Is ITIL there to describe what the experts know? Or is it there to guide those setting out on the ITSM journey?

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?

It seems to me it is positioned as the latter but is actually the former: it is sold to people as useful guidance for those wanting to do ITSM, but it is written with many assumptions of prior knowledge. So when the more expert readers of the blog see my questions they say "whats the big deal? that's obvious" - you can see this in some of the comments when I question ITIL basics. See ITIL with the eyes of a newbie and it is NOT obvious at all that problems are created at multiple points in the incident process or that incidents and calls are different things. Patronising the beginners by regarding them as idiots because they can't work that out for themselves - as some comments do - is not the way to grow ITSM.

We take our fundamental knowledge for granted and so did the ITIL authors. If ITIL is written as the opaque and ambiguous sacred text of the ITSM consulting cliques that's fine; if it is written as clear guidance for those learning ITSM it is very bad.

[Updated 23/9/09: I made this comment elsewhere on the blog:

Are we (myself included) missing the point with the ITIL Refresh Refresh?

I've blogged before about how ITIL is the Hitchhiker's Guide,

ITIL is relaxed to the verge of sloppy (e.g. the use of the term "process").

ITIL is boisterous to the point of controvertial (Service Strategy on value networks).

ITIl has many omissions compared to COBIT. ITIL focuses on operations, and mostly ignores development/solutions. ITIL seldom ventures into project management or portfolio management, and it skips a lot of aspects of request management.

..and it says sod all about training or other people activities.

Then I extended the analogy to the Lonely planet guidebooks and said

The fact that the Lonely Planet books are incomplete, out-of-date, opinionated and unreliable is far outweighed by their usefulness and practicality... and dammit! their humanness. Their very fallibility and quirkiness is a great part of their attraction. So it is with ITIL.

So is all this criticism unfair and the Refresh refresh unnecessary? Is ITIL intended to be a friendly fireside chat, a rambling yarn, the lore passed down from the Wise Ones? Do we need to lighten up and let it be shambolic? We've got COBIT for the machine-made, fine-tolerance, clinical version.


Interesting discussion –

Interesting discussion – especially regarding newbie’s and veterans of the IT business. I have always held the opinion that ITIL is an institutionalized framework with certifications available to anyone that pays to write the exams. ITIL education delivery is designed so that the student can pass the exam and get the certification. Experience is not a factor in ITIL certification.

I took the ITIL v.3 foundation course and during a discussion someone asked a question regarding the practical implementation of change management. The instructor was stumped – why? – because he had never setup or even been involved in the change management process at an organization. What does a newbie take away from the foundation course? – nothing but a piece of paper stating he/she is certified. They can speak the words – but they don’t understand them. This is not a criticism of the newbie, and it is not a criticism of ITIL, it is a criticism of the certification process.

ITIL is a wonderful framework -- but that is all it is. Developing ITIL/ITSM processes takes experience of successes and failures.

I sell ITIL

“The instructor was stumped – why? – because he had never setup or even been involved in the change management process at an organization.”

This obviously isn’t universally true, but it sure does hit a cord with me. I see an issue with some consultants that parallel this. They’ve done plenty of implementations, but they leave before the full weight of maintaining an ITSM framework is felt by the organization. These are generally the same folks that consult/teach as if it is possible to be “ITIL-compliant.”

I try to substitute ITSM for ITIL in discussions with clients/employers, but the folks at FrontRange deployed a tool called ITSM that has muddied those waters. I now include MOF is almost any ITIL/ITSM discussion I have. I feel like “speaking MOF” is the best way to convey that there is more to ITSM than ITIL and that these are best practices and not products you buy and install.

ITIL is none of the above

For one part it not the sacred text of the ITSM consulting cliques, since the consulting cliques are not united enough to have a single sacred book.

It is also not the clear guidance for the learning, since it is written by members of the consulting cliques.

It is something in the middle, as anything that is pulled by so many different parties. At the moment the exploitation pull has increased. Vendors, some consulting companies and lets not forget APM are pulling hard to make ITIL the marketing fad they need to sell their wares. The itSMF should have been the representer of the usefullness faction, saying ITIL should be a clear guidance. Since itSMF seems to be conquered, their pull has decreased.

Maybe we should band together and form a new group promoting clear & standardized methods and object of IT service management.

Marc -

clear & standardized ITSM

You're right.

As for a "group promoting clear & standardized methods and object of IT service management" - I'm betting on ISACA and COBIT 5.

Don't forget the standards

There is good and useful stuff being generated in the standards area as well, it just takes a lot longer to come to market

dark horse

yeah ISO20000 guidance is the dark horse in the race. Right now COBIT has form

Coming up on the inside

I believe sales of the standard itself have been very healthy, and the associated training schemes are expanding.
The OGC model contract for IT services now presumes suppliers with be certified, and there are lots of interesting additional guidance in the pipeline that hopefully will make it more attractive to a wider audiences, for instance those who have not yet implemented all the processes or are unlikely to do so.

At the same time it is hasn't fallen into the ITIL, and possibly COBIT, trap of trying to be all things to all people.

On the downside the improvements are very slow to come to market, and it is light on the "how to"

comes up through the middle

I forecast ISO20000 having a run at the front of the pack, possibly for several years, until COBIT 5 finally makes a strong surge and comes up through the middle. If they're smart, they'll make COBIT 5 compliant with ISO20000 to provide the substance behind the sketchy standard. And if they put enough meat on the bones, they'll whup ITIL too.

blinding flash of the obvious

Here's another fundamental point newbies need to know that I can't find in the books: operational tools should be production apps like any other. IT are users too. Seemingly obvious but seldom the case in actual sites.

that would be a valuable addition to Service Operation 7.1

Another way of saying this is that IT provides services to itself: service desk tools, monitoring tools etc should be services in the Catalogue, managed and measured like any other

USEFUL advice

Several responses here and on Twitter said effectively "ITIL shouldnt have to name every team". Once again the dumb users ought to be able to infer it for themselves that ITIL covers their own tools as well as the businesses. Well duh! RTFM dumbcluck - the answers are all in there.

True but if it is a common error (I sure see it a lot) and ITIL is supposed to be USEFUL advice...

I agree that many IT

I agree that many IT departments seem to regard themselves as "above the law" (my provocative way of saying "separate from the rest of the user herd").

But let's not blame ITIL for that. ITIL does not provide a definitive list of all user groups (departments). To anyone who thinks about this for more than a few minutes surely it's easy enough to connect the dots. The implication is clear in ITIL that anyone who uses IT services should be regarded as a user. I guess the key is to ensure that IT resources and services are treated the same way as everything else (put them in the CMDB? ooops!)

Having said all that, I suppose there would have been no harm in finding half a page somewhere in ITIL to make it crystal clear - "Don't put yourself above the law. Remember, you IT folks are users too and what's good for the goose (blah-de-blah-de-blah) ...."

Hey, now you're on to something. I'm all for any tactic that reminds IT folks they're not really special after all!

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