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ITIL v3: What's the Rush?

v3 is a high wall to climb. For beginners, best to stay with ITIL v2 for now, writes ITSM Watch columnist Rob England, a.k.a., The IT Skeptic.
Sep 13, 2007

The IT Skeptic

We ITIL’ers are process people not technophiles. Yet so many of us are rushing around getting all in a tizzy over ITIL v3 like a bunch of geeks running from booth to booth at Tech-Ed. I say relax. There is no rush to go to v3.

Why not, you ask? Several reasons:

  • There is nothing much wrong with ITIL v2;
  • v3 is too big with no help available on getting there;
  • v3 is too raw and nobody understands it properly yet;
  • v3 certification isn’t even ready yet; and
  • Only a small proportion of the ITIL community are advanced enough to need v3.
  • v2 works. It’s good. I’ll bet you never thought you would hear the me as The IT Skeptic say that. But it does and it is. I have been critical of aspects of v2 but overall it is a fine body of knowledge. If v2 worked for a business last year, why wouldn’t it work this year?

    My home PC is a Pentium3. It runs SimCity3 which is all I ask. My phone is an old i-Mate PocketPC: a big chunky tablet. No fancy keyboards, no 3G, no WiFi … For many years I drove a 1974 Holden HQ Kingswood. That will mean something to only a tiny minority of readers, but if I tell you it had a bench front seat and a three-on-the-tree column shift, you’ll get the idea.

    These “old” technologies work. They met the business requirement back then so why not now? Sometimes the requirements move on and so must the supporting infrastructure but sometimes they don’t. Or the move can be delayed until the infrastructure is ready.

    Not only does v2 work well, but v3 is a big ask. If v2 taught us how to walk, v3 teaches us how to run. The trouble is many organisations are still sitting down. Only some organisations have already embarked on the ITIL journey and many are not that far along the road. I’d hazard a guess that maybe only 10% of adopters are ready to make use of the more advanced aspects of v3.

    Certainly there is an attraction in starting out with v3 so you don’t need to “convert” later. Do not rush into this decision. For beginners or less advanced sites, there is currently little information about how to get to the higher standards of v3 in any graduated or phased manner.

    As a result of integrating all the "Lost Books" of v2 (how many know that there are nine or 11 books in v2?), v3 is an order of magnitude broader and more complex than the red and blue books of v2. This is an advance for the industry, a step up in competency. Unfortunately it is only a step up if you are already standing on the v2 step. If you have not embarked on the service management journey yet, then v3 represents a high wall. Chuck the Five Core v3 Books at a beginner and they'd run screaming.

    v3 provides no intermediate steps up the wall. v2 is the only "beginner's ITIL" available. OGC (UK’s Office of Government Commerce) and TSO are hell-bent on killing off v2 as fast as possible. But v2 will not go anywhere until an ITIL for Dummies comes out as part of v3 complementary guidance. Or people will start turning to simpler alternatives such as FITS.

    The other book we desperately need is "How to Implement v3" providing a progressive series of steps up that wall. The current five books say where to get to but they still say little about how to get there. Wait until something gets published that does.

    ITIL is about improving maturity step by step. v3 is a maturing of ITIL over v2. All involved have endlessly reassured us that they are upwardly compatible. So stick with v2 for now.

    Some organisations make a policy of waiting for “service pack 1”—the first wave of fixes. Actually v3 looks remarkably clean for such a major rewrite, a tribute to all the editing and review. Check out my BOKKED database to see current known errors in the books.

    More importantly, if you hold out we hope to see more complementary guidance books published to extend and elaborate on the core books.

    Most important of all, you should wait for consensus to emerge about what works and what doesn’t in v3. Wait for the consultants to have a bit more than a two-day “upgrade” course under their belts. Heck, at this rate all the exams won’t be ready until 2008, so where are you going to get a v3 master anyway? By end of 2008 he or she may know what they are talking about.

    For the great majority of readers, you don’t need to go v3 in 2007. Come 2009, you will have made enough progress in some of your ITIL disciplines to actually consider the next maturity step, to v3.

    The IT Skeptic is Rob England, an ITIL professional and active itSMF member who lives in New Zealand. More thoughts from the IT Skeptic can be found at www.itskeptic.org. Portions of this article appeared in the IT Skeptic’s newsletter The Skeptical Informer.