The value of resources is defined by your context

A recurrent theme in conversations I have had here at the Pink Elephant ITSM Conference is how resources such as ITIL or related tools have no value or relevance until you understand your organisation's own context for them.

For example, a recent discussion on LinkedIn asked whether ITIL is a destination or a journey. Several replies said it is neither. The destination is your organisational objective (lower costs, better customer satisfaction, a new service...). The journey is your project plan to get there. ITIL is only a walking stick. Even the analogy of ITIL as a map or compass or GPS overstates it's importance to most IT projects. ITlL is a reference framework we go to for advice at various points as we design or improve our processes. It is not the sole reference we will need, nor is it a complete reference that eliminates the need for any other, as a GPS might do.

It is my opinion that the biggest issue we have in ITSM today is not the ITIL zealotry - enthusiasm is a fine thing. The #1 problem we have is doing ITIL for its own sake. Don't do ITIL. Don't call it ITIL. Don't do an "incident management project" followed by a "change management project". Don't say "we can't do problem management yet because we haven't finished incident".

If there isn't a business deliverable for what you are doing, then you are pulling up carpets just to polish the floorboards. Doing ITIl for its own sake might make us feel better as geeks as we seek perfection and completeness, but such ETF (Excessive Technical Fastidiousness) only wastes and redirects money.

If you pursue a business objective by structuring your project(s) around ITIL, you will add unnecessary work and complexity when the ITIL zealots add in all the stuff ITIL "has to have" in those processes, seeking theoretical completeness instead of just picking the bits of ITIL we need on our journey. And there is the danger that ITIL will again become the goal instead of just a resource.

ITIL is neither the means nor the end.

As another example, a lady at the conference said her boss asked her "What is V3's significance to us? What should we do about it?". I advised to turn the question around and say "What are goals/objectives/deliverables you require this year and in the next few years? We'll work back from that to see how we will deliver those and therefore if we need any part of V3 to achieve that". If IT ain't broke don't fix it.

I talked in one of my conference presentations about evaluating the value of vendor ITSM products (whether the product be software, consulting or training). Products have zero value to your organisation until you understand your requirements, or at least the challenges and strategic directions of your organisation. Cool features mean nothing: don't buy on "Oooh! Shiny!". There are no silver bullets: e.g. SaaS only replaxces one set of challenges (and costs) with another. (And simple economics tells us SaaS vendors will price their products so the savings to you are just enough to lure you).

All the vendor talk about ROI of other customers is just piffle, unless they happened to have much the same requirements, problems, costs and benefits as you. (And most vendor ROI reports are crap factoids anyway).

The common thread here is context: know where you are going, how you are going to get there, and what you need to do that.


Don't do ITIL

For another take on this, stimulated by the same LinkedIn thread, see John Clark on ITSM Portal

Think of ITIL as the GPS for your service management journey and continuous improvement destination. Of course, GPS devices come with warnings - which oddly enough are applicable to ITIL as well.

GPS analogy and passionate people

Skep -

Thanks for the referral to the column and Linkedin discussion. I am surprised how passionate people are about defining ITIL in perfect terms of what it is... The intent of the column was meant to be a light hearted dig at a common comment I hear, that being "We're doing ITIL"... It was the LinkedIn conversation, then sitting in meeting hearing people "do ITIL" that prompted me to write it.

The analogy is soft, but the warnings are appropriate... Key message - Don't do ITIL - leverage ITIL for what you are doing where it is appropriate... Key learning - cannot please everyone.


I'm innocent

You can find this text in my PinkElephant 2011 presentation description at "In fact, many IT organizations who seek ISO 20000 certification, also implement ITIL as a means to an end. It is not a question of one or the other, but of both, and Aale will explain why in this informative session." I'm innocent, the Pink marketing department has been carried away and I'm sure they will fix the text.

James Finister has written that ISO 20000 represents minimum requirements for a service provider. I have done ISO 20000 assesment sessions where we go through each ISO 20000 requirement. Some of them have been very educational. The session goes so that I explain each requirement and ask the Service Manager how they do it. Often the service manager gets red in face and says of course we should be doing that but... In that sense being certifiable is a good goal and ITIL can help one reaching the goal, just like the nice GPS device does as John Clark explains it really well.


BTW Rob, didn't you write some 500 comments ago that a GPS delivers only geek pleasure ;-)

The Context we seek requires a Business Lane for ITSM Road Maps

With all the blather about needing the business' involvement in ITSM adoption programs, you'd think they would be a bit more visible. Sometimes I think The Business is a bigger part of the problem than IT is, and gets away with using IT as a whipping boy and excuse for not doing their share of the heavy lifting.

Saying we need to "start defining services by defining business processes" is not enough either. The business is often as fragmented as IT, and internalizes and functionally defines business processes in the same way IT does. Ian's Outside-In Service Management and other approaches to Outside-In thinking can be helpful here (IMHO). See Defining IT Services: Why an Outside-In Perspective Matters

All to often business process activity results in getting stuck in the process weeds....using simple concepts like Moments of Truth and Successful Customer Outcomes --- based on external customer views of business processes --- can avoid this and establish cross-functional transaction flows so necessary to mapping business processes to the underlying technical infrastructure.

The context we seek (if the goal is to achieve business-driven technology management) requires a business lane for ITSM road maps, and perhaps using ITIL as a club instead of a walking stick would be more appropriate for some organizations because the business is not on the same trip as we are.

Maybe that's because ( in a world of Banksters, Bailouts and Ponzi Schemes) documenting cross-functional business processes in some organizations is a scary thought... in any case, we will not reach ITSM nirvana unless the business is on the bus with us ...

John M. Worthington
MyServiceMonitor, LLC

Absolutely right.

This needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Seriously. What I hear from the business is "I don't know what I want until I want it, and I want IT to deliver it at that time." I see both ITIL and EA trying to engage the business and understand their needs and strategy, and the fact of the matter is, the business doesn't have one. ITIL cannot be successful in aligning to the business strategy if one does not exist. And smaller components like SLM are immediately hampered by the same issue.


Process for process sake...

Without that context, we very quickly run into the slippery slope of process and tools for the sake of process and tools.

Another of your recent posts talks about all the projects and new services that are bogging IT down...don't we all need a ready dose of 'Context'. The late great Edward Deming once said: "The emphasis should be on why we do a job." That why question is HUGE! At ALL levels of the organization...good stuff. Sorry to have missed Pink and Vegas!


I cannot agree more, and to be honest the number of organisations that have tried the "ITIL is the future lets do that" and failed is mounting so even mentioning ITIL is taboo.

I attended an interesting training session on a method called IT-Service Value Management, this course gave some very interesting techniques for doing exactly this business centric analysis of the IT environment, I would recommend it if you can get a seat. The full course actually takes you through these techniques to score your business services, very cool, though I have not taken the full course (yet), it looked like a great tool to have at your disposal.

The bottom line here is that ITIL is a library of books, its not the answer to everyone, and must be read with some skepticism, the choice to use some, none, or all of the ITIL information is completely up to you, and someone telling you that you are not ITIL compliant should be an indication that you made some good choices based on the realities of your business.

One final note here is the continuing complications I believe the big vendors are bringing to the mix by acting as both the consultant and the software vendor, I think there is some serious cross selling going on and that is not in the best interests of most companies or the industry as a whole. In a tight market such as this, the vendor's ability to offer leveraged, cheap consulting services is compelling to many, but is a dangerous path to go down.

Independent IT Consultant

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