ITIL snake oil

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Once upon a time IT Service Management was a movement dedicated to improving the levels of service delivered by IT. And ITIL was a body of knowledge put together by the government as a public service and released into the public domain. The books weren't free simply because costs had to be covered.

Now it is turning into just another snake oil peddled by shiny suits.

This rosy view of the past conveniently overlooks the fact, or at least allegation, that the original driver for ITIL was to facilitate the outsourcing of British government computing to private enterprise.

Nevertheless the intent of ITIL V1 and even V2 is clear. Quoting from the earlier editions of V2 before it was quietly expunged by an unseen hand:

1.1.1 Public domain framework
From the beginning, ITIL has been publicly available. This means that any organisation can use the framework described by OGC in its numerous books. Because of this, the IT Infrastructure Library guidance has been used by such a disparate range of organisations, local and central government, energy, public utilities, retail, finance, and manufacturing. Very large organisations, very small organisations and everything in between have implemented ITIL processes.

Then the government was reportedly forced by EC regulation to outsource to private enterprise. The Government printer, TSO, got sold off. And OGC handed the keys to APMG.

The ITIL Imp asks:

There is no way that I will be paying £2500 per year for content as an individual person. Who came up with that pricing model?

I'll tell you who. Someone who is charging the maximum the market will bear in order to maximise profits to a private enterprise, that's who. Somebody who doesn't give a flying fox about improving IT. Someone who might as well be selling office furniture as intellectual property. Somebody who exploits to the hilt a monopolistic hold on copyright and a dominant brand.

I want to get rich too. But I hope I won't do it by screwing people. [I'm beginning to think that's not possible, but that is another discussion]. In fact the reason I'm not being terribly successful at it is partly because I'm a crappy businessman but also because I'd rather like to make the world a better place in the process. By eliminating porn and spam from my product options I've severely limited my internet possibiltiies.

But how much do you think the product managers and marketing people at TSO care or even know about improving IT professionalism or integrating IT with the business? ["aligning" is so last year] They've all shed their cardigans and they're paid on quarterly profit targets now.

It already happened to certification and training and now it is happening to content.

The original ideals of ITIL have been lost, along with its down-home feel. It may be that ITIL can survive and continue to prosper. After all no-one thinks Microsoft make Windows or Office in order to improve desktop productivity. And the product is in fact real - the snake oil is actually good for what ails you. Or it may be that people will get sick of being screwed. It is like being sold medicine by salesmen instead of doctors; fat men in ornate suits on the back of wagons flogging potions for exorbitant prices because they can. Snake oil salesmen don't give a toss whether the product actually works. They couldn't care less for the welfare of their customers. They aren't out to improve the health of the community - they are out to make as much money as they can as fast as they can.

It is also like buying operating systems that cost ten times too much because of almost-monopolistic market dominance. Castle ITIL should look at the rise of Linux and Mozilla and Google Apps and think twice before they bleed us.

But they won't. They'll milk this for all it is worth then move on; to governance, risk, business integration, information engineering, cloud/grid, whatever comes next.

I feel for those who really want to improve things - and there are lots of you, including in the higher echelons of Castle ITIL. It must be distasteful and frustrating for you too to see the money engine taking over. I predicted it a while ago: the gorilla is choking the pig. Or perhaps more precisely, many monkeys are choking many pigs. There isn't one big commercial entity at work here: there are a number of them all going for their slice of the action.

Those of you whose boss is paying will be less affected - it is someone else's money - but for those of us out in the cold on our own resources, this is going to get worse. The response is simple: I have no intention of getting ITIL V3 certifications and I use COBIT content more than I do ITIL now. I don't think I am alone and I don't expect to get lonely.

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