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What ITIL Doesn't Cover

Jun 25, 2009

Rob England

Remember this is not somebody trying to undermine ITIL – it is a paper co-written by the ITIL Refresh Chief Editor and reviewed by the ITIL Chief Architect. It says ITIL covers less than half of the processes that COBIT does.

This is not a criticism of ITIL. The intent of ITIL is to focus on its core constituency which is ITSM and to do that in depth. ITIL V3 did spread its wings wider but ITIL does not (yet) purport to provide comprehensive coverage of IT whereas COBIT does. (COBIT’s completeness is also subject to debate but that is off topic here. It still provides an effective benchmark against which to test ITIL).

This is a warning. Don’t make the assumption that addressing all the processes in ITIL means addressing all the processes in IT Delivery.

OK perhaps it is a bit of a criticism of ITIL as well. Some of the training, compliance and governance aspects of ITSM are arguably too important to leave out. The most remarkable omission in ITIL is Project Management (PM). Project Management is all but invisible in ITIL V3.

PM is the engine that moves much stuff (hopefully anything major) from Development to Production, which is pretty important now that ITIL has muscled into Application Management. PM should interlock with Change Management and Testing. The project team should provide most of the Early Life Support. Release and Deployment shouldn't move without PM: in general if it is big enough to be a release it should be a project. And so on.

So why is it no-one tells you how ITIL aligns with the Project Management bodies of knowledge PMBOK or PRINCE2?

Service Operation gives Project Management two paragraphs (p165), and not as part of Application Management.

Service Transition gives Project Management passing mention on pages 40 and 62 and 200, and page 180 of Service Transition that explains how important it is NOT to ignore it!! To be fair, it also explains how PM is something done by those people over there, not IT Services (and hence out of scope). Service Transition also duplicates all of PMs functions in the Service Transition plan (p40).

Service Design spends time on it (p31-32) but only vague directions to keep the project honest, not details of how the interface might work between Service Design and Project Management, and never once mentioning PMBOK or PRINCE2. The diagram on p31 is just wrong. It shows the project team's job is done at the start of the pilot or warranty period. This is "dead cat syndrome" which must be avoided at all costs. A project team should retain ownership through the warranty period until acceptance has been signed off.

The Official Introduction gives a cursory nod to assorted BOKs in the Complementary Guidance section.

What happened to Project Management when ITIL V3 was put together? Did someone get bitten by a project manager?

It is interesting to see that there is even less mention of PRINCE2 in particular than of PM in general, despite it being ITIL's stable-mate at OGC. Not much walking across the corridor here! Have the PRINCE2 people got all the good carparks at OGC and everyone hates them? Of course, the North Americans were in control of writing much of ITIL V3 and none of it is actually done at OGC any more.

So don’t let anyone tell you ITIL gives the whole picture. It is not intended to. The creators of it don’t think it does and don’t say it does. On its own it might be enough for you or it might not. It is a complex framework landscape out their now, with ITIL, COBIT, ISO20000, CMMI-SVC, MOF, ASL, USMBOK and many others all offering their own view of the world. Seek professional advice on the best combination for your needs. One day we will see convergence and unification, but for now you may need to mix and match for the best fit and you’ll need help with that.