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Psst � ITIL Isn't For Everyone

ITIL does not claim to be best-practice. It simply documents industry best-practice guidance—something the IT industry sorely needs, writes ITSM Watch columnist Hank Marquis of itSM Solutions.
Oct 13, 2006

Hank Marquis

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) itself is not best-practice, nor does it claim to be so. In fact, what ITIL actually says is “The IT Infrastructure Library documents industry best-practice guidance.”

It also states “ITIL is based on the collective experience of commercial and governmental practitioners worldwide. This has been distilled into one reliable, coherent approach, which is fast becoming a de facto standard used by some of the world's leading businesses.”

ITIL is nothing more than a set of books that reference other international standards, de facto-standards, best-practices, and generally accepted business books.

As to whether ITIL itself is a best-practice is a matter of opinion, but there is no debate about the best practices and standards referenced and recommended by ITIL.

A quick review of just ITIL Service Support book (half of what most know as “ITIL”) references eight International Standards Organization (ISO) standards, five related industry best-practices (including CMM, Deming, Balanced Scorecard, and others), eight popular management books, and several other national standards and common practices.

More Columns by Hank Marquis
6 Steps to Service Outage Analysis

CFIA in 4 Easy Pieces

Seven Steps to Improved Incident Handling

The Rise of Shadow IT

No Panacea

I won’t insult your intelligence and say ITIL is the answer to all the ills of IT because it is not. Nor will I say ITIL is a worthless solution that should not be investigated because it is not.

What I will tell you is that year-after-year two significant industry reports show that most IT organizations could benefit handsomely from some or all of the concepts in ITIL; for the majority of IT organizations are severely dysfunctional.

Every year the Standish Chaos Report documents that the majority of IT projects fail to deliver the business value required, planned, or expected. This occurs at terrible expense.

Every year think tanks like Gartner and others report that roughly 80% of the problems experienced by IT customers are caused by failed changes and activities within IT. Again, at terrible expense.

These statistics, which anyone can verify, clearly show that IT is actually quite “broken” and that IT is its own “biggest problem.” Clearly then, most IT organizations could benefit from anything that brings about stability, improves quality, increases efficiency and effectiveness, and reduces the costs of IT.

I agree with those that say “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” But IT is broken in the majority of companies around the world. While ITIL is not for everyone, you have to ask yourself: Is it for you? Only you can know if ITIL will benefit you and your organization.

Any Best-Practice

It is hard to argue against the ideals and philosophies contained within ITIL and its references. Even so, and contrary to the marketing hoopla, ITIL is not a perfect, ready-to-use, out-of-the-box solution to all the ills of IT. Nor was it planned as such.

All one has to do is actually read ITIL to know it does not tell you how to do much of anything. ITIL is an evolving set of books that describe how an evolving set of standards and practices might be organized to resolve common IT issues. ITIL was never intended to be a cut-and-paste methodology.

The authors took existing standards and practices and cobbled them together into ITIL. Thus, similar to best-practices, ITIL is not static, and evolves. For example, ITIL is currently getting a refresh.

The ITIL v3 refresh committee solicited and reviewed 530 written responses and over 6,000 comments, representing 80% of the countries with an itSMF chapter. As accepted best-practice evolves so does ITIL. This is natural. Just as medicine evolves, psychology evolves, technology evolves, so to the practices of IT must evolve.

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