The Skeptical Informer, March 2009, Volume 3, No. 3

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

In the world at large, the recession continues to gain momentum. It is like an ice age, slowly spreading ice and snow across the landscape. It seems to me most people either think the snowstorm has blown over or complain that it is a bit chilly. The G20 allocate $1.9 trillion to help and everyone relaxes. But much of that was already spent, and spent in a world economy with an annual GDP of $70 trillion. 3% of one year's GDP is hardly going to turn the world around. Twenty fiddlers watching the fires. As an independent consultant my world may get uglier than yours, but all of you should be making plans to survive the next few years. The big news in the ITIL world in March was the ITIL Official Endorsement Scheme. What we know of this scheme is only what we can deduce through news articles and blog leaks. But -as you can see from the linked post - I don't like the look of it so far. The idea is great, the execution questionable. (That post has one of the best graphics I've used on the blog yet. I'd like to acknowledge more of the stuff I use, but I can only tell you it comes from Gudella on, no other details. Note that I don't just pillage flicker like many bloggers - I pay for my graphics, acknowledging the artist's IP rights. This month's newsletter pictures are some of my favourites.) The IT Skeptic's little world has been all about books this last month. I'm not referring to the rearrangement of the rooms in our house that includes moving three bookcases (my son is moving into a downstairs room at last instead of being next to Mum and Dad, and Two Hills Ltd expands its share of the house by 300%!). I speak of publishing a number of my own books. I'd like to have released these at a more leisurely pace but they need to be out in the world earning their keep. Finally, today, I end - for now - by announcing the release of Owning ITIL®. I have a bunch of books in planning but they won't see the light of day until later in 2009 and into 2010, if they get writ. For now, my published books are:
FormatPriceAmazon.comOther AmazonsLulu
book Introduction to Real ITSM A satire on IT operations print$18.99 +p&p Special price!YesNot yetYes
book The Worst of the IT Skeptic all the good stuff from three years of this blog print$19.95 +p&pNot yetNeverYes
book The IT Skeptic Looks at CMDB print$9.95 +p&pNeverNeverYes
book Working in IT our career, our profession (my personal favourite) print$19.95 +p&pNot yetNot yetYes
book Owning ITIL® a skeptical guide for decision-makersprint$34.95 +p&pNot yetNot yetYes
Take a look at those that interest you. I'm proud of all these books and hope they will bring you much interest and enjoyment. I don't have a huge marketing budget: if you enjoy a book please please tell folks you know. I'll see most of my Kiwi blog followers at the itSMFnz conference in May - be there bro'. I hope to meet a few readers at the Pink Elephant conference in February next year too!


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

The IT Skeptic will look closer at cloud computing in 2009 - the concept seems to need some skeptical scrutiny. Or rather the concept is a pointer to the future, but the vendor hype around the present seems on shakier ground. Quite simply the idea is impractical in most business contexts. It is yet another technical solution to a business problem. Such technical solutions to non-technical problems often don't solve the original problem at all, tend to introduce more of their own, and almost invariably introduce greater complexity to be managed, but IT loves them. They offer a silver bullet OOTB fix to take the pain away - hard to resist. So it is with The Cloud. Take for example migration of existing applications.

News continues to leak about an ITIL Software Endorsement Scheme endorsed by OGC, administered by APMG, and created and assessed by a small organisation SMCG. Without any public discussion at all, a "standard" for ITIL software products is about to be dropped on the unsuspecting ITIL public.


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Recent podcasts

A podcast of the original article [updated: fixed the sound quality]

The first of the five books in the ITIL Version 3 core suite, Service Strategy is ITIL’s bid for credibility outside the back-room. Well actually, much of Version 3 is a cry for acceptance at higher levels in the organisation (or a power grab for more of the business depending on your perspective). But Service Strategy leads the charge, making an effective case for delivery of IT as a service, and for a strategic, analytical and theoretical approach to such delivery.

This is a podcast summarising all the IT Skeptic's arguments about and against the concept of CMDB. You can find out more about this on the IT Skeptic website's CMDB thread, or in the IT Skeptic's new book The IT Skeptic Looks at CMDB

A podcast of the original post. [Updated: fixed the sound quality].

Months ago I set out to read Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen, Doubleday 2007. I want to review this book but I can't because it makes me so angry I can't finish it. I fling it across the room and leave it for weeks before I try again. So far I've made to page 19. I can't recall when I last read such an irrationally emotive, ill-informed, unbalanced diatribe. I even include here my own writings. What makes it worse is that my own opinions are not that far from the author's - I should be a cheerleader. But he just talks crap

From the blog

How many revisions of the ITIL V3 Foundation syllabus have we had since Passing Your ITIL Foundation Exam was published? It must be pretty badly out of date by now. [Update: TSO's ITIL Foundation Handbook was revised in June 2009 to fully comply with the May updates. But Passing Your ITIL Foundation Exam is still dated November 2007.
Update update: A new version of the book is available: Passing Your ITIL Foundation Exam (updated to 2009 syllabus)

The rest of this post is obsolete now: here for historical record only]

We recently discussed how too many software vendors stretch the facts when claiming ITIL support. Giving them much benefit of the doubt, we thought they might be confused. if so, here is ITIL101 for software vendors to help straighten them out.

I don't normally "plug" products but this one is interesting because it puts a cat amongst the pigeons: Van Haren's Best Practice Online, the five ITIL V3 books online in full for fifty Euros per year. [update: this product has been withdrawn. here's why]

Newsflash for internet writers: The recession isn't over. It hasn't even really got going yet. Stop trying to talk the market back up. It doesn't work for real estate agents and it doesn't work for IT. Get real.

Documents leaked recently to the press revealing plans for an official standard for the certification of ITIL compliance in software products by the British Government agency OGC have seen that agency defending the proposal to a committee of angry vendors today.

As predicted, they're doing it hard at TSO: ITIL Live subscription has been slashed BY over 60%, from £2,500 to £950 (not that's not for life, just for a year). Now it is just insanely expensive rather than hilarious. Given that we were originally promised it for free, I still think they have a damned gall.

And the itSMFUSA are peddling it for them with emails to all members. it is sold via the itSMFUSA shop, so hopefully itSMF thereby get a cut for all the free marketing. Wonder how the corporate sponsors of itSMFUSA feel about it.

We pointed out how silly the price was, compared it unfavourably with the McKinsey Quarterly subscription, and wondered how they hope to get any takers with such an invisible website. Now reality, and the recession, and competition, are finally biting for TSO.

Somebody let me know when they get below a hundred quid OK?

How to lose four years of your life in a few days - a lesson to IT startups. social bookmarking site disappears in a puff of data due to amateur infrastructure. There are some serious questions to ask about this whole amateur cowboy web startup cloud open thing. I've questioned the quality or craftsmanship or durability of what is being built. I've questioned the long-term preservation of it. Now we can also question the expertise of those building it. Think about where your data is and who you are entrusting it to.

I'm thinking to collect awful support conversations. Do people like reading these for amusement? Should we start a collection? Please let me know - comment below. Personally I find it astonishing just how bad support can be - it never fails to amaze me (again)...

It greatly concerns me the huge numbers of people being sent on ITIL Foundation training. Given the cost of ITIL certification, I suggest companies who send staff on theoretical ITIL training - other than the small number actually involved in designing the transformation - are wasting their money. The real target group for that theoretical training are the specialists and consutants. My recommendations are:

The ITSM body of knowledge is fragmenting. ITIL is still the 600-pound gorilla, but it is less lonely, for a number of reasons.

Open Source product groups are occasionally highly politically motivated - frankly some come from a socialist/anarchist viewpoint of wanting to bring down the evil capitalist system. Whilst I realise that capitalism has an image problem right now, open source tools will never prosper in business until they get aboard business.

It's not often you find an ITSM blog that is thoughtful, useful, knowledgeable, suitably skeptical, and NOT written to regurgitate basic ITIL descritpions or to advance the ego of the blogger. (How many of those does the IT Skeptic fail on?). The dev2ops blog has been around for a couple of years, quietly providing value. The fact that it is focused on the trendy new infrastructure like cloud etc should not put you off. Much of it is just as applicable to the overlaps between development and operations in the real world. And it's a good read.

There is a distinction between education and certification. If you want to learn about ITIL you can do that in several ways. If you want a certificate to say you have studied ITIL, is it worth it?

For those who can afford $150 annual subscription this McKinsey article looks useful: How CIOs should think about business value.

(Incidentally you will get at least as much value for your money from a McKinsey premium subscription as you will by paying TWENTY FIVE times that much for ITIL Live. Makes an interesting comparison doesn't it?)

For those who are skint like me McKinsey kindly give a lot away from their teasers: Table 4.7 in Service Transition shows a RACI chart.

Roles (columns) are the five stages of the lifecycle (hum... a stage can be a role? though that roles are owned by humans)

Activities (rows) are *again* lifecycle stages

So you can find easily that the Operations stage is responsible for the Design stage (second row) and that surprisingly, the Continual Improvement stage has... 4 accountables (breaking the sacred law)

The authors wanted to transmit a message here, but used the wrong tool. The figure 4.8 shows an example of CMS structure.
In previous paragraph, it states that

"Figure 4.8 shows how the CMS covers the data and information layers of the knowledge/information/knowledge hierarchy explained in section 4.7, KnowledgeManagement."

But in fact the hierarchy shown is Knowledge/Information/Data

IT serves the Business. But we are all generally agreed that we must stop talking about "IT and the Business". IT is part of the business. The users of IT include IT itself. Talk of IT as a distinct entity ("align IT and the busienss") is a Bad Thing. So what should we call it?

I am trying to drive a word out of my vocabulary: "must".

Just how good are the indexes on the ITIL V3 core books? Well if one random test is anything to go by, not very...

Page 60 of SO shows the problem management process as a flow chart. The decision "Workaround" has one single exit, which is not labeled. It directly points to "Create Known Error Record". There is no prerequisite for a known error to have a workaround (known error means we know the cause!).

Additionally there is an arrow coming up from resolution back to "Investigation & Diagnosis" and "Workaround?" (it could be that it also points to "Create Known Error Record", since the graph is very ambigous).

One of the most authorative blogs on CMDBf has provided a comprehensive explanation of the emerging CMDBf standard, if you speak geek.

Problems suffer from the important/urgent dilemma. They are very important but struggle to get attention in the less mature shops over the incoming bombardment of incidents.

This is over simplistic but cute

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