The Skeptical Informer, October 2009, Volume 3, No. 8

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

We live in an ever accelerating world, where the rate of change itself is changing, differential of differential. For a bloke who has just turned 50 it is all a bit alarming. Recently I wrote a nostalgic note elsewhere about the early 1970s, helping my Dad operate an IBM 360/40 when all his staff went on strike. Some of the points of interest in this to us today are: 1) it was so physical a task operating that machine that two 12- or 13-year-old boys could be of assistance 2) those boys (my friend and I) had never touched a computer before in our lives 3) for us it was like a contemporary boy being asked to help fire a rocket. Most of our peers would not touch a computer for another decade 4) there is little chance of allowing two schoolkids through the security to a modern server room to help run the place, and a manager who did it would risk being fired 5) the operators were in a union There has to be a limit somewhere - no graph of reality is linear - but Moore's Law thunders on unchecked. My son's MP3 player, my model locomotives and my desk phone each have more processing power than that room full of machinery back in 1972. Less talked about but just as revolutionary is the increase in bandwidth and mobility. Every kid walks around staring at a phone instead of seeing the world. Trainers and presenters are expected to impart learning to an audience who have their noses buried in laptops and Blackberries. And now presenters are supposed to be listening and responding to the Twitter "back channel" while they speak. (I thought "back channel" was a euphemism for something else). Men are accused of only being able to do one thing at a time. In the modern age I wish they would. Something has to give and what gives is the value and quality of the communication. You can post any old crap on the internet now knowing that nobody will fact check, few will think critically, or follow your reasoning to its logical conclusions. So long as the superficial message is attractive on any level to the audience, it will get traffic, links, referrals, and isn't that what communication is all about in the 21st Century? I even had to post huge disclaimers all over the ITIL Wizard because readers were taking it seriously. I bet you're not reading this, I mean really reading it. The percentage of you who have even got this far without tuning out are speed-reading, getting through one of fifty or a hundred emails today that you bothered to scan. None of you have stopped at any point in the read to ponder what I am saying, to roll it around like a mouthful of wine and savour it to see if it is real quality or just a supermarket quaffing red. The sheer quantity of information and opinion pouring over my desk every day is staggering. I can't read it all, let alone consider it all, or more to the point remember it all. It just pours by like a river. We must be at a point now where we miss so much more than we pick up that the inefficiencies will slow the progress down. We are spiralling off into such an air-headed superficiality of twittered soundbites that one wonders if any real new solid valuable knowledge is formed at all. ITIL V3 cranked out five books in a year. They pumped them out so fast that they left out some of the V2 stuff (error control, proactive problem management...) and dozens of reviewers missed basic typos. Three years down the track it is being revised. How long before the next revision? By the time ITIL talks about the cloud we'll be on to "outer space computing". There are over 60 IT frameworks. Who knows them all well enough to choose the best ones for a situation? Inherently everything we do in IT processes is sub-optimal: we use the frameworks we happen to know, which are always a few steps behind and almost certainly don't include all the best knowledge available. Recently I read a classic example: a fantastic paper from the 1990s that I think should reshape the way we think about change, stability, availability and root cause analysis and yet ten years later it doesn't have the slightest influence on ITIL. And another gaping gap a few days earlier: I did a presentation to the local chapter of ISACA on "Governing ITIL". So I did what I always do to learn anything these days: I fired up Google. Zip. Zilch. Then in sheer desperation I resorted to reading the ITIL books. There is five eighths of sweet flock-all written anywhere about how to interface an IT operations framework with an IT governance framework, what the interlocks are. At what points does the policy go in? Which procedures have policy, strategy or plans as an input? Where do we check we are still tracking to them? Where do we produce the metrics and reports to reassure the governors? What mechanisms allow us to be evaluated by governors? Never mind the conceptual 38500 and Val IT stuff - how does this work? As far as I can tell nobody has thought about this much. We are operating in such a whirling fog of information that even as the technology gallops ahead the human knowledge is slipping behind. As a profession, heck as a civilisation, we can't keep up. Balls are being dropped, gaps are being left, and quality has gone to the dogs. This is not sustainable. It does leave lots of spaces for me to poke books into. If I ever get time next year I'll write one about Governing ITIL, to follow on from Owning ITIL. I have plans to revise that book too, since things are changing so fast, not least of all my ideas on the subject. However it seems folk like Owning ITIL very much the way it is. The BCS, the Society Formerly Known as the British Computer Society, reviewed Owning ITIL and said "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." Also in the works is a book on Simple Service, an attempt to apply the Kiwi cut-the-crap mindset to ITIL, which may or may not work. Watch this space. But you won't, you're too busy. By the time the book comes out, if it does, its release might vaguely remind you of this newsletter, but you most certainly won't ever notice if it doesn't see the light of day. It will be 2010 by then and you'll be coping with the world having changed again. The changes might not be pretty either. I'll finish with a quote from a US government economist. I snatched it from an old newsreel on a documentary so I didn't get his name: "Every indication is that the economy has turned the corner...1931 will provide the greatest opportunities of a generation"


Along the way, I've somehow never got around to discussing a very important paper: Aligning COBIT® 4.1, ITIL® V3 and ISO/IEC 27002 for Business Benefit. This is one of the official OGC Alignment White Paper Series that do the alignment between ITIL V3 and the other frameworks, that ITIL V3 should have done in the first place.

It is not often you read something that completely changes the way you look at IT. This paper How Complex Systems Fail rocked me. Reading this made me completely rethink ITSM, especially Root Cause Analysis, Major Incident Reviews, and Change Management.

The more I think about it the more convinced I become that the way ITIL and COBIT and ISO20000 structure incident and request fails the basic test of being customer-focused or business-aligned.

Once again the comment discussion on this blog has dug down to a very fundamental question: Is ITIL there to describe what the experts know? Or is it there to guide those setting out on the ITSM journey?

Being a simple soul with only a limited grasp of ITIL, sometimes I'm sure I've missed something obvious. Like when I went looking in the Service Strategy book to find where the overall business plan or organisational strategy informs the service strategy. If IT is your business, if you are an IT service provider company, then I can see SS working. But for an internal service provider, for an IT department, SS reads as if service strategy is developed in isolation from the rest of the organisation, as if we treat the rest of the organisation as a remote customer of services instead of as the same team, from whom we take direction. At what point in SS do we ask the Board? At what point does the corporate executive inject policy? Where do we align with the business strategy? Or did I miss something?

A hundred users call up and say they can't get emails. One incident or 100?

Fundamental and simple question. Go check ITIL for the answer. I'll wait.

Service management is IT. It is a way of describing how to do IT - all of it. When it comes to the scope of service management in general and ITIL in particular, the IT Skeptic has had a change of mind. In the past I accused ITIL V3 of having aspirations beyond its station, of trying to take on areas where it has no business going, such as strategy, applications and security. I don't think so any more: now I just think ITIL did it half-heartedly, too anaemically to be taken seriously by areas of IT outside of IT Operations. But Service Management definitely should go there.

Wizard Wisdom

Hi Wiz

I hear all about the combination of Lean and ITIL. Every day I read something telling me how essential it is I combine the two. But I don't seem to be able to find a case study of it actually having been tried. Can you point me to any please?

Skinny Evidence

Dear Wizard

Where can I buy ITIL for my company?

Northern CIO


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Recent podcasts

Over on the Pink Elephant conference blog, I talked to Pink Elephant’s AVP Product Strategy, Troy DuMoulin, who blogs regularly and – I think – with lots of insight. We don’t always agree (see my recent post) but anyone who themes his blog around the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has got to be worth reading, and the content rewards the effort.

One of Troy’s sessions at the Conference next year will be 5 Tips For Developing An ITSM Strategic Road Map. Here is a podcast of the two of us discussing these strategic tips. Go to the blog to see some additional discussions between us on this topic.

Classic Skeptic

This article has been podcast

In my country, the broadcast industry and the advertising industry both adhere to a voluntary code of practice to police the more extreme behaviours of their members. I wish the software vendor industry and their parasitic analysts would do the same.

From the blog

According to a recent Computerworld article, the mysterious Julie Linden who stalked the pages of this blog a couple of years ago was none other than the executive director of the itSMFUSA, Jim Prunty. That pisses me off.

Which one of these is the IT Skeptic?

The recently announced prISM "professional recognition for it Service Management" is great in theory but I fear it is flawed in execution.

Just when I asked whether there was any change to ITIL V3 books, out comes Project requirements for an update to the ITIL® core publications. OGC say "scope of change is gradual and not too extensive." We've heard that before.

A recent blog post by Aidan Lawes deserves response. Actually all Aidan's posts deserve response, unlike some blogs that deserve just to be ignored. I'm responding to this one in particular though because Aidan says "I have less time for those who demonise [ITIL] for shortcomings that are more to do with their view of what it should embrace" and I'm egotistical enough to think I'm one of "those" he has in mind with that comment.

Page 143 mentions the five elements within the framework are as follows:

However the book actually mentions 6:

1. Control

2. Plan

3. Implement

4. Evaluation (should be evaluate – see figure 4.26)

5. Maintain

6. Security governance

This would make the ISMS (figure 4.26) either incomplete or wrong

All you budding ITIL authors, now is your chance.

ITIL V3, PRINCE2:2009 (The-Framework-Previously-Known-As-Prince2), ITIL V3 New Edition... and now M-o-R:2010 and MSP:2010. Yes, OGC are calling for authors for Management of Risk 2010 edition and Managing Successful Programmes 2010 edition. Go on! How hard can it be? But you better hurry...

* One
* A hundred
* Anywhere between one and a hundred
* Beats me

Shades of the "People's Liberation Front of Judea"! Everyone has the official pocket-book.

Once you get past all the theory, implementing ITIL V3 is actually very simple. Just follow these 5 steps

Back in February I said (in response to that truly stupid book Cult of the Amateur) "the average blog will have about four readers". It is coming true.

I've issued plenty of warnings about the recession, about how it may well be gathering momentum rather than all over. And I am still very cautious. But perhaps I've been too cautious. In fact maybe this recession has got me into a funk. I've found myself saying no to much interesting stuff. The main reason for adopting this lifestyle was life's fickle nature: I need to get back to a bit more carpe diem - sieze the day.

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