How badly is ITIL damaged by vendor influence? What needs fixing?

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The IT Skeptic does not doubt that some vendors have been up to some things that are not in the interests of ITIL. Does that reflect on the books themselves and how does it impact the ITIL community?

Stuff gets buried in comments on this blog that sometimes I like to bring out into the light for all to think about. Witness a recent discussion: I said

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.

then the reply was

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?

[He needs my latest t-shirt "It'll be fixed in version 3"]

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 think the visitor and I were talking at cross purposes: I'm talking about the books but he is talking about the movement. Let's consider both.

Perhaps I have been associating with the cult for too long, but I don't think that there is something fundamentally wrong with ITIL content.

I have always disagreed with the term "best practice" for ITIL, much prefering "generally accepted practice" or "good practice", because the use of the term "best practice" leads with the chin.

But beyond that, I feel the ITIL authors know what is going on and mostly write up the generally accepted practice of the day. They make mistakes sure. And sometimes they try to lead: I think CMDB in version 2 was a spectacular example of that going wrong. In V3 they are trying even harder to lead, to create a core that will be current for years. This could be great or it could backfire - I think it'll be great just because servioce lifecycle is well supported in the industry and I happen to agree with it.

But do the books lead us down a destructive path in order to further the evil designs of the grubby vendors? I'd be delighted to plaster it all over this blog if you have evidence they do :-D but I think not.

The motivation of most of these people is to be seen as an expert. For some it is ego, for others it is commercial. For that strategy to be successful, they need to be as close to "best" as they can get, otherwise someone else - like me - is going to knock them off the tower. So pushing some secret vendor agenda would be a very high risk strategy for an author.

Here I'm talking about the content, the books. The rest of the ITIL infrastructure, the Pillars of ITIL, is entirely another matter. The influence and behaviour of vendors is a worry. There are not a lot of controls. Some very ugly stuff seems to have been going on, that I sincerely hope everyone will know about some day. Where I'm convinced by the evidence, and more importantly where I think I can withstand the assaults of the vendors' lawyers, I'll be telling you. Fortunately several vendors are a little sensitive about governance right now which might incline their executive and board to be less aggressive and more effective in responding to revelations. Otherwise if this blog disappears one day, you know what happened.

ITIL started off with simple aims and an informal culture based on individual professionalism and decency. Unfortunately the ITIL movement has grown far beyond that approach being able to cope with governance or control.

So I think your concerns are valid in the context of organisations, politics, and the suppression of debate (hence this blog), but I don't agree that it severely impacts the value of the content itself. Ask me again after I've read V3.


Best Practice is hard to copy

I agree with the part that the description in ITIL is often not useful as best practice (maybe mediocre practice) and really difficult to use for some organizations. I have always been a proponent of looking at different options instead of the one best practice. I think that is missing in ITIL: It provides one solution that we are not able to "copy" for everyone... that is where confusion starts and where organizations decide that ITIL does not work.

When ITIL V3 is written with the intention to have one best practice I feel we are on the wrong path... Let's be creative and describe different possibilities, it becomes less "religion" and more useful practice(s).

Everyone has their opinions, maybe we should capture that and use that as sensible ITIL... Not everything will satisfy everyone... Be creative and be open to different opinions.. we might learn something.

Peter Lijnse

The Vendors

A few thoughts on this thread:
- Vendors have always been a critical part of the ITIL movement. When I helped to set up the original itSMF (itimf) it was while I was working as General Manager of Pink Elephant. As Founder of Quint Wellington Redwood, I absolutely pushed for and sponsored the various chapters of itSMF around the world to combat the influence of my former friends at Pink. While the head of ITSM at HP, we gave significant funds to set up the itSMF in the USA. Almost no itSMF event would be possible without vendors.
- Vendors have a legitimate right to be involved in the development of ITIL. After all the big four: IBM, HP, CA, BMC have spent billions on developing or buying products aligned with ITIL best practices. Much more money than OGC, APMG, EXIN or itSMF has spent on developing the best practice. In fact OGC has invested almost nothing for years and is considered by some as barely credible in their role as the "defender of the faith/cult."

Having said that:
- the itSMF has been anal to an extreme about ostracizing vendors from key roles and always tries to split them from delegates as much as possible at the conferences; much to the annoyance of the vendors. Last year at Salt Lake City in the US was probably the worst itSMF event ever if you were a vendor.
- In my opinion, the authors contributing to the books, with the exception of perhaps the Pink chaps, only marginally represent the companies they work for. These authors are for the most part members of the established clique that has dominated ITIL for years. While I have heard some suggest that they are passed their sell-by-date, which is overly harsh, they certainly do represent the old established ITIL culture. As such their sense of self would probably have driven them to be authors even if they hadn't worked for a vendor. In fact I have heard that many of the current generation of most experienced people who actually work for some of these vendors weren't even consulted about the content written by their colleagues, which kinds of proves my point.
- The question is not who wrote or even who influenced V3 but is it useful and is it proven best practice? Dare I refer you to my recent article on the smell test for more thoughts on this?


Wow. This thread has descended into a forum of high-school girls where one group gossips and snipes at the group they don't like.

"In fact, I heard..." should never end with "...proves my point." (Very catty.)

A reasonable google check shows that 50% of the authoring team members have no prior involvement with the "old ITIL culture." (Gossip should hold up to minimal fact checking.)

HP, FoxIT, Accenture, and Carnegie-Mellon let their boys run off the reservation? Yeah, must have happened during the lunch-break.

"Vendors have a right.." Please, the only thing vendors have a right to is, well, to be vendors (and take me to lunch). If IBM spent billions building products on ISO/IEC 20000 or CobIT, do they have a right to be involved in that development? Dell spends billions on products for Windoze. Where is their outrage for missing the Vista development sessions?

We finally get to a reasonable point and, wait, it turns out to be a plug for your blog. Nevermind. I've never liked the taste of sour grapes.

Skeptic - This used to be a classy place, what happened? The world already has a MySpace.

Gossip vs. Perception

It was certainly not my intention to be a gossip...just give my impressions. As an ITSM professional, I have things to say. Anyway, I think it's more a matter of perception. Certainly, everyone who is a professional works for a company (either their own, or someone elses). Most have worked for or collaborated with some of the gorillas. Vendors are a good thing. Like all good things, they are good in moderation. As was stated in another post, it was frustrating to be a reviewer in that there was certainly not enough time given between when the reviews came out and when the actual books started being released (at least in draft form to the ATOs). I know what I put in my review draft, and what made the cut. No significant changes. If you're going to have reviewers, it should not just be for show. I suppose it made us all feel better.

No, it's not about the is about whether this stuff is any good, and worth implementing. As a get thru all 5 books, I'll have a better idea. As far as perception, if these folks are not working on behalf of selling their companies, wouldn't it be cool, though, if the authors just had their names written, and not their companies?


Credit the individual author and not mention their employer

What a great idea!!!!! Credit the individual author and not mention their employer. i love it (really).

Sadly Google renders the idea ineffective...

Thank-you Dool. Every-one

Thank-you Dool. Every-one gets their say so long as it is not actually defamatory (or personal - I'll edit personal). I find Alan's post interesting and your response salient - let the readers judge. This blog is about open debate. (but I do think "pass their use-by date" is a cheap shot without evidence).

I agree vendors don't earn a right based on $$$ spent. On the other hand vendors are people too - I was one. Some are nice people, some are as bent as a two bob watch (I'm antipodean). Vendors DO have a right - the same right as any other member of the ITIL community. They also have the same obligations and responsibilities as any other member of the ITIL community and should be subject to the same governance (OK more governance, they have more of their own $$$ at stake).

I strongly disagree with any policy that says vendors are subhuman. First I think it is arbitrary to define a vendor, therefore it is discriminatory to do so. Second I think it is insulting to the decent vendors out there to suggest that they are incapable of conducting themselves like civilised human beings.

I'm the first to pile it on them when they come out with crap. I'll also be the first to defend their right to equal treatment. (Which is not getting at your post Dool so much as other anti-vendor comments I've seen)

There is a fine line OGC must walk between finding the experienced qualified people to author the books and reinforcing the established cliques. I'm not saying which way they jumped yet: I'll let the books speak for themselves whenever TSO actually fulfills my order. (My country is a VERY long way away and isn't ordering a gazillion copies so I'm not holding my breath)

I'm not sure this was ever a "classy place" but I aint gonna edit no posts just cos they aint got class.

Cage the gorillas...

Personally I like vendors. They have lots of money and take you out to lunch. It is natural for big vendors with lots of money to grab the lion's share of the dialog and that is not always a bad thing... they do know what they're doing! (the lunches are good too).


in the case of the big gorillas, the acquisitions they make can create what is often significant pressure to accelerate their 'vision' in order to keep feeding the beast. This, along with their ability to shape the dialog, can result in those nasty hallucinations some of us have experienced.

It is no accident that frequently innovation comes from the little guys who don't know any 'best practice' (and are not encumbered with legacy code) and simply give customers what they ask for. These players often wind up being fodder (for better or for worse).

I have no problem with vendor participation in the ITSM/ITIL dialog, but governance IS needed if only to ensure we don't ALL get eaten alive.

If we can't cage these animals then maybe SaaS, Web 2.0 or something else will help; but from the behavior I've seen be careful out's a jungle!

John M. Worthington
MyServiceMonitor, LLC

ITIL V3 Stuff

Well, I can tell you that I was one of the reviewers on Service Transition, and as a course author for a training organization, so I have draft copies of all the books in preparation for re-writing my course to V3 (JOY!! RAPTURE!! GLEE!!). Interesting that OGCs official stance is being vendor-agnostic....yet there are vendor specific AUTHORS for V3. Gee...go figure.....

The main stuff is really not that different. It's more of a lifecycle approach, and rather than everything about a single process being in one place, it's talked about in parts of all 5 of the books. Now, that makes sense from a high level, but when you're trying to find out everything about, say, Change Management, you have to look in a lot of different places to get the full V3 version. ( head goes on the pike for divulging anything about V3).

Yes...ITIL is a cult of sorts. I'm a junkie, but only to a point. Books, no matter how well written, don't every translate into the real work intact. I tell the folks in my IPRC class ( I still allowed to call it that??), that the key is always "adapt and adopt". What a lot of ITIL folks won't let you say is that if something in the books doesn't work for you...DON'T USE IT!!. When doing any kind of implementation, you have to make it work for you..not the authors of the books.

level playing field?

I don't see how OGC could have done anything else but accept bids from vendors for writing the books. Few others have both the qualifications and the willingness to commit the resources. Most of the authors have a commercial reason to be involved.

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how well the concept of "Chinese walls" has been applied or enforced. One ATO announced on this blog that they had already developed and piloted their initial (I assume Foundation) V3 training by the 1st of May (a couple of weeks after OGC released the materials) whereas another ATO is rumoured to have only received their V3 materials on 14th of this month. And I know of one IAG member from a vendor organisation who has read all five books.

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