ITIL the fad

One of the big dangers ITIL faces is being taken for a fad due to the wild enthusiasms it is generating. OK the word “wild” hardly applies to service management professionals but you know what I mean. Hopefully forums like this one can restore some decorum.

Those in the know are aware that it has been around for a couple of decades, which is seldom true of fads. But for most Americans (which is a third of the world, economically speaking), in fact for most non-Europeans (there’s another third), it appears to have burst onto the scene recently.

Really, it has burst onto the scene recently. It has gone from an esoteric idea used by back-room geeks in the helpdesk in eccentric countries like the UK and Holland, to centre-stage in the thinking and conversations of CIOs worldwide. Of course this has been driven by the attention being paid Service Management, which we concluded in an earlier blog is a Real Thing. So ITIL must be real too, right?

It is hard to persuade some of the old hands of that. What do you think when you see this sequence? “Relational database, corporate data model, repository, directory, CMDB”. I hear that old refrain “once we get everything in one place…” I’ll discuss CMDB in detail another day, but you see how the CMDB story could raise the hackles of a few people who have been burned in the past, mounting huge expeditions to seek an unobtainable grail.

Wikipedia has a fad as “a fashion that becomes popular in a culture (or subcultures) relatively quickly, remains popular, often for a rather brief period, then loses popularity dramatically.” A fad can be based on solid foundations: it is people’s response to it that makes it a fad.

Certainly it is fair to say that after a decade of very quiet growth, ITIL’s acceptance by the mainstream has been a curve that rose very sharply. We are somewhere around the peak right now. If and how we descend again will characterise ITIL as a fad or not.

Referring back to the Gartner Hype Cycle mentioned in the original blog entry, the curve is much shorter and steeper (up and down) in a fad. I would also add that fads often come back again after an interval. Those of you with knowledge of systems theory will recognise this as an unstable or at least under-damped system. It oscillates to eventual stability or it slams wildly against whatever boundary conditions it has (until perhaps it self-destructs). This blog is trying to be a feedback damper to get us to the former result instead of the latter.

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