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Have the Pillars of ITIL Crumbled Further?

Jan 26, 2010

Rob England

Industry Regulation and Governance

What control is there over the ITIL industry (other than accreditation of trainers)? When vendors of products or services are given the right to use the trademarked term ITIL? What obligations do they agree to? Who ensures they do not mis-represent the concepts of ITIL or their capabilities to deliver them? In theory, it is OGC, but there is no mechanism to effect this in practice.

Individual Certification

Other than the content, this is the other Pillar of ITIL that OGC controlled: establishing the ITIL Certification Management Board (ICMB) and accrediting the trainers and examiners (though insiders may tell us that the genesis was not as clean and seamless as I describe, the outcome was good). But then OGC outsourced exam certification and accreditation of trainers to a private company, APMG, and the ICMB disappeared.

The ICMB seems to have gone to ground. The ICMB comprised OGC, itSMF International, EXIN (a Dutch certification company) and ISEB (a certification body run by the British Computer Society) before the CAR tender awarded certification to APMG. Does this body still exist? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Neither OGC nor itSMF International nor itSMF UK nor itSMF USA have updated their information in this area. Their websites indicate that it still exists and oversees ISEB and EXIN who in turn used to accredit training providers. There is no mention of APMG or the changed playing field since CAR.

The qualification scheme for ITIL v3 took literally years to emerge and we are still waiting for the fourth and final layer of certification: the ITIL Master. The syllabus was designed entirely by the training organisations that sell it, which might be why a common criticism is how dumbed-down it is. The syllabus for the Foundation exam met such strident criticism that it is now on its third or fourth revision in two years.

We now have the ITIL Qualifications Board, which “includes representatives from all interested parties within the community from around the world. Members of the Board include (though are not limited to) representatives from OGC, APM Group, TSO, v3 Examination Panel, Examination Institutes and itSMF International as the recognized user group.” Recently representation from the accredited training organisations was added, too. So, the only voice of the consumer, the practitioners of ITIL, the trainees, i.e. the only party without a commercial interest in selling training, is itSMFI, and the board can form a quorum without them.

One of the solid Pillars of ITIL now trembles.

Organisational Certification

Why do so many consulting firms all have to reinvent their own ITIL assessment or maturity measurement? ITIL emphasises the Deming Cycle, and assessing as-is status. But it provides no mechanism to measure ITIL status within an organisation. This was forgivable in the first version. One public scheme appeared with ITIL v2 provided by itSMF. With ITIL v3 there is no assessment mechanism.

A Standard?

Why did we wait so long for BS15000? A standard would have addressed the organisational certification issue and possibly the product one too, and given ITIL additional credibility in business. BS15000 and now ISO20000 came out so long after v2 that the evolution of the industry meant the new standards are well in advance of what is in ITIL v2, but then ITIL v3 leap-frogged ISO2000, again failing to bring them in synch.

Through mechanisms like IPESC and use of copyright, OGC managed and governed the ITIL books well until ITIL v3 set things wobbling with five books that are generally well received but reveal a number of quality issues that now have to be fixed. Through the ICMB, OGC controlled the individual certification industry but they now seem to be losing the plot with ITIL v3.

So, in conclusion, we had three pillars that were in good shape but all are now cracked and wobbling. OGC tried to take control of a fourth pillar, software certification, but the result was bizarre and widely criticised. In all of the other pillars, OGC has taken no official role and has let them crumble out of control.

The house of ITIL is undoubtedly in worse shape than it was in our first article, with all of its pillars weakened. Someone needs to govern them all. Perhaps it is time for OGC to find a new owner for ITIL, or alternatively to step up to a higher level of management of the ITIL environment. The fact that OGC recently―at long last―advertised for a full time person to look after the ITIL portfolio is a sign for the future. We shall see.

A man of many talents, Rob England is an author, commentator, and consultant. More thoughts from Rob can be found on his blog at www.itskeptic.org.