Do unto yourself before others do unto you

Joe at Evergreen makes a great point

Whether it’s ITIL or some other initiative or project, eventually someone in the organization (usually someone with authority) will ask the proverbial "so what". Other questions they might and should ask include "why did we do this" and, of course, "what was the ROI".

I say, when looking at an ITIL-based initiative, beat them to the punch - take a critical look and be a skeptic yourself. Challenge each step with the "so what" and chances are, you'll accomplish your objectives AND do what's best for the company!

Don't leave it to management, clients or mud-slingers like me: make sure you are skeptically critiquing your own ideas and initiatives before someone else does.

I think a future blog might discuss some methodologies and techniques for skeptical analysis. Any ideas or references?


Tracking back to assets...

Can't agree more!

We ( do two things to keep things sensible around ITIL/ITSM initiatives.

First, we basically use part of the basic definition of service to track efforts back to the assets they support. Where possible, we use the organization's financials directly to do so. As an example, if we're making the claim that portfolio management will offer benefit, we go to the financials to identify the acquistion and operation spend and then target that spend as the basis for our success metrics. Almost any process initiative can be tracked back to financials if you try hard enough. In the worst case scenario, we find that the basis for doing so is weak or non-existent...and so there we proceed by first building a clear link back to an identifiable asset. Assets can be represented as cash flows (best case), cost models associated with specific cash flows, cost centers, or even just strategic initaitives (as long as they're buoyed by defined metrics).

Second, we try hard keep it simple. Complexity obfuscates (and is often used deliberately to obfuscate) clarity about results.

Interestingly, we often encounter resistance within organizations as we suggest ways to build accountability into initiatives, ITIL or otherwise. In some measure, I think this is because harsh light washes away irresponsibility. But, I also think that there's an honest side to that resistance which has to with the fact that the human brain as well as human organizations are never completely or usefully susceptible to rationalization. In other words, there *should* be some room for organizations to make bets and indulge hunches that cannot be fully squared with a balance sheet. The philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend had some very astute things to say about that phenomenon as it applies to the suprisingly non-rational world of science. But, as PF also notes, non-rationalization doesn't mean invisibility or lack of scrutiny...quite the contrary. It just means that we should be cautious of demanding that everything we do tracks precisely back to the balance sheet in ways we can fully explain in real time. We can still state intent and measure results, though we may not yet have the ability to detail the mechanism by which the two are connected.

DeMarco's Slack

A point also made by Tom Demarco in Slack.

Charles T. Betz

Thanks for red-teaming this

Thanks for documenting the skeptical take on this topic. I'm just catching up to it, but I've learned enough over the years to prick my ears up everytime the promotional literature liberally features the phrase "de facto standard."

I have been reading a lot about the use of CMMI, for example -- a lot of the big Indian "business process outsourcing" factories seem to swear by it -- but have never read an article or "white paper" (the marketing brochure kind) that does a side-by-side comparison.

So I figure I'll bookmark your blog and try to learn something. Thanks.


Thanks Colin. CMMI is about development not production, solutions not delivery, software not operations ... whatever terminology you use for the two distinct sides of IT.

To apply CMM concepts to production in general and IT service management in particular, see IT Service Capability Maturity Model which I discussed previously.

Expect to see the big Indian business process outsourcing factories doing a lot of swearing by ISO20000 soon. They like things they can certify against to reassure potential customers. Very crudely it kinda provides the same level of certification for the production side of the house as CMMI does for development. (The purists will kill me for that crude approximation).

Comparison of standards and collections of best practices

Colin, I think you found the comapriosn you wanted here

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