendations which have been picked out for your convenience. The busiest managers can use the checklists at the back as ITIL survival tools.


  • Executive Summary
  • About ITIL
  • What is ITIL
    • ITIL books
    • ITIL movement
    • ITIL industry
    • The ITIL hype
    • Service management
    • Alternatives to ITIL
    • The Future of ITIL
  • What to Watch Out For
    • Best practice as a given
    • ITIL the Cult
    • Because everyone else is
    • Don’t expect evidence
    • You don’t ‘do’ ITIL
    • Measuring ITIL with ITIL
    • If IT ain’t broke don’t fix it
    • CMDB can not be done
    • Vendor references
    • Compliance with other methodologies
    • The benefits of ITIL
    • Questionable business cases
    • ASP or ISP
  • What to Ask From ITIL
    • Cultural Change
    • Return on investment
    • Artefacts
    • Metrics
  • How to Succeed With ITIL
    • Don’t do it
    • Do it as a project
    • People Process Technology
    • Cultural Change (again)
    • Executive commitment
    • Resourcing
    • ITIL is an approach not a project
    • Integrate
    • ITIL2 vs. ITIL3
    • Do a Service Catalogue early
    • Restrain Configuration Management
  • Tools
    • They all work
    • Process drives requirements
    • ITIL compliance
    • Get tools services
    • What tools?
    • IT is a customer of IT
  • Conclusion
  • 14 questions to ask about an ITIL project proposal
  • 14 questions to check on progress of an ITIL project
  • 14 questions for a post-ITIL-implementation review
  • 14 questions for an ITIL environment health check
  • Index
The book is available NOW, from or from oder

Also available on Kindle.

After you read it, please give me feedback

Owning ITIL was translated into Russian by Cleverics and may still be available from them.

What readers are saying

Score: 10 out of 10... This is a wonderfully irreverent, but totally authoritative, book... It is a slim manual that seeks to debunk the language and meaning of ITIL and relate it to the practical implementation of IT service management... It’s a gem of a book that offers a good perspective on what the ITIL v3 manuals take 5 volumes to cover. BCS (British Computer Society)

After reading it (twice), I realized what I had my hands on. This was a book for anyone just starting to research ITIL all the way to those of us who have been forced to drink the kool aid for a long time... I would highly recommend this book for EVERY IT and Management person today.
It's not about BEST PRACTICE, it's about REAL PRACTICE, and it gets NO MORE REAL than "Owning ITIL" Christopher Dancy

Wish I had this two years ago Twitter comment from a reader

Unbeatable. If you are interested in Service Management (if you are an IT professional, you should be), this book is a must. Enlightening, easy to read, loaded with experience and qualified opinions. The author puts the challenges, the hype, the misunderstandings and the real requirements on the table. You don't have to agree with the author in order to benefit (or enjoy) this book. Helge Skrivervik "Mellvik"

It was a great pleasure to translate Rob’s book. He proved again that ‘talking seriously’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘talking tediously’. And I’m sure that besides the pleasure the book brings real value from owning ITIL to a reader. Roman Jouravlev, translator of the Russian edition

If you are feeling a bit giddy from ITIL training and over-dosing on ITIL PowerPoint slide decks, Owning ITIL provides the perfect antidote that will not only bring your ITIL transformation project down to earth but also greatly increase its likelihood of success.
I view his opinions, tweets and books much like Edward de Bono’s Black hat; valued contributions to ensure arguments are balanced. It was also refreshing to read a book on ITIL with most of the jargon stripped away...
My only criticism of the book is a lack of feedback from his consulting clients or industry stories (even if only anecdotal) as a result of his suggestions. The author berates the ITSM industry for lack of tangible evidence of implementing ITIL and whilst there are over a hundred excellent recommendations in the book it would have been good to see some real life feedback...
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and believe it should be mandatory reading before anyone cuts a purchase order for new software. Martin Thompson - ITAM Review

The Pros: Very easy to read and not too long. The references to other literature will help me through the minefield of complimentary guidance/opinions etc. I came across plenty of things I've done (both right & wrong) and potential mistakes that I might be able to avoid moving forward at work. Sometimes I had a wry smile, other times I has an "oh crap, we did that" moment. Just enough humour, while not being condescending or insincere (or maybe I have a thick skin). Some of the book is ageless (not so) common sense and some of the book is very current. Some of the current stuff will become out of date soonish but that's OK.
The Cons: if it is read cover to cover, the first half of the book is a bit Michael Moore - Stupid White Men... pleading with the reader to stop reading because all of these ITIL folks are complete shysters. IMHO the book is written from a V2 perspective, which is ok as that is what most people will be trying to address over the next few years, but it does omit how to tackle the business service VS IT service debate (but does discuss that it needs to be had). Make the recommendations stand out more - they are (mostly) bloody outstanding.
So it was a few hours well spent reading this book. 4/5 stars.
Tom Rankin (email to the author)

The fundamental difference between the author's point of view and mine (reflected in this review) is that I don't see "ITIL... (becoming) something of a cult," or "a movement." I don't see ITIL becoming something it isn't. Quite simply, ITIL is documentation of good/best practice for IT. This doesn't lend itself to "cult" or anything else... Bottom line: The book author is The IT Skeptic. Read the book to understand a skeptical point of view. Don't accept it as your only guide to make competitive decisions to meet today's situations, challenges or demands. David Moskowitz

Well I enjoyed it. If I have an issue it is that the horizon between Rob's most skeptical moments and his most practical real world comments aren't clearly distinguished. I THINK I know him well enough to detect the irony, but I'm never sure....and I think I know when when he is making a point knowing that the ensuing argument will further our mutual general understanding. James Finister

Just finished reading "Owning ITIL", and thought it incredibly clarifying and brilliant in it's ability to cut to the quick. Thought it important enough to purchase 4 more copies for managers at our org to read. email to the author

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He Tangata

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Maori proverb

It is the people. IT is the people.

He Tangata has its own website now

From the blog

Image[Hi! IF you came looking for insight into the rebounding world economy, you are looking for Dead Cat Bounce. This post is about IT project management. But thanks for dropping in! If you are interested in IT, please take a look around]

Operational readiness of new and improved services ensures a smooth transition from Project to Production. ITIL talks about it in a number of places, but I think Operational Readiness needs to be recognised as a practice in its own right, like any other ITIL "process". OR is not (just) about being a gatekeeper to Prod: it's about ensuring readiness throughout the lifecycle. OR provides a positive benefit for the customers, projects, development, and operations.

[Updated May 2009] The CMDB Federation standards initiative must be the most over-hyped vendor marketing smokescreen ever. Whenever anyone raises the bogeyman of proprietary CMDBs, the vendors wheel this one out as the future promise of interoperability. It is pure vendor double-talk. It solves little and is taking forever to appear anyway. It solves little because the standard defines only how management tools can pass data between them- nothiong about what they pass. I bet the much-trumpeted demos seen so far involved data massaging and informal backroom agreements beyond that dictated by the standard in order to get it all to work. I am highly skeptical (surpise!) about the likelihood that this standard would enable or even faciltiate anything useful in a real-world implementation.

Here is an amusing thing: all those diagrams of the Deming Cycle turn the wrong way.

Windows Vista makes the claim of "faster boot times". Faster than what? tectonics?

Bill the IT guy was fun in Episode 1. Here is Bill's next excellent adventure from Paglo, having a wee swipe at Apple Corp.

Delivery date for the COBIT User's Guide for Service Managers has slipped to "first quarter of 2009". (You may recall the IT Skeptic suggested this book will "put a cat amongst the ITIL pigeons").

While the IT Skeptic has been off playing with idle fripperies like Second Life, all sorts of exciting things have been happening quietly behind the scenes in Castle ITIL. It is time we caught up to date with developments. In particular, I wouldn't be doing ITIL V3 Foundation training right now.

Maybe I'll start collecting examples of terminological debasement, such as

In a recent announcement from APMG, the IT Skeptic identifies a troubling new terminological debasement trend. Apparently a committee is now a board. We had the Combined Strategy Board, the ITIL Qualifications Board. Now we have the Foundation Review Project Board. Come to think of it, ITIL has been doing this for a while: since when was a CAB anything but a committee?

It has come to my attention that somebody is claiming that ITIL Prime was one of the sites removed from this blog for copyright violation in their ITIL Foundation exam preparation questions. This is entirely untrue. If I find out who started this rumour I hope for the opportunity to discuss it with the perpetrator out back in a carpark. Not only is the allegation untrue but it is clearly false on two counts:

  • we list only free sites - ITIL Prime is by subscription
  • we clearly state the sites were subsequently taken down as a result of my complaint to their hosting company

Chokey the Chimp warns of a moderate Crap Factoid in the wild, with our old friends at BMC claiming a 370 percent ROI over 30 months on implementation of BMC's ITSM v7. One would struggle to swallow that kind of number from any business case, but given BMC's recent high-level bullshitting, Chokey definitely calls "CRAP!".

I wonder how the ITIL Live website is doing. And where they get their customers from.

Having recently become an author I am learning just how bloody hard it is. My humble efforts in no way compare to what the ITIL V3 authors produced. Although they had a lot more help than me, their products were much bigger, more complex, more closely scrutinised and of course much more significant.

[A guest post today from long-time reader Alison Adams with more feedback from the field on ITIL V3 exam questions:]

How confident are you in identifying the difference/s between a stated AIM, a PURPOSE, a GOAL and an OBJECTIVE ?

A dictionary might not help much, look them up in, they reference one another in a complete circle. Even the official ITIL glossary includes -

"Objective: the defined purpose or aim of a Process and Activity or an Organisation….."

I see a lot of fiddling while the economy burns. In fact there appears to be an air of "phew that's over". The recession drops off the media's radar thanks to their infantile attention spans. Please be aware that this recession hasn't even started - and plan your coming years accordingly.

We traditionally define what constitutes a CI in terms of Change Management but are there better ways?

I'm sure I'm not the first to reflect on the evil genius of .docx document format but I feel the need to vent a little spleen. Only the Evil Empire of MickeySoft could be this twisted.

The ITSM community should ponder this for two reasons: (1) just how much do we trust Microsoft's 'free' MOF 4.0? (2) ITIL's inability to play nicely with COBIT or other de-facto standards might result in eventual convergence or it might not - watch the scrap between OOXML and ODF for clues.

Is the itSMF International website adrift again?

I remember seeing an Aussie comedy TV show once (The Games as I recall?) where it suggested that a public statement by the Prime Minister that "So-and-so has our full support" meant they would be out within days. This memory came to me as I wondered why it was necessary for Keith Aldis, CEO itSMF, to come out with a press release to tell the world that “Real progress is being made in the development and implementation of ITIL V3 qualifications". A year and a half after go-live one would bloody hope so.

When we want to know how to, say, measure a service desk, we can find quite exact guidance everywhere. But it seems to me the depth and specificity (specifity? specificness?) and usefulness of advice is inversely proportional to the importance of the question. Consider the most important question we need answered in a service management initiative.

As we said before, Real ITSM does things differently to, say, ITIL. Readers may recall that Real Priority (also known as Care Factor) is measured by the number of metaphorical fans that are being hit by effluent: it starts at zero and goes up. More conventionally, Real ITSM also tracks a separate User Priority (also known as the Dummy Factor, for the number of dummies being spat).

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