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ITIL Still Needs to Embrace the Collective

In in the wide open world of Web 2.0 OGC still keeps ITIL cloistered, writes ITSMWatch columnist Rob England.
Oct 2, 2009

Rob England


My preferred term, “generally accepted practice”, will not catch on because ITIL isn’t general. ITIL is the opinions of the culture of corporate vendors and consultants, yet the latest intellectual works develop by capturing collective intelligence and communal authorship. In this way they refine towards a communal consensus view. They track the users’ agreed best, presumably with some lag. We can debate how good that really is but it is an expectation of today’s user base that they participate, they be consulted, they contribute, they organise and edit, and review the material, and that the result is in the public domain.

Right now the OGC provides zero mechanism to meet this expectation. They persist in developing ITIL within a closed community of western business consulting practitioners. Sooner or later someone will succeed in providing a Web 2.0 ITSM community, and then ITIL (or its successor) will be free, in both senses of the word. This may come sooner rather than later.

Earlier this year Microsoft released MOF, the Microsoft Operating Framework, into the public domain under a liberal Creative Commons licence. MOF is very similar to ITIL but the world has not leapt to adopt it. At about the same time, ISACA announced that their free body of knowledge, COBIT, is about to enter a new version, COBIT 5. A few months ago this presentation from Lynn Lawton, ISACA International president, revealed some interesting information:

  • ISACA feel competition from un-named organisations encroaching on their territory.
  • Eighty eight percent (88%) of members feel the need for practical how-to advice on execution of COBIT and other ISACA frameworks.
  • That pragmatic guidance will address security, applications and "for example" business continuity.
  • The new growth in the body of knowledge will be driven by an open content model where volunteers contribute.

COBIT expanded into “how-to advice” sounds awfully like ITIL to me, only better structured and broader. Why might ISACA succeed with open content where others have failed? Because they are a 90,000-strong, respected, vendor-independent, international body with a strong and enthusiastic user base for COBIT. More importantly, COBIT will still be edited and reviewed by a big group of international experts to filter out all the drivel that open content attracts, and to ensure consistency, accuracy and structure in the result. I can’t wait.

In failing to adapt to the new paradigm, the OGC is falling behind best practice in what it does. It risks ITIL being marginalised by another body of knowledge. The corporate business consultants need to let ITIL go before it escapes. I’m not hopeful. Just this month OGC announced a revision of ITIL; not version 4, more version 3.1, but a new version nonetheless. It will be written by OGC-selected authors (unknown at this time) and reviewed by a small group also selected by OGC and also unannounced at this time―no sign of the leopard changing its spots.

The IT Skeptic is Rob England: author, commentator, ITSM professional and active itSMF member who lives in New Zealand. More thoughts from the IT Skeptic can be found at www.itskeptic.org.