Even Gartner say ITIL adoption is limited and falling

The IT Skeptic rails against Crap Factoids often enough. They're rubbish. They're even funnier when the results undermine the position of the hype-merchants keen to push them. Everyone waves around Gartner's numbers in support of their own positions, blithely ignoring the fact that Gartner just pull these statistics out of their own ...ahem... analyst. I don't see any of the ITIL zealots quoting this set though. Check out slide 7 "Polling Results: Characterization of ITIL Adoption".

My reading of these numbers:

  1. people have finally stopped saying they have "completed" ITIL (yay!) but many including Gartner are prepared to apply the term "implementing"
  2. only about half of the big organisations with enough money to go to Gartner conferences and enough ITSM enthusiasm to answer the survey are "doing" ITIL (it is doubtless even lower down here in the real world)
  3. the number of these big orgs who have no plans to ever adopt ITIL went from less than 10% to more than 20% in 18 months to December 2008. I wonder what it is now?

Lucky these surveys are rubbish eh? Else these numbers might be a bit uncomfortable for Castle ITIL.

P.S. It's also lucky I don't work for a big Gartner customer like Cisco else I might not be able to call it "rubbish" without Gartner putting their corporate bullies onto me


ITIL too vast

I think for a lot of organizations, ITIL is just too much. Too vast in scope, too complex in structure, too daunting in implementation. That's why "ITIL Lite" is generating some interest; it's what most organizations are probably doing anyway. Pick out the pieces that best solve your organization's issues and stop when you're at a good place. Core Practice is the same concept - We don't need a gold standard; Copper (CoPR) is good enough.

Best Regards,

the whole premise is wrong

Funnily enough I don't think ITIL is too big :) I've accused it of prancing into areas where it has no credibility (governance, app dev, security...) but that's about how it is done, not what. We need a single framework for IT.

The size issue comes up from how ITIL is attacked. people try to construct a theoretically complete structure of ideas and then implement it. So you start with say Change because you have a compelling need there. As you pull on the threads attached to the bits of ITIL you need, you start uncovering all these other theoretical deficiencies that you have lived with for years but apparently are "incorrect", and the next thing you know you are trying to implement Change, Configuration, Problem, Demand, Portfolio, SLM... This is what ITIL Lite is trying to address but the whole premise is wrong.

Work out the business outcome. Determine the benefits and hence the spend. Work out what you need to get there. Select bits of ITIL that assist, up until the limit of your spend. Stop.

With this approach, saying ITIL is too big is like saying a supermarket is too big. Buy what you can afford, but revel in the range and variety. The size of ITIL just shows the scope of what we need a best practice description for. ITIL's too small. COBIT is bigger.

Drawing the line

Very true Rob.

What we need to do is to position ITIL within an IT big picture. I guess in some ways that was true back in CCTA days because ITIL was seen as part of a range of UK Gov IT initiatives. ITIL needs to be aware of other frameworks/methodologies/standards without trying to compete with them. That also aligns with my thinking around ISO 38500 and COBIT - it isn't an either or choice.

As for being compelled to do everything within ITIL I'm reminded of a comment by Ivor Evans. "We all do everything that is in ITIL, whether we like it or not. The question is do we choose to do it well or badly?"

James Finister

Choose your tools carefully....

My debut on here :-) Slavish devotion to ITIL is...err...well...misguided. I first came across an ITIL tool kit analogy from my V2 Managers course when Steve Mann told us "The foundation was showing us the tools, now we'll tell you how to use them"

I've taken this a stage further. Indeed ITIL is a tool kit and there are many others...COBIT, 20k, 27001, etc, etc

There are a few simple rules though:

1. Decide what you're building first. If your organisation wants you to build the ITIL equivalent of the space shuttle you're going to use pretty much every tool in the box. You might even find that ITIL ISN'T big enough. If all you want to do is change a fuse...you'll only need a screwdriver. You don't have to use every tool because they're available!!!

2. Be realistic. Remember the first job you did with a toolkit at your home? Master craftsmen only create works of art through practice. Your first job might look ugly but if it worKs.....hey who cares?

3. Ask your mates round. How many of you will ask an Electrician friend before tackling an electrical job? Most of you, I guess? So why not use the networking facilities provided by itSMF to ask your ITIL equivalent of the electrician for advice?

4. The right tool for the right job. It's easy to get carried away with the success of using your first ITIL tool and believe one process will cure all your ills. The wrong tool can have disastorous results and seldom works. Try knocking in a nail with a screwdriver and see what I mean!!!

Any tool will do

Actually I've knocked a few nails in with other than a hammer - I bet most of us have. I agree with all you say but I'd like to put a slightly different spin on it: you don't necessarily need to choose your tools all that carefully. That's why I often use ITIL in a consulting context: it is an easy sell and a lower learning curve for the client. Choosing something else makes hard work, even if it might be a better tool. The margin needs to be enough to justify the extra effort for me and for the client. I've argued in the past that astrology is as good a tool as ITIL. While that is tongue-in-cheek, the idea can be seen the other way round: ITIL is near enough for lots of ITSM jobs so why swim against the tide? I'm gradually moving towards COBIT and USMBOK and ISO20000 and even eSCM but I'm not going to fight that battle in every single consulting engagement when the client's head is already with ITIL. I pick my battles on that issue.

Before I get hammered on this one (pun intended) let me hasten to add that I know the pleasure of having the right tool to hand, and the pain of trying to work with deficient tools. There is a balance to be struck between the immediate cost of a good tool (and the effort of finding it, on my workbench) versus the ongoing cost of suboptimal equipment. So I do use COBIT for current state assessment, and eSCM for specialised external service provider contexts, and USMBOK for all the gaps in ITIL theory, and I would use ISO20000 if they wanted a merit badge though that has yet to come up. But only when it is worth it.

My tools

Oh well, if we all reveal our secret success tools:

I use paper and a pen, common sense and my ears a lot. Design it a bit with a PC for easy distribution, to come to a result that has some parallels with all mentioned above. Let it run for a while and use Six Sigma techniques telling me where I can improve.

I tried to use a water level to hit a nail once, it went bad for the water level. I just thought about it because my wife bought me a new one yesterday :)

none of my clients would take my word for it

See now none of my clients would take my word for it without an authority behind my advice.

Or maybe they would but I wouldn't. Advise them based on my own opinion that is. Any more than an engineer would make his own estimates of a beam's dimensions, or a doctor would invent his own cures.

I admit on this blog I do try to make fresh diagnoses or come up with new techniques: critiquing CMDB and arguing against the majority on Technical Service Catalogue for example. But when consulting I try to keep my own opinions out of it (I fail but I try) and to validate and reference my work with underlying authorities. I think clients have a right to expect that and they deserve the reassurance. There are far too many people out there inventing ITSM theory and advice. Sure you put your own slant on advice and bring to bear your own experience, but if I am going out of line with "accepted wisdom" I describe the deviation to my clients and let them form their own opinions.

complete the question

"...and do we choose to brand it ITIL? do we choose to use ITIL as our reference framework or something else?"

Doing it well does not automatically equate to using ITIL as the framework as you know

A rose by another name

Which of course is why most of us think and speak in terms of ITSM, or even just SM. There are certainly times when an organisation's attachment to their interpretatio of ITIL, is more a hindernace than a help.

I have said before, and will say again, that what is often most needed is an understanding of the driving principles behind ITSM, from which an appropriate framework/solution could be derived. A meta model for ITIL if you like.

James Finister


yes a most interesting idea James. It can be done in maths. I hope it could be done in ITSM. I'd love to see you and few other leading thinkers derive the set of principia ...um... what's the Latin for services?

Gartner Numbers

While I agree with the sentiment that ITIL isn't "implemented" per se, I'm not sure I'd characterize the numbers as particularly uncomfortable. For one thing, if we view ITSM projects as... projects, it's not entirely surprising to see fluctuating levels of commitment over the past few years as the global economy sputtered and budget uncertainty increased. I'd suspect the same to be true of IT projects in general. Also, it's still worth noting that the most recent survey numbers on the slide still indicated that ~80% of those surveyed actually do plan to "implement" ITIL at some point, with ~65% planning said project within 2 years.

I'll state my assumption that the two data points "planning to implement in <18 months" and "planning to implement in 0-2 years" do not overlap. While the "less than 18 months" group would logically be a subset of the "0-2 years" group, this approach doesn't lead to a sum total of 100% across all columns.


Brian Flora

rising disillusionment

I don't think a doubling of the percentage of "no plans to do ITIL at all" represents a temporary reduction in projects. I'd say it represents rising disillusionment, and I think there are a few drivers

  • Overselling ITIL as a magic pixie-dust cure: continuation of the software vendors' usual out-of-the-box B.S.
  • Mis-selling ITIL as something you implement for its own sake - ITIL as a cult
  • The crass commercialisation of ITIL: expensive books, expensive certification reduced to trashy commodity product
  • Squabbling and in-fighting caused by a governance and leadership vacuum

I bet the COBIT folks are laughing (or perhaps they are horrified at the knock-on effect on the whole framework "industry").


It's possible that you're right, and I agree that the points bulleted above are legitimate problems. My point is that there really isn't enough data there for us to be able to draw any meaningful conclusions. Both positions (that broad scope IT projects as a whole are seeing fluctuating support, and that ITIL is declining in popularity due to exploitation and mismanagement) can be argued based on that single slide, but without additional supporting data we're just speculating based on our own predispositions.


Brian Flora

ITIL has become too big of a tent...

A colleague of mine sent me the following which made sense to me;

*** "I’m starting to think ITSM is too big a tent, too big of a concept. I happen to enjoy it and like the ‘big picture’ but I think many people (just hazarding a guess) don’t feel like they have any control over the big picture and are just wanting to ‘do their jobs better.’ "

*** "I think we’re having a hard time because we’re preaching a very big, very generic and gray picture, not black and white at all, that a lot of employee’s don’t believe they can influence. I also think upward mobility has halted and people aren’t seeing a value in networking or learning new skills. Again, just an observation based on conversations and things I read."

After thinking about it, I think his comments (from a practitioner point of view) hit the mark and are spot on. And they reflect potential effects of the economy as well as the overselling/mispromotion of ITIL. I don't believe ITIL is dead, but I think its scope has in fact become too broad and only CIO's and top level managers who have "done it before" can even conceive of leveraging "most" of it vs. pieces of it. Perhaps a fallback position is potentially a good thing as ITIL will return to what it always should have been - a reference framework (guidance for the wise, rules for the foolish) and not a philosophy, market, religion, sales generator, etc.

Just my two cents

John Clark

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