The Skeptical Informer, January 2011, Volume 5, No. 1

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

Three months since the last edition! Looks like The Skeptical Informer is now quarterly, so we might as well make that official. Life is too hectic to commit to delivering monthly. Consider the SLA revised. Whither ITIL in 2011? We all look forward to the New Improved ITIL 3.1, or if you prefer the ITIL Refresh Refresh. What will it mean? It had better not mean recertification of all the people who have been signing up for ITIL courses in the last few years. It looks like there are now a million ITIListas. I guess much of the world will live with buying a whole new set of ITIL books. I can just imagine the TSO grin at that prospect. Of course it is still ITIL V3 and if the old certifications are still valid then one wonders how many people will consider their old books to still be valid too. The understanding is spreading that ITIL isn't holy writ, so perhaps the ITIL books are a bit less well thumbed than in the past, so the old ones might last a few more years. Mine have plenty of mileage left in them, but as an ITIL curmudgeon I guess it behooves me to buy the new ones. Is a revision enough? ITIL is over the hype curve and plummeting down the other side. The backlash is in full cry, and I find myself in the odd position of defending ITIL. Is the world going to reject it in 2011? I think not. There is way too much substance and momentum. However, late in 2011 something will happen that could turn out to be a pointer to the future. COBIT 5 will be published. The COBITerati are a tiny sect in comparison to the ITIListas, and that won't change overnight or even in 2012. But I continue to say that the world wants one framework to rule them all. They want the easy answers. That's why vendors promise "ITIL out of the box". The industry continues to mature and the scope of what needs to be managed continues to grow, faster than ITIL is growing to match it. Sites don't want to cobble together ITIL and COBIT 4 and Val IT and Risk IT and ISO27002 and ISO38500 and whatever the green standard is and a dozen others... If COBIT 5 synthesises all or most of it in a single reference framework, then it may be the start of the end for ITIL. Or on the other hand it may just spur them on to ITIL V4. Meanwhile there are many dark horses in the race. ISO20000 continues to grow and deepen. CMMI-SVC seems to be going nowhere, hobbled by its impenetrable geekiness. Even releasing it into the public domain doesn't seem to have helped MOF (I guess its clique of users must be the MOFia). So don't expect much to change in the ITIL world in 2011 (at the rate the world changes now, that's a brave statement). I do expect to see the term ITSM to go into decline. It's just IT Management, and "service" is only a language for describing it. So I'm betting on "ITM" in 2011. (So are Pink Elephant with their renamed conference in Las Vegas. I'll be there!) Whither the IT Skeptic in 2011? The Recession haunts us still - the Yanks may yet take us all down and China may not be able to save us. The dollars are smaller and further apart in 2011. Skep is nervous. Chasing better revenues, I keep trying to move beyond ITSM ITM to wider pastures. My next book, due out any week now, is BSM: Basic Service Management, a 50-page primer on the subject for those who work in any service industry. I'm really excited by the concept of service management checklists too, which the BSM website promotes. I'll be seeking out creative ways to leverage my existing body of work. I'm inspired by the genius of Cleverics, the Russian consultancy translating my books. They did all the hard work, they move more of my books in Russian than I can in English, and they pay me a royalty. And their clients love getting some international IP - which happens to appeal to the Russian sense of humour - conveniently translated and prominently wrapped in a Cleverics cover. Clever indeed. The IT Skeptic brand is finally yielding a few benefits after four years: some paid conference speaking gigs (and more welcomed), invitations to contribute to or to write books, and a major NZ bank wants to talk to me about ITSM based on my profile. And I felt pretty good about winning the ComputerWeekly Best IT Consultant/Analyst Blog award for 2010 (thanks to all those who voted). So I'll keep it rolling. Technically, the blog is challenging. I'm battling to find time to complete an upgrade to Drupal 6. These bloody open source hobbyists have no concept of release compatibility: they fiddle with the API in every release. And now my hosting company wants to take my root access away and push me onto cPanel. Maybe I'll go Amazon EC2 in 2011 so Rodrigo will respect me ;-) More books lurk in the wings, waiting for me to develop a work ethic that gets them done in a timely manner. There's He Tangata, all about people in IT and cultural change. And RealIT, a much broader version of Real ITSM. I'd love to write a book about Authenticity, the 21st Century's Lost Cause. I have about a hundred ideas for blog posts waiting to be writ. And I have a few ideas for annoying Castle ITIL, including a hot one which awaits the Drupal 6 upgrade to give it a platform. So stick around for 2011 and enjoy the ride! Thank-you to everyone who has contributed comments and questions and ideas and encouragement in 2010. More of it please. Illustrations in this edition are of trains, because, for me, they are a symbol of optimism.


The itinerant folksinger Rambling Kid Realitsm is like many outspoken protesters: he upholds the long association between radical ideals and dubious personal hygiene, and he has only a vague grasp of actual facts. That said, we reprint here his latest protest song Frameworks they are a Changin' for you to make of it what you will...

Come ITSM people
Wherever you roam

The My Generation generation faces the Me Generation: a world populated by Digital Natives, and the prospect of their digital degeneration.

"CMDB" means many things to many people. When the IT Skeptic debates against "CMDB" or "CMS" what I really mean is "that huge IT Monument to unnecessary technology which is known to the vendors and their sucker buyers as CMDB". Unfortunately the more precise label is a bit ponderous :) The term CMDB which was originally a label for a Generic Thing has become hijacked to be the label for a Great Big Technology.

Every year the IT Skeptic website starts the New Year with our Awards. (You can see past years' awards here). This year we present:

According to figures from the ACM a 10% reduction in both server power and cooling in all datacentres in the USA would amount to a 0.04% change in total US energy consumption. Wow! So reduce power to save money, or to make yourself feel better, but don't tell me it's about reducing footprint. Especially not if you drive a SUV, live in air-conditioned and/or heated comfort, eat meat, fly, or use anything plastic or electronic. Green IT is marketing, pure and simple. Cynical branding such as KyotoCooling just makes me ill. It is in the same league as people who think they do their bit for a better world for their children by sorting the recyclables in their garbage. Or who bang on about reducing paper usage at work while they wear cotton clothing.

There is a quiet revolution going on within the British Government right now. And it might just have handed the ITIL community a Christmas present: an open licence for ITIL.

There is rising anger at the attitudes and tactics of OGC and APMG over ITIL and Prince2. Most people can't speak out because APMG hold them to ransom over their livelihood. But a few do.

ImageThis started as a comment but I made it a post - it is important. I've talked before about how IT Management is 1% innovation and 99% perspiration. Innovation is not our day job. For the small number of IT people who are in charge of conceptualising new services or setting architectural directions, then Cloud is very exciting.

These are strange times. I find myself defending ITIL, and defending myself for doing so.

The IT Skeptic seldom wanders off the topic of ITSM - not often enough I reckon. But those of you who have read Working in IT - all ten of you - know I'm passionate about careers and personal development. I want to share a personal reflection with you.

Wizard Wisdom

Dear Wizard?

I have a CV on my desk from a foreign chappie who claims certifications all the way up to ITIL Expert, from [a training organisation]. I've never heard of them and they are based in [a country ten thousand miles from here]. He also seems to be under the impression that a Service Desk is a piece of furniture. How do I validate his claims?

Many thanks for your help

Dear Mr Wizard

Can you share your thoughts and approach on how you define the tailoring guidelines for a service industry?


Dear Wizard

I know ITIL V2 is being killed off and I hear some of the exams won't be available much longer. When is the end-date for the manager bridge exam?

Thanks, Al

Dear Mr Wizard

I would like to know the reporting person for a role "Change Manager" and working under whom within IT division.



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Classic Skeptic

As the IT Skeptic digs (happily) deeper into COBIT, I ponder the difference between COBIT and ITIL. In my simple layman's mind, ITIL is the hitchhiker's guide, COBIT is the encyclopaedia, rather like the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Encyclopedia Galactica.

From the blog

If you thought ITIL's IP control was tough, try SFIA - or rather, don't try it.
[Update: maybe soon you can. See an important update in the comments below ]

I flushed out some interesting feedback by talking favourably about OGC's IP protection. ITIL depends on volunteers and it is a fragile arrangement. When those volunteers' first direct official contact ever with OGC or TSO or APMG is not a certificate of appreciation but rather a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer, that does not contribute to good will. Nor does it create the impression that we're all in this together, creating a body of knowledge for the public good. (When are you ever going to say thank-you, OGC?)

Chokey the Chimp issues a HIGH Crap Factoid danger alert for the EasyVista claim of "a stunning 271 percent ROI over three years with payback within 12 months ". Stunning indeed.

The ITSM community seems to have some fixation with assessing capability maturity, or worse still process management maturity. These are only indirect predictors for what matters: risk and cost-benefits.

A reader wrote to ask about the line between a change and an admin task. In my usual simplistic way, the answer seems pretty clear.

Why are so many sample Business Service Catalogues so hideously boring? - dull and analytical. They should be written by marketing people: they should be brochures. Bright and colourful, creating a positive impression, selling the benefits.

Do you realise that the moniker "V3" is finally official? For years OGC and TSO refused to label it V3. There is nothing on the front of the ITIL books (or inside them!) to tell you which is V3 or V2 (or V1). It must be hopelessly confusing to anyone new to it. But now that has all changed...

ImageSpeaking of popping bubbles and of being in the clouds, break out the champagne. I've just heard the news that this blog won the popular vote for best "IT consultant and analyst" blog in the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010. I want to extend my many thanks to everyone who voted for this website, and to ComputerWeekly for running the awards. I'm sorry I wasn't there to receive the award in person - 12,000 miles was just a bit far. I'd love to have made it to the party. Congratulations to all the other recipients.

Some IT management axioms I work by:

The CMDB debate seems endless, sisyphean. The analysts promise "Well OK CMDB crashed and burned but CMS is different. Really." The vendors know they're flogging a dead horse and they'd much rather prance about the service catalogue instead, but they have to get their R&D money back so they bang the CMDB drum. Here's my case summarised again (under recent provocation), for those who haven't read it before.

Having always been a bit wary of big corporations in general, and one that starts with “M” in particular, it is an uncomfortable feeling when I realise I’ve sold my soul to Google. Not quite a Faustian bargain perhaps but certainly I’ve committed the execution of my business and private computing to them.
I swore I’d never be beholden to a corporation again, and I’ve devoted some effort to disentangling myself from the Seattle megacorp. I’m not there yet but every year I come a step closer.

The planet is definitely a different shape than when I was young. It is not that it is small, or flat. It is some weird toroid I think, where faraway places come close. More of my books are now sold in Russian than in English. Owning ITIL® is now available translated into Russian by those clever chaps from Cleverics. They are clever in several ways:

I'm happy for Rodrigo Flores (who has probably given up on me at this point) that he has a few strong sales leads over Christmas. But I don't think that constitutes the future arriving "with a bang", an "altered landscape" or proof that Cloud is "happening" in any widespread transformational sense.

If your service catalogue says you provide application "hosting", your IT department is committing organisational suicide. You need to be an Information Service Provider.

I think that CMM is back to front.

It seems to me that ITIL is often very badly done (zealous, anal, officious, misdirected, overblown, dogmatic, theoretical, detached...), and people's bad experience results in them blaming ITIL itself. I've recently seen the effect of ITIL on a neophyte and it was positive and enriching: new awareness, new models to help solve challenges, hope for order in the chaos, a resource to help.

I point the finger at book-carrying door-to-door consultants, hype-merchant analysts generating their own industry, and tub-thumping vendors selling out-of-the-box snake-oil to the credulous (yes they share the blame). Don't shoot the message, shoot the inept messengers. Discuss.

There seems to be a little common sense filtering through with OGC's trademark enforcement. [Update: no there doesn't. Stories coming in of obviously silly threatening letters being sent to owners of products - mostly books - that have ITIL in the name. One of the tales is in the comments below.]

Continuing a series of reforms, APMG has released the ITIL exam statistics for the last three years.

I like to think I'm skeptical not cynical but some days it's tough. This latest initiative from TSO, OpenUp, has got me (and others) plunging into cynicism.

While I'm popping Cloud bubbles, let's talk about another couple: Cloud agility and Cloud as a utility.

[Ooops I used the wrong licensing terms so part of this post has been deleted. Sorry about that, my mistake]

OGC have launched Management of Value™, another framework. It looks from the little information available to be comparable to ISACA's Val IT.

The Cloud is not sweeping away ITIL or IT Service Management. Every over-hyped fad claims the rules are different now and we don't have to worry about some basic fundamental that has always plagued us in the past. And every time it turns out to be crap. The rules are the same and have been ever since the Europeans over-traded tulips, probably much longer. Business needs management. Without management control, risk kills it. ITSM is the framework for management of IT. It articulates what we do for the customer. ITSM is basic IT, wherever it is running. Cloud may play on different instruments but the tune is the same. The detail of what we control changes. Even the way we control changes. but we still need the controls. So this beating up on ITIL isn't about Cloud really. It is about techs frustrated because they are not allowed to do what they like without supervision.

Apparently Facebook are launching an email service. The chattering reached such a pitch even a Luddite like me heard it. So I asked the IT Swami to predict what this will lead to.

Reading an official OGC webpage today, it seems to me to imply that products certified by OGC before a certain time were assessed to a laxer set of criteria than more recent certifications. What do you infer when you read the following?

There is an interesting thread on LinkedIn about itSMFUSA's offering of free Foundation training for new members. Readers are invited to comment on whether this is a good or bad thing. The IT Skeptic is not sure - certainly it stands up to scrutiny better than past arrangements at ISACA as I understand them.

The white smoke has gone up and the new Executive Board is appointed at itSMF International. The fascinating aspects are new blood and a true international flavour.

ITIL defines Configuration Management as the delivery of information but then spends most of its pages describing Configuration Management as the maintenance of a static repository of data, not an active process of serving that data to others. Let's get it clear: Configuration Management is a process not a thing

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