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The Skeptical Informer, February 2007, Volume 1, No. 1

The newsletter of the IT Skeptic. All the IT skeptical news that is fit to print... and then some!

This is the inaugural edition of The Skeptical Informer™, a regular newsletter to be published at the start of each month, summarising activity on the IT Skeptic's blog at We will also provide some additional content and commentary not found there, just for our newsletter subscribers. You may have read this already on the site, but here it is mailed to you. This tests the mailing system and gives you a copy you can forward to friends and colleagues (hint).

The big news of the month for me was confirmation of the publication date for ITIL Version 3 - the Refresh. I have had a month of throwing stones at OGC, itSMFI, TSO, APMG, ISEB, and EXIN. They must be heartily sick of the IT Skeptic by now ... if they even notice. Actually I know at least some do because they have been in touch. This is even turning into a bit of a whistle-blower's site, and I don't have a problem with that. Tip-offs welcomed: if something to do with IT does not stand up well to close critical scrutiny, send it to and I'll let the sunshine in.

I promise it won't be like this every month for three reasons:
  • You and I both will get tired of OGC's dirty laundry
  • There are other topics waiting in the wings
  • Version 3 will be out soon and I can turn to critically analysing the content rather than the process of getting there

So start saving, girls and boys. Three hundred quid: that's two to six hours' pay for we consultants and no hours' pay for the people who get their boss to fork out for it. An interesting question is whether it is cheaper than ITIL 2 or not. The minimum ITIL (version 2) set of “the blue book and the red book” will set you back a cool six hundred bucks on CD ROM or half that on paper. The other books tend to run to about the same or a few for about half that much each. A full set of ITIL 2 would not leave much change out of a thousand British pounds on CD or a thousand US dollars on paper. ITIL 3 can be had as a set for three hundred pounds, but be careful of the comparison, as the core books are more focused in ITIL 3. I suspect you are more likely to need to purchase additional complementary publications to expand on them. This is still less than some of the proprietary frameworks and methodologies peddled by consulting firms, but certainly more than the free open content sources emerging from the Internet... and more than COBIT which is now freely available. Good on you ITGI/ISACA.

I do like the graphic design of the ITIL 3 books, with all the x-ray images of nature. Very nice. In fact this newsletter has a nature theme - if somewhat quirkier - to complement the new books.

And while the process has not been above criticism as you will see from some of the articles below, ITIL 3 still looks set to be a magnificent body of work.

These are the IT Skeptic's picks from the comments of February

Visitor X |
...when you take the responsibility for providing process related data out of the hands of those who intimately manage the process, and put it into the virtual hands a phantomware database housing a little, little bit about more and more technology, you ultimately get something that can tell you nothing about everything.

Charles T. Betz |
In SWEBOK, it was 500 participants through a multi-year process. Not 500 reviewers producing material that the primary authors will have mere weeks to sift through...

Maarten Bordewijk (not verified) |
ITIL is a travel guide on Rome. If you go to Rome for a weekend you would be crazy to do all the things in a travel guide. Therefore it is nonsense to claim that a 75% of all trips to Rome where travellers used a particular travel guide are made with 50% reduction in costs. And it is even more rediculous to claim that this resulted in a successfull/nice/rewarding trip.

vaioboyaus |
I have a real problem with intra-organisational "contracts" where do you go for mediation and what do you do when you want to terminate. This highlights that there are too many things you can't do effectively with the internal shop that you can do with external providers.

skeptic |
I don't think there would be any problem getting authors: they are getting paid while at the same time getting priceless kudos, exposure, knowledge, experience and contacts, and shaping ITIL in their own image. I'd crawl over broken glass for a gig like that.

jimbo |
10 to 12 people were selected by the OGC commercial selection process, but as the skeptic says there was hardly any public debate before then about how ITIL should develop. The volume I reviewed was written by two people who I know well and like very much, but who are nowhere near the leading edge in the subject they have written about. On the other hand several people who are at the leading edge held back from contributing because they did not want to lose copyright. There is something to be said for the "wisdom of crowds" that I may or may not agree with, but my point would be that there wasn't a meaningful debate beforehand.

Mike Drapeau (not verified) |
Organizations have a hard enough time as it is in developing, maintaining, and frankly using the artifacts of their strategic planning. They would be better served if this aspect of the 5 Service Delivery processes was enabled through software. Such a capability might include workflow, document templates, and other KM management features – all with an ITIL flavor. Furthermore, with the advent of the life cycle focus and features of ITIL v3, the need for a document management ‘system’ will increase and this tool gap (with or without quotation marks) will increase

Charles Betz (not verified) |
"You can't go unilaterally redefining what a CMDB is." Watch me. If what ITIL calls for is technically unfeasible - or more charitably, a logical function independent of implementation - then those of us who have to solve the problem will decompose it as necessary. I've received a lot of feedback that the element versus enterprise config distinction is useful and pretty much the key issue confusing things.

Onus (not verified) |
Just a thought - why was the ISO 9000 standard not extended to include the simplistic service provider concepts instead of offering a version in crayon within ISO 200000. Can anyone dispel the rumor that the failure to launch ITIL V3 in April 2005 (as originally "scheduled") led to those involved having to fast-track the woeful BS15000 into ISO 20000 before the BS 150000 'standard' lapsed at the end of 2005? Are we to repeat the long uphill struggle of repairing ISO 20000 as happened to BS7799 and ISO 17799.... please spare us. There is actually a standards development process ISO prefers folks use and the fast-track method seems so much like the 'emergency change' we all despise publicly, but are ok with when we are not directly affected.

Scott (not verified) |
Listening to the podcast allowed me to feel it was OK to have "CMDB data" in different data sources (as long as there was a solid process). I keep thinking we were somehow doing it wrong. The vendor cool aid was giving brain freeze. Thanks for the thaw!

dool |
The new version takes a systemic approach though not quite what process acolytes are expecting. The influences from product management, industrial engineering and system dynamics are clearly felt. All in all, a big leap forward from the Deming-flavored V2. Process is a means not the end. Some well established tenets are either evolved or overturned. The cycle begins and ends with the service... There is one thing for sure that no one has called out. V3 turned out to be far more than a refresh.

kengon (not verified) |
...As a member of itSMF USA, I am profoundly disgusted with what passes for representation. I'll likely not renew my membership when it comes up. It seems to me that the organization has de-evolved into little more than the marketing arm of its platinum sponsors. I seem to get more advertisements than things related to being a member...

Realist (not verified) |
...I've worked in service and systems management positions for a number of years now and although I find ITIL to be a common sense approach, the CMDB rhetoric and "cornerstone" status of any successful implementation has and will continue to be complete bollocks... the tool itself isn't going to do anything. Service/Help desk tools which include CMDB type functionality don't actually make you provide better support or change management...The best way of achieving some of the intended benefits of a CMDB is not via the CMDB, but by effective service management... The ITIL CMDB and other best practice fundamentalism has turned into a gravy train for some, allowing them to milk contracts and fleece enterprises for large amounts of money when the return on investment is so low compared against the cost of implementation. To me that is a people problem, and signifies that many of us need to look more at our business values rather than thinking what we achieve in terms of IT has some sort of intrinsic value simply because it is IT.


This article has been podcast

The IT Skeptic is pleased to announce our first annual awards, presented to deserving figures and organisations in the IT industry in general and the ITSM industry in particular.

This year’s winners are:

We still call ITIL "best" and we still put up business cases for millions of dollars to implement it, yet there has never been any empirical scientific research to show that ITIL does better than, say, astrology as a framework for IT processes.

"The Emperor has no clothes. Where is the evidence for ITIL?" is the second-most-viewed entry on this blog. Now an updated and revised version has been published as an ITSM Watch article.

This article has been podcast

The latest ITIL Refresh newsletter reveals that OGC sees keeping the community informed as the same thing as keeping the community involved. This is an elitist patronising attitude so typical of British government in general and OGC in particular. It is time ITIL went from a closed to an open community.


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Recent podcasts

This is a podcast of the original article: "When you don't run IT as a business, the inevitable results: bad business decisions".

For too long we have made many decisions in IT based on whether something will be "better" (faster, more flexible, more space, cooler) without asking the real question: "Show me the money". If the return does not exceed the investment, don't do it.

A podcast of the original article ITIL's CMDB can't be done, no-how

Continuing our discussion of CMDB, let me reinforce two points: ITIL's CMDB can't be done, no-howLet me reinforce two points please: (1) CMDB can't be done because of the data and regardless of the implementation and (2) I'm talking about CMDB as specified by the ITIL books, not any old database. It can't be done."


A podcast of the original article: The key to living without CMDB is process maturity level

Yes you can do without CMDB, so long as you are aiming at not too high a maturity level, say 3. The trick is to remember that you don't adopt a process, you improve it. If we aspire to a moderate level of maturity, then yes we can do without a CMDB. Plenty of people do.

A podcast of the original article from the IT Skeptic: Is ITIL another Y2K?

Classic Skeptic

This article has been podcast

We have seen that the ITIL movement has distinct overtones of a fad. What about a cult? A group that defines its own measure of good and bad by comparing against its own internal reference books then declares that those books hold the key to getting from bad to good sounds mighty like a cult to me.

A colleague gave me a model that I shall call the Skeptical Maturity Model for Technology Adoption. It has four phases

From the blog

Recently the IT Skeptic was given a review copy of the book “I Think Something is Missing from ITIL” by the author, Ian Clayton. While the influence of Clayton’s ongoing scrap with the ITIL powers-that-be colours the book and gives personal or negative content too much space, it still forms a powerful critique of ITIL, and even more importantly a fascinating set of ideas for where ITIL should be.

A recent article raises the interesting question of why there are far more Service Support tools than Service Delivery tools. The IT Skeptic knows why. The underlying assumption of the article that I would skeptically challenge is that there is a role for Service Delivery tools.

Here is an article that raises the interesting question why there are far more Service Support tools than Service Delivery tools.

The IT Skeptic takes a break from ITIL and talks about call-centre absenteeism.

For a revised and expanded version of this article see ITSMWatch.

The major operations software vendors have finally released a white paper describing how they plan to cooperate on ITIL CMDB. Don't hold your breath waiting for anything to come of it.

See this forum thread for a discussion (hopefully) of some criticism of the IT Skeptic, including over anonymity

I got my facts wrong. Without prior feedback or pressure from anyone, I would like to apologise to OGC, the itSMF and others involved in the ITIL Version 3 Refresh for the imputation that there was no public consultation prior to the authoring of the ITIL Version 3 books.

At OGC's website the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, while at TSO neither hand has any idea. The IT Skeptic seeks in vain for somewhere to pre-order the ITIL Version 3 books.

This article has been podcast

An insightful remark at the IT Managment Forum set off today's train of thought:

No matter how much you store in a central CMDB repository, there will always be some data somewhere else. Don't fall for all the vendor vapourware of federation tools. Stop chasing this technological rainbow of a unified CMDB repository. These are not technology problems. Fix the congiguration management process, then apply technology to the process if it helps.

Here is another source, George Spafford, saying that tools are not the solution to configuration problems, change process is. As I have said, technology does not fix process. People Process Technology, in that order.

Here is an excellent article by Noel Bruton on how ITIL has peaked, that I commend to your attention.

But not just for that concept, though it is a lovely skeptical read. I particularly enjoyed his take on CMDB:

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