The Skeptical Informer, November 2009, Volume 3, No. 9

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

Is it genetic or is it upbringing that makes some people work because they want to? I'm a follower of the Garfield school of vocational philosophy: "work is so bad they have to pay you to do it". Yet just the other day I was having a coffee with the owner of a local consulting firm, a successful businessman with other equally thriving business ventures. He has no need to work I'm sure, yet he said he will always want to be involved in some kind of work all his life. A few weeks ago our local itSMF chapter had a presentation from Rod Drury, founder of Xero (financial SaaS - check it out at, another great Kiwi export). I've lost track of how many companies Rod has successfully founded and sold (anyone remember AfterMail?). He surely has no financial need to do this any more. I'm finishing up some ITSM work for the New Zealand Police, and I'm starting some for another "feel-good" organisation. I get warm fuzzies just being onsite, knowing I'm helping the coppers in the street. Cops don't work for the money - what they get paid is a disgrace for the value they provide. I did some ITSM work at the public hospital - same thing: you feel good helping out and you know the nurses and even the doctors don't make what they are worth. they do it because they want to. The day I have a million in the bank and a million in property is the day I'll stop work. On current projections I'll be about 130, but hypothetically speaking there might come a day I don't need to work and I won't. I'll travel with my son (my wife only goes where the toilets flush), walk a lot, read a lot, and play trains. I could easily fill every day for decades and not get bored or rot away. I must confess to being a bit bemused by those who do it because they want to. And I'm utterly grateful for those who were born to serve; they devote their lives to improving ours. But whether it was genes or learning, I missed out on it. So if I tell you I'm really enjoying working you know how bad 2009 was workwise in Wellington. It helps that they are feel-good gigs but it is also an enormous relief to accrue some funds again. And accrue I will. This grasshopper has turned ant: I'm stashing it away. With the exception of a couple of weeks on the beach "subsisting on abalone and merlot" I intend to take every scrap of work I can get for the foreseeable future. Why? Because I'm bearish about 2010, even if most of you seemingly aren't. Humans are incurable optimists. We have to be to deal with a nasty brutish planet. So the first signs of "green shoots" and everybody's back in party mode. Virus epidemics come in two waves. There's a first one which seems to go away then it comes back harder than the first time. The USA is in the middle of the second wave of swine flu. New Zealand has had the first wave only, and the second is expected to exceed our country's capacity for hospital intensive care. Yet it is off the news, out of the papers, no longer mentioned. Conveniently forgotten until it roars back some time in 2010 and kicks our economy just when we don't need it. When economies (national or global) fall they don't fall in a tidy continuous slide. They swoop and dip like falling paper, in a series of peaks and ever deeper troughs, in up to seven "false dawns". I'm tracking economic portents and omens on the blog in this thread, because I think it matters to you, readers. In some respects a big recession is like the earthquake Wellington will get one day: most preparation is just pissing in the wind. But when the big shake comes, I think we'll be grateful for every silly little bottle of water and can of food we stashed. Likewise if the economy goes belly up, I think I'll be glad of every dollar I salted away. How do I know the economy is going to fall further? I don't. Nobody does. Alll the experts are just blowing it out an orifice. The world has never been here before. This is all unknown territory, a gigantic social experiment. Just like climate change, it is all based on models which are imperfect conjecture and will never truly be validated or invalidated until it is too late. So I give you 50/50 odds of deeper recession next year. It's a crap shoot. I'm thinking of some aggressive growth strategies for Two Hills Ltd in 2010, to go after those couple of millions. And at the same time I'm making contingency plans for the worst. I hope you have a bet each way too.


Yesterday we looked at how CMM-type maturity is not a measure of how well you are delivering service. CMM only measures sophistication of management, and actually only sophistication of empirical management. The corollary is that maturity assessments are not a measure of whether an improvement exercise was successful, not if the objective was to improve quality of service.

But wait! there's more! Mature management-by-numbers of process is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for improving service.

It is pernicious the way the vendors and analysts talk as if CMDB is a given. In fact it is more than a given, it is “the heart and soul of service management” apparently, according to an email about an itSMF Brighttalk. No it isn’t. 95% of sites don’t have a CMDB. Perhaps that explains why service management is so heartless and soulless. And now it is happening with CMS - which by the way doesn't exist. [Updated January 2010]

Perhaps I missed it but I've never seen this idea described before: all sites should have a register of variances from best/generally-accepted/good practice frameworks such as ITIL.

The malls are pumping out carols-muzak, my social diary is filling, the spring winds are howling through Pukerua Bay, a pile of blank greeting cards stares accusingly at me, my son drops hints about electric guitars. Yup, Christmas is coming. Buy something to support the IT Skeptic.

One of these days the world will replace ITIL, or more likely supersede ITIL, with something better. The IT world is evolving too fast for it not to happen. I’m not thinking here – as most folk do – of the advances in technology. ITIL can manage the Cloud, for example, just as readily as anything else. I’m talking about the advances in the maturity of the IT professions, of our better understanding or organization and process, of the growth of governance and assurance.

Wizard Wisdom

Dear Wizard,

What is this ITIL thing I hear all about?


Hi readers! We are not answering a question today. With encouragement from Aidan Lawes I am making my contribution to the worldwide body of ITIL knowledge by assembling a glossary of some of the ITIL terms most misunderstood.

Dear Wizard

Who created ITIL? I need to know for a web article I'm writing


Dear Wiz

Is ITIL a standard?

Framework researcher


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Classic Skeptic

This article has been podcast in slightly modified form.

Antonio gave us an interesting link in a recent comment. Excuse me folks, but what a load of crap it is.

"A just-enough CMDB should provide a full picture of the following:
All technology components related to the specific service.

From the blog

Today we have a guest post from Peter Gerritsen who has written a letter to the ITIL Qualifications Board proposing some changes to the ITIL V3 qualifications scheme. I told him he has a snowflake's chance in Hell given what they went through to get the scheme to this point (I have plenty of experience of hammering on the doors of Castle ITIL). We are interested in your views:

Explaining the basic CMM 5-level model today I was reminded of a common misunderstanding about maturity: it measures how sophisticated or smart or advanced you are at managing a practice or process; it doesn't measure how well you are doing it.

Today I want to talk about the economy again. I've always loved that line from Bruce Springsteen "Lately there ain't been much work on account of the economy". The lad in the song has no idea what that means "the economy": it is just what they told him when they turned him away and what he heard on the TV.

Being a bit of a luddite, I'm always a few years behind the game with technology, including developments on the internet. So maybe it will take me a year or two to catch on to Google Wave. But even I can see that Google is transforming the world with their innovations while Microsoft seems capable of nothing but crap software, financial bullying and monopolistic practice.

The IT Skeptic notes the resignation of Sharon Taylor as itSMF International chairperson (and a slightly odd announcement of the fact).

As has happened to me before, a new book idea is advancing rapidly and will overtake an existing book project. Please help me name the new book.

Nobody could ever accuse Ken Turbitt of being backward about coming forward. Ken, you may recall, is owner of SMCG and the author of OGC's secret ITIL process software compliance "standard". Yesterday Ken said "Axios, and Service-Now have not been brave enough" to seek certification, which set off a small storm of response.

If there is the slightest shred of governance left in Castle ITIL one would hope they'll be telling Ken to pull his head in, so we reproduce the quote in full here - and some of the responses - before it disappears.

As announced today, the itSMF Board elections have elected three new Board members (they retire only half the members each time so there is continuity):
* David Cannon (USA)
* Peter Cross (Australia)
* Michael Kum (Malaysia)

According to news reports,

Workers at a government call centre were ordered to observe a three-minute time limit when using the toilet and keep diary entries of how long they spent in the bathroom.

The next time you feel even the faintest twinge of believing that Microsoft are on your side, ask them why they would be wanting to patent the concept of CMDB. To advance ITSM? To create a fair and open market? To increase healthy competition? Maybe Goooogle are exhibiting a few signs of evil but Microsoft hold the franchise.

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.

As a skeptic I have to count The Halo Effect as one of the most important business books of all time. Read it. It has a lot to do with the stuff we talk about on this blog.

Anyone who has read my posts on CMDB and those of Troy DuMoulin on that same topic might think we disagree and they'd be right... but only partly. There is a lot we DO agree on over CMDB. Nevertheless I look forward to some brisk debate at the Pink conference in February in Vegas.

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