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ITIL Must Embrace the Collective

If the OGC fails to adopt new modes, the open content movement will take ITIL away, writes the IT Skeptic.
Oct 26, 2006

The IT Skeptic

The change that threatens the OGC (the UK’s Office of Government Commerce; owners of ITIL) is the new Internet revolution—Web 2.0, the wisdom of crowds, collective intelligence—call it what you will.

It is so new the world has not settled on a name for it yet. It is an emergent characteristic of the Internet, a rising phenomenon that is radically changing concepts of intellectual property, expertise and authority.

One aspect of it is the exciting application of the open source concept to content, exemplified by Wikipedia but also seen in more esoteric sites such as OpenCola, Core Practice or the Science Commons.
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Or OpenITIL. If you struggle through the Google translation you will find this group is creating an open version of ITIL, including documenting the processes in UML (ugly but potentially useful).

Granted, there have been less formal attempts at this in the past, such as The ITIL Open Guide and the ITIL Wiki. Maybe OpenITIL will be no more successful, but the trend is real and growing.

Now the I horrify myself by sounding post-modernist (as I regard post-modernism as one of the great evils of the 20th Century). For those of you who were busy elsewhere while the Western intellectual world turned to mush over the last fifty years, Wikipedia defines post-modernism as “The belief that all communication is shaped by cultural bias, myth, metaphor, and political content”.

If we apply this to ITIL, then Post Modernism says ITIL reflects the culture of its creators. The negative connotation is, therefore, ITIL is biased by its creators. Thus ITIL is not necessarily representative of the "best" in world thinking, or necessarily the best approach in other cultures than the one it sprang from. It is best only within the culture and politics of the group that created it.

Now let me say right away that the people who wrote (and write) ITIL are dedicated and professional and expert. The process however is clearly subject to question, in particular the scope and the inclusiveness.

There are clearly efforts made to bring in content from a wider range than just the authors of the books. The initial books came from a number of sources, and that number was expanded later.

The newest group of authors are just as diligent and professional in their execution of their task and will canvas a wide number of contributors from their professional networks. According to our fellow ITSM Watch columnist Hank Marquis, "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."

But anyone looking at this from a post-modernist viewpoint can clearly see ITIL is heavily derived from the culture of corporate North America and Britain.

It seems odd to accuse a U.K. government body of representing Western corporate business (or more precisely providers to corporate business), but it is so. As the OGC says, the authors are “service suppliers, training companies and academia in Britain, Canada and the USA.”

No government, no local government, no non-profits, no health or engineering, no small or medium enterprise. The only educational institution is Carnegie Mellon, which some would argue is as much representative of corporate culture as academic.

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