The king's method of writing a new decree: how OGC does ITIL V3

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This recent comment on this blog "the OGC could have done a better job of communicating during the process" comes from someone - if it is who I'm pretty sure it is - who is well placed in the ITIL "elite". That is my #1 point in all my ITIL V3 postings.

All this British public service "you'll know when we decide it is time to tell you" stuff is not how new versions of all standards/frameworks are developed, and I don't think it is best practice. The British civil service has always had a terror of open debate. [You could say that is explained by the vigorous, nay: fanatical, way the British debate things. I'd say it has bred that approach]. It is the castle as opposed to the commons.

I was in sales long enough to know that perception will substitute nicely for reality, but OGC (and their lieutenant the itSMF) don't even pretend to an inclusive approach. To follow the metaphor, the OGC model of consultation is:

The king's method of writing a new decree

First send the chancellor out round the villages once to get opinions from whoever is there at the time. Go through the results back at the castle and form an opinion of what they meant.

From there on "consultation" is with the knights feasting at the royal table, who hopefully talk to commoners occasionally and can represent their views.

Send the town cryer out twice a year to tell them what colour the paper is, who is writing, and how long the scroll is so far. When the clamour gets really loud, tell them what the headings are.

Then when the work is almost finished, herd a couple hundred more into the castle courtyard, read them the scrolls, ask them what they think (as if there was time to make any big changes), then threaten to put their head on a pike if they tell anyone what they have heard.

Ignore the wailing in the villages. Ignore the rogue knights roaming the land exploiting the old laws before the new decree comes out. The solstice is the time for decrees and the decree can wait for the solstice.

It is not exactly a parliamentary approach is it? let alone an Icelandic Allthing, or an autonomous people's collective.

The IT Skeptic is not a rabid socialist (to put it mildly) but I don't like hammering on cold stone walls either.

[Updated: 2.5 years later, nothing has changed. The ITIL V3 Update, the Refresh-refresh, is as secretive and closed as ever]


"Why I bloody hate formal methodologies"

Actually that is just a mashup blog - ignore that link. The real "debate" is ComputerworldUK vs Techworld.

I will look closer at these when life settles down a bit. Right now there is the V3 Launch and the itSMFUSA scandal to deal with.

if like me you cannot read half the Techweek article because they seem to assume the 85% of their readers who use IE won't want to, there's the missing text

And as for "PRINCE2 can be tailored to the needs of projects": that's basically screaming at me: "PRINCE2 probably won't have everything you need, so if it doesn't quite fit, make stuff up".
The third strand to my negative viewpoint is the sheer commercial exploitation of the poor bastards who have to jump on the bandwagon in order to earn a crust. If you're in search of a job and 50 percent of the ads say you have to know ITIL, PRINCE2 or whatever in order to get an interview, there's often no alternative but to open your wallet and pay for the books, the CBT CDs or the training courses (possibly with an unaccredited muppet in ITIL's case) and get the qualification. But hang on a minute: ITIL and PRINCE2 are both government-owned concepts: they come under the auspices of the Office of Government Commerce. Why, then, is there such a hefty price tag on materials that are simply printed versions of concepts that you, I and the rest of the taxpayers of this country have already paid to develop? For instance, the 460-page large-print PRINCE2 handbook is priced at £52.00 (and that's Amazon's discounted price); this is, as far as I can see, the most expensive book on my office bookshelf - and it's less than half the thickness of the largest on the shelf. So a government-owned concept is licensed to a commercial entity (remember, even HMSO got privatised) and made available at hefty prices to people whose main benefit from spending all that money will be so they can tick a box on an application form and perhaps never actually have to use the qualification in anger.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that ITIL and PRINCE2 are alone in being used as irrelevant bollocks by employers who ought to know better. For instance, I've seen jobs that list IT degrees as a requirement, yet I've known people who've never been near a lecture theatre who could have done the jobs standing on their heads. And on the other side of the coin I'm sure there are jobs out there that list B.Sc. Media Studies as a necessary qualification: a paradox if ever I saw one.
What pisses me off, though, is that I've seen for myself that common sense and sheer, unadulterated ability are often far more useful than a formal qualification in writing vast rafts of buzzword-laden documents. Yet I know that the poor sods who would rather just get on with the job than sit studying weird terminology they'll never use (because it's peculiar to their PRINCE2/ITIL dialect) will miss out on the jobs. Just as importantly, the employers will miss out on the good candidates.
For sure, you need to go about doing stuff properly and in an organised fashion. And you certainly need to write stuff down, and have a process for checking on progress and reacting to problems (and, of course, to changes in the spec). But what the world keeps failing to spot is that in a vast number of cases you can discard formal methodologies and instead use a couple of traditional tools: a list and a brain.
Posted by: David Cartwright

Good Round Table Discussion

I love your medieval analogy. Very entertaining observations.
We have to remember that ITIL is a Set of Best Practices, and this activity is a Refresh.
People act like it is gospel. It is not. People want to learn about it. That’s fine. They share some ideas. That’s fine. They sometimes even put some concepts into practice. That’s all fine and dandy too.
However, that is really as far as it can go. I believe that is how it was designed.
Companies cannot implement ITIL. ~Even though, everyone seems to use that terminology.
The reason that ITIL is good for the masses is that it allows for a common lexicon and provides a foundation that companies can improve upon and determine strategies around, without much rigor or investment. It has also drawn attention to the growth of a sector and added focus to a profession, ITSM, where it is now being recognized at universities.
If people and companies really want to sink their teeth into something look at, ISO, COBIT, etc… These standards have certifications that really mean something.


People want leaders. they want to to shown and told the way. every cult depends on it. (Let's not debate relegion here)

So you are quite right: poeple take a simplistic approach to "doing" ITIL.

Given that ITIL consultants cost even more than my plumber - something I thought I would never see - it is no wonder that people are a bit stingey on getting the expertise they need to adopt and adapt, so they tend to go for "out-of-the-packet": not quite out-of-the-box, they know they have to do some work, but they think it is just add water and stir.

Totally agree that the #1 reason and benefit of ITIL is common language and approach, for staff, users/customers, managers, new employees, consultants and auditors.

Disgree about ISO20000 and COBIT. To me they specify "how high" not "how to jump". ITIL has more beef (to date).

New Decree? No. More like a pronouncement from the church

Hmmm, I think that the approach many take to ITIL is more like a religion than a decree from the royals.

Non-critical acceptance, or rather slavish unquestioning devotion to, trust in, and firm belief in, a doctrine developed in secret by a small, self-chosen elite group in a far-away land for which there is no proof of effectiveness whatsoever.

This abjectly servile, utterly non-critical application of these doctrines extend to obsequiesly implementing these doctrines in their institutions in which these individuals labor without originality.

The individuals undergo rites and ceremonies, with significant donations, to achieve different levels of acceptance to the secret elite from the far-away land.

Perhaps it is time that some critical thinking be applied to these doctrines and some alternative approaches that are more representative of the membership be developed. As you yourself recently pointed out, itSMF is not at all responsible for representing it's members - simply for supporting and serving as missionaries for the OGC doctrines.

We aren't ready for alternative approaches to ITIL

I prefer the term "cult" to "religion" (see "ITIL the Cult"), but I agree about some people's uncritical adherence.

What I am not so sure about is "alternative approaches". ITIL is good stuff, and it is an enormous body of work. If there are places where ITIL is out of alignment with users' thinking, then

  • how would we even know what represents the thinking of the majority of users?
  • we need to wait for V3 to find what are points of criticism
  • there doesn't seem to be much demand for an alternative
  • there is so much invested in ITIL by OGC and by the industry and by the community, it would be far more efficient to fix it than to throw it out

Having said that, one day ITIL will get replaced, or absorbed, or morphed. I just don't think it is any time soon.

User's thinking

What represents thinking?
Certainly we know, from many surveys, that ITIL implementation penetration is less than 50%, and even then, mostly just Incident and Problem - the focus is on Help Desk.

V3? - It's in the next release? - ROFLMAO - you DID work at a vendor too, didn't you?

Demand for alternative - how would we know there's not demand? itSMF purpose is to suppress opposition and support the "cult" - not to represent the membership (per your earlier point). Besides, the cult "leaders" or church "clergy" are the Vendors - and, they use their considerable persuasive power to suppress discussion because it is very much in their interest.

Fix? Perhaps you are correct - that it would be better to fix than throw it out. Is there a mechanism to fix it? Or, will it continue to be a very closed, vendor-led organization for the benefit of the vendors and elite? There are alternatives, just not well funded precisely because they cannot be controlled by the vendors who have little interest in customers achieving success or value - only in sales.

I must agree with you - ITIL will not be replaced, or absorbed any time soon. So, one must get on board the bandwagon and follow the fad, or be pushed aside.

Caveat emptor.

I've continued this

I've continued this interesting discussion as a blog entry

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