The IT Skeptic looks at ITIL Lite

The IT Skeptic was pretty scathing of Malcolm Fry's first ITIL V3 Complementary Publication, Building an ITIL-Based Service Management Department. Personally I wouldn't buy it (again). Malcolm's second "official" V3 book ITIL Lite is different. It is worth buying just for Chapter 2: "a simple but effective approach to ITIL process engineering". I got several great ideas from it and the overall methodology is a good one. But ITIL Lite has several fundamental assumptions that many will disagree with. These assumptions will mislead an already confused user community, and I think they spoil the rest of the book.

Note that ITIL Lite is plastered with the ITIL swirl logo, "OGC Portfolio Product", "OGC Official Product" and "A product from the official publisher of ITIL", all on the front cover alone! I think it doth protesteth too much. The reason it has the word "official" on the cover three times is because it isn't. A glance inside shows that it is copyright TSO, not the Crown. This is precisely the bullshit that was so rightly criticised in the recent complaint ruling by the OPSI as misuse of the word "official". If OGC ever fire TSO from their contract, guess who gets to keep this book.

Anyway back to the book itself.

The first and most fundamental assumption that I believe is profoundly wrong is one the whole book is based upon: that ITIL V3 is "implemented" - it is even part of the subtitle of the book. Sure it gives lip-service to CSI at the end, but the whole book is structured as a waterfall build of ITIL, just as if it were a software application.

The second invalid assumption is also a biggie: that ideally you would "implement" all of ITIL V3, and that ITIL Lite is a compromise approach from that ideal, where one almost apologetically "filters" (Malcolm's word) out parts of it to get something simpler. [Update: to be fair to Malcolm, ITIL V3 itself seems to have the same mindset: that ITIL is a monolithic shift in IT process, done because you do. He's only sailing with the mothership.]

The third bad assumption is also a cracker - in fact on reflection maybe it is the worst of them all. That is that you do ITIL for its own sake, that you "adopt" ITIL as you adopt a religion or a dress code. Business reasons for improving service management process are not touched on at all. The book starts with a whole chapter about "Why ITIL Lite?", but how about "Why ITIL?". Another chapter talks about filtering out the bits of ITIL V3 you don't want. Not one single criterion looks external to IT, at what the business drivers may be. It is all geeky inward-looking analysis. The next chapter on templates has a promising term "reasons" but again these are all internal to IT. That chapter is all about selecting groups of ITIL processes, called templates, driven by NOTHING to do with a business outcome.

You don't "do" or "adopt" or "implement" ITIL. You set out to achieve a business outcome, whether it be improved customer satisfaction; reduced risk of mis-handling a major incident (usually because you just did); bolstering support before release of a major new system; meeting reduced budget targets; cutting staff; reorganising to staff a big project; improving service levels; introducing cost-allocation etc etc.

At some point in that journey of improvement you introduce elements selected from ITIL to assist in increasing maturity of the relevant processes, as determined by the plan to meet the specified business outcome. Those bits of ITIL will form one part of a much larger project, or not, depending on ITIL's usefulness for that outcome.

[Updated 6/1/14:
Which leads me to the fourth assumption in this book which I take issue with: an ITIL process as a unit of work. You don't decide whether or not to "do incident Management". You decide which bits of Incident Management and assorted other processes need improving in order to meet the objective of your current improvement exercise.

This is how the world works when we professionally spend our employer's money in order to maximise value to the owners of that money, and it runs contrary to all four of those assumptions.

So buy this book, read the excellent Chapter 2, and ignore the rest as the kind of old-school monolithic IT-self-centredness that ITSM is supposed to cure.


Parallel Worlds

Whilst I agree with your view, the reality is Malcolm has captured a view that will resonate with a lot of readers.

People do think you implement ITIL, and they do forget that there needs to be a business imperative. I'm less certain that people think you have to implement all of v3, but I do think people have become obsessed with v3 at the cost of not understanding their own contingent needs.

So I think people will pick up the book and think "This is useful to me" event hough it doesn't challenge their thinking. Those whose thinking has moved on to realise the flaws you've highlighted possibly don't need the help of a book like this

James Finister

OGC? Oh dear.

It's a widely held view but that doesn't make it right. How does an "official" ITIL book get to push such a position? Who the hell edits these Complementary Publications before they slap "Official" all over them? There is no Chief Architect any more - as far as I know. Where does the ITIL vision reside? Who tends the flame? OGC? Oh dear.

And just who's in charge here? How does a commercial book copyrighted by a for-profit firm that just happens to be contracted to OGC right now get "Official" slapped all over it and an identical look-and-feel to the ITIL core books? What's that all about? Who approved that? ITIL is a ship with four rudders. Who's steering them? OGC? Oh dear.

People scoffed when I forecast possible doom for ITIL but this nonsense just brings it closer.

Just sayin...

Not disagreeing with any of those points, or those in your original post. Just pointing out that others see the world differently, and they make up a large proportion of the marketplace for books like this. So perhaps there is merit in it.

Of course that doesn't mean I will moderate my personal views ;-)

James Finister

Pandering to the misconceptions

Pandering to the misconceptions of the market does not constitute "merit". That way lies aromatherapy and homeopathy. That's fine for those sufficiently devoid of scientific knowledge or ethical fibre to exploit the ignorance of the masses for financial gain (I'm talking about peddlers of homeopathic remedies here, not Malcolm. I hear he is a fine chap. Talk of "implementing" ITIL is just one step down a very long slope.).

it is NOT fine for official ITIL books.



I think james has hit the nail on the head. Unless you can lay out the reasons (in an easy to understand format) on why people should do something they will continue to do what they believe is right (typically based on what they read or hear).

The key to being a successful skeptic is to not only point out the flaws in something but to bring forward a set of solutions to correct those flaws in a positive way.

not aligned

I think there is enough positive IP in this blog and my books that I can say I've done my share (or more) to try to alter popular misconceptions about ITSM.

I'd almost suspect you are implying that only those who have written a large body of work are allowed to make negative comments about other works, but I'm sure you aren't because that would be nonsense.

You may also be missing my point. This book is clearly not aligned to current thinking on ITIL and ITSM. It is not even aligned to what ITIL V3 was supposed to be saying, since V3 was supposed to be about alignment with the business and customer-centric thinking, not IT navel gazing. Anyone can write a populist book that delivers on what part of the market mistakenly demands. Good idea. But OGC shouldn't, not with the "official ITIL" stamp all over it. [A different question is whether OGC is actually in any way responsible for this book or had any part in its existence]

I will be greatly surprised and not a little disappointed if even one single leading thinker in the ITIL world thinks that

  • ITIL is an implementation project structured around ITIL
  • The best case, the ideal, is to implement V3 in its entirety
  • The reasons why we pick and choose bits of ITIL are solely (or even mostly) about theoretical and technical considerations driven from within IT

Plato's Cave

Leaving aside your massive presumptions about leading thinkers in the ITIL world - which presumably includes Malcolm - the point is surely that this isn't a book aimed at leading thinkers.

Surely it is more pragmatic to recognise where many people are in their thinking around ITIL and move them forward, than to write a book that is a solution to a problem they don't recognise as a reality?

OK, you knew I couldn't leave that coment about leading thinkers withouty making further comment. Actually I believe there is an awful lot if unrealiazed benefit to be had if organizations applied more of ITIL than is the norm. The subset of ITIL that most people "implement" largely focuses on removing the pain points, grabbing the low hanging fruit, and staying within their comfort zone. I don't agree that doing all of ITIL should be a day 1 target, but I do think we need to question impact of leaving out elements of ITIL - except the theoretical ones, obviously.

James Finister


if we have an outcome to be achieved, and we design processes using ITIL, we will implement all the interdependent pieces as aprt of the design... to a point. there comes a pragmatic limit where we leave "dangling wires and bare reinforcing rods" because we don't have enough money to do all of the stuff that ITIL theory dictates. And when does the money run out? When we have reached the approved investment based on the expected benefits of the business case for the outcome we are pursuing. Doing more ITIL than that because the book says so is called wasting money.

For example I had a client who wanted to re-engage with the business, to fix a relationship that was broken. They set up an account management function and they needed a service catalogue as an artifact with which to engage the customers. But there was no portfolio management, and no service strategy, nor service design. Nor was there configuration management. Even the change management was of low maturity. From what you say we should have spent a seven-figure sum on following the chain of missing processes until we had built a theoretically complete set. This was government. We spent a five-figure sum and built a catalogue. Sure the process diagrams had a big black hole saying "one day service portfolio, design and strategy will be here" and another saying "one day configuration management will be here", and so on for SLM, SL reporting, requests etc etc In the meantime we had a healing conversation with the customers about services and we built a useful tool for focusing attention on services.

As another example I have two clients right now who need to get some proper process management urgently. They're both bleeding. Both government. No money slopping around for a cover-to-cover implementation of Service Operation. We'll do reactive Problem Management and some connected bits of Incident and Change, and we'll reap the rewards and one day they'll grow from there.

Start from the business need, the pain. Spend as much as you can justify based on the benefits of addressing the need. Do as much as you can with the available money. Craft a solution from available tools, only one of which is ITIL. What can be more pragmatic than that? Perpetuating the myth that you "do" ITIL is a disservice to the public and only generates more of the mounting number of dissatisfied sites where ITIL's name is Mudd.

Implement is a four letter word in this case

I couldn't agree more with Skep on this one. No question the quality guidance in Malcolm's book is probably huge and pragmatic and will be accepted by the community at large with open arms and help alot of organizations. That's not the issue here. What is the issue is that Castle ITIL has chosen to publish an official book that posits you Implement the framework of best practices. This flies directly in the face of how we need to approach the best practices and in looking back over my last 10 years of using it, this misconception (along with BMC, HP and others saying just buy their tool) in how to approach ITIL is the primary item that has stunted it's overall acceptance and use in the marketplace and has limited the overall value it could be providing. A huge percentage of the people for the last two decades have completely used the guidance in the wrong way and with the wrong assumptions for how it is supposed to be used, and as a result have failed to garner the benefits that are right there to be had.

This publishing with the use of a single word "Implement" is potentially a huge step backwards that simply continues the last twenty years of misuse and shows the incompetence in strategy and vision and intentionality at the leadership level of what should be a very highly valuable and effective framework. For every company that buys the book and finds good useful info in it, there will be another five that simply see the title and roll their eyes saying "yep, good luck, we tried implementing it all and it doesn't work...".

Word choice is everything, especially when you stamp "official" on it.

Implement is but do isnt't

First of all I'm with Rob on two counts.

I don't believe in the monolithic multi million pound ITIL project, and I don't like the use of "official" to describe something that isn't a canonical part of ITIl.

However, let us first remember that doing all of ITIL doesn't have to involve a multi million pound project, and secondly that a lot of people bear the responsibility for the guidance being used in the wrong with the wrong assumptions, not just the framework leadership.

James Finister

leadership is supposed to lead

Completely agree that" a lot of people bear the responsibility for the guidance being used in the wrong with the wrong assumptions, not just the framework leadership". that's why leadership is supposed to lead.

before I'm accused of contradicting myself (though that happens often enough) let me say that doesn't mean leading us into untested blue-sky conjecture (a la CMS), it means leading the misinformed masses towards the ideal agreed as tested best by "the experienced expert community"

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