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Have the Pillars of ITIL Crumbled Further?

The short answer is a resounding "Yes", writes ITSMWatch columnist Rob England.
Jan 26, 2010

Rob England

Two and a half years ago on ITSMWatch we talked about how the pillars of the establishment of ITIL were crumbling, as OGC left major parts of the ITIL world unregulated and nothing has improved. The only new pillars OGC addressed they muffed, and all other pillars continue to crumble away.

OGC is, however, providing an essential public service by creating and owning ITIL for which we are all grateful. It is hard to think of a better owner than a government body. But there are many pillars of the house of ITIL and OGC governs and manages only four (governance of two are outsourced). Two years ago we thought it was time the OGC handed ITIL over to someone to control all the pillars, or took it to that level themselves. They have done neither and it is the end user of ITIL who suffers.

OGC’s ITIL has hardly grown at all. With version 3, OGC are maturing what they have―documentation―but where is the surrounding infrastructure? As ITIL grows in adoption it grows in scope to match. ITIL isn’t just books anymore. The growth that is happening is ad-hoc and outside the control of OGC or any one body.

There are several components that make up the scope of ITIL, what I call the “Pillars of ITIL”. Here are mine. You may name a few more.

Product Certification

Why was Pink Elephant left to do PinkVerify as a commercial offering validating software products? Because OGC consciously stepped away from the whole issue of product certification. For years OGC and others insisted that ITIL is not a standard and therefore products cannot be certified against it.

Then all of a sudden earlier this year OGC announced a software product certification scheme based on a proprietary set of criteria that is a commercial secret. That is right: OGC issued the “standard” by decree without public consultation and then kept it secret. Only the British government could come up with such an arrangement. Vendors are trudging wearily up to get their products certified because the market is demanding it, and Pink Elephant have come in from the cold as a second certifying organisation alongside SMCG, the first and also the “inventor” and owner of the secret “standard”.

In the previous article we called for an open transparent non-commercial product certification mechanism run by an independent body and we got none of it.

Nor does ISO20000 address it (yet). This was a fourth pillar of ITIL that OGC finally recently took control of, but few in the industry are happy with the result, which would be hilarious if it were not so unsettling.

Core Content

Owned by OGC (well, Her Majesty the Queen actually) and tightly controlled through copyright. OGC contracted the ITIL v3 content creation to multiple authors. Unlike previous versions of ITIL, v3 was not created by a full-time team in one office in London. It sprawled across the world. And it shows. The OGC change log is full of errors and complaints and a new “edition” of ITIL v3 is underway to correct all the errors, omissions, inconsistencies and typos.

An indication that ITIL is now captive of the commercial interests selling it is the decision to also revise the Service Strategy book as part of this new edition because people were finding it “difficult to understand. The text needs to be made more accessible by using simpler language”.

Governing Board

There isn’t one. There is no über-body that represents all the stakeholders, has elected members, sets policy and strategy, and provides governance, for all the Pillars of ITIL. As ITpreneurs said http://www.itpreneurs.com/ “The ITIL market is still predominantly a market guided by customers but dependent on a delicate coalition of interests (OGC, itSMF, APMG, ISO, TSO, EXIN, ISEB, education companies, consulting companies, and tool suppliers). For the market to work effectively, the players need to collaborate.”

If the Combined Strategy Board (CSB), chaired by OGC, does anything it is nothing that is transparent and visible (um, you know what I mean). APMG says the Board has “responsibility for global marketing and overall product development”, which is a promotional role rather than a governance one. It publishes nothing, its membership is appointed not elected, and it has no accountability.

Web Presence

In the 21st Century, Web presence and branding is essential to any movement. ITIL's online presence is a dog's breakfast: TSO and APMG both maintain websites "on behalf of" OGC. TSO, the official publisher of ITIL, also maintains their own commercial copyright site with a confusingly similar name to their "on behalf" one. Neither TSO nor APMG provides any user community, that is left to itSMF to do.

Professional Body

There was nothing until a few years ago that provided certification and college for practicing ITIL professionals. Now we have the Institute of Service Management in the UK and the Institute of Certified Service Managers in the USA, both of which languish in obscurity. Why is the ICSM-USA only for ITIL “masters” but the UK body more broadly for “senior ITILers”? Because nobody is internationally regulating the emergence of these bodies.

Recently ICSM-USA launched prISM, "professional recognition for it Service Management" as a professional certification scheme.

Actually OGC has no jurisdiction here, because these organisations and the prISM scheme are about ITSM in general not ITIL in particular (and that is how it should be), but there is no international body whatsoever governing them, not even itSMF International.

User Group

The itSMF is often presumed to be the user group for ITIL practitioners and users. But it isn’t. In theory it is a body dedicated to the promotion of service management standards and practices, including ITIL. The itSMF International describes itself this way:

"The itSMF is the only truly independent and internationally-recognised forum for IT Service Management professionals worldwide.

This not-for-profit organisation is a prominent player in the on-going development and promotion of IT Service Management "best practice", standards and qualifications …

The itSMF provides an accessible network of industry experts, information sources and events to help you and your staff … "

Note that there is nothing about representing the views or looking after the interests of the members (other than providing networking). itSMF exists to represent and promote service management as a concept. This is a fine ideal. Just please don’t be under the illusion that itSMF is in theory a user group providing the voice of the user community.

In practice itSMF varies from country to country: in some it is an ITIL networking club. In others it is the public face of ITIL, serving the theoretical aims. In still others it veers close to being the captive body of vendors. Sometimes it presents itself as the voice of members, but how does it derive its understanding of what members want? There is no forum, no voting, no surveys. Sometimes the views of national committees are canvassed (usually at short notice) on key issues. It would be more accurate to say it represents the voice of the senior network of the ITIL “elite”.

OGC has done nothing to create or control a community of ITIL practitioners and users, and itSMF is not it either.

The OGC's plans for a wide-ranging OGC “portal” never emerged (Hmmm, unless it is the subscription-based commercial offering from TSO?). OGC seems oblivious of the need for creating an online community and embracing 21st Century collective technologies.

ITIL, ISO, England, OGC, itSMF

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