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ITIL Ain't Folksy Anymore

ITIL v3 has shed the down-home, amateur grittiness that provided its appeal, writes ITSM Watch columnist Rob England, a.k.a. the IT Skeptic.
Aug 28, 2008

Rob England


Its new commercialism might help ITIL’s appeal in some sectors but it diminishes it in others. While the largest organisations and the Service Management zealots have all embraced ITIL v3 with fervour, many of the less obsessive are lukewarm in their enthusiasm for v3.

Why is this?

Several factors are at play, from the dauntingly monolithic nature of v3 to fatigue having just come to terms with version 2. Another factor is the image of v3. ITIL v1 and v2 were seen as independent, impartial, folksy and real. ITIL v3 has lost some of that: it is a little too glitzy, commercial, clever, remote and ambitious for some consumers.

One cause is the way they chose the authors. Un v1 they hired people and paid them to put it together in an independent fashion. Ironically, lots of them now work for vendors (I include consulting firms as vendors). In ITIL v2, many authors were ITIL consultants but in those days it was small business and they were still seen to be pretty impartial. There weren't huge dollars at stake.

Now, nearly all the authors work for big organisations in the ITIL market and did the books on contract. There are billions of dollars a year at stake, and suddenly ITIL isn't seen to be so impartial.

Why did ITIL’s owners, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), not stick to the original model of finding independent people and employ them to sift through existing bodies of knowledge to come up with a common generally agreed standard? There are still people around who are not strongly aligned to any one organisation. And the original idea was not to invent anything but rather to synthesise from what was available.

The problem was that OGC were caught up in outsourcing requirements thrust upon them by the European Community rules. They tendered for organisations to do ITIL v3 on contract instead of hiring independent in-house editors because they had to. (Rather than OGC write ITIL themselves or outsource it to the industry, there was also a third option of course, which I have looked at before: letting the community write it as open content. That wouldn't even have occurred to British civil servants.)

As well as the authorship issue, two other factors create the impression that ITIL is just a money-engine: 1) the selling-off of chunks of ITIL control to TSO (publishing) and APMG (training/certification), both of which are for-profit companies; and 2) the phenomenal success of ITIL v2 which has led to it disappearing in clouds of money-flies.

Tied Hands

OGC didn’t have much choice about the outsourcing of management any more than authoring, that was the rules. But, fact is one thing and perception is entirely another. The public sees ITIL being written by and run by the commercial operations that most profit from it.

As for the money-flies, the ITIL bandwagon is seriously overcrowded as every software vendor and IT consultant wants room at the trough. (Never let it be said the IT Skeptic was afraid to mix a metaphor.) Everyone wants to sell you ITIL, including quite a few who wouldn't know ITIL if it stood up in their cornflakes. The public see the vendor-media frenzy and the pirouetting of the analysts. They see the hype and the dodgy “research” and the misuse of terminology, and they don’t like it.

Then OGC made it worse: they charted a course into unexplored waters with only a token nod to COBIT, ValIT, ASL, ISO2700n, IDEAL and all the other available bodies of knowledge, the authors went inventing. Missing the opportunity to expand ITIL by absorbing the tremendous resource of available IP, v3 invents its own improvement program, its own application management, its own IT operations, its own governance and strategy. Re-use would have been easier and would have aided consistency and compliance between the various frameworks.

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