My Issue With ITIL

I received a comment from a Forrester client about ITIL and BSM, and their respective potential influence on each other. Most notably whether BSM was the only mean to implement ITIL.

My background is in process control automation and software engineering, two disciplines firmly grounded in technology and reality. For me, the word "process" invokes a very specific meaning and definition such as CPRET.

CPRET is a mnemonic for the basic definition of process in process engineering: it stands for Constraints, Product, Resources, input Elements and Transformation which are the basic components of a process. In process engineering, a process is a suite of transformations of elements into a given output (product) given a set of constraints and resources. From this definition, we can see that technology has a strong influence on the process: the transformation part is a clear function of the technology available as input and resources in IT are strongly influenced by the technology used. As we mostly deal with information and data in IT management processes, the type of data available is either helping or impeding the transformation part.

It stands to reason that if the only input to a process is limited information and the only resources available do not shed more light on the subject, the transformation part will not reach the desired output. If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail illustrates this: the process treats any and every input as a nail, with a random output and an unpredictable success rate. Of course this is not acceptable.

My issue with ITIL is that it tries very hard not to mingle with technological issues, exactly as if the input and resources were constant. Of course, one should not forget that ITIL is grounded in mainframe technology, were inputs and resources have been well known and defined for ages.

So, is BSM the only way to implement ITIL? Certainly not, but ITIL cannot be implemented without a definition of the technology used and a clear understanding of what the technology provides as inputs and resources. Dispensing of this, as I have seen many organizations do, would simply result in a mass of useless paper. What should we do about implementing ITIL then? First renounce the ITIL dogma (The ITIL purist will certainly disagree). Second understand what tools are available and what type of inputs and resources they provide. Third, rewrite the ITIL process by incorporating these new inputs and resources in the process.

Is BSM the right tool set? There is always progress to be made, and something else will one day replace BSM. But today it is the only one we have got.


re: My Issue With ITIL

Twaddle. Only an unredeemable geek would start with tools and work backwards. "technology has a strong influence on the process". Processes can't be operated by people without technology? Oh dear. I think you are confusing efficiency with effectiveness. Any process can be operated on paper. Most are. Tools just make it faster and safer (sometimes, where the transaction is repeated without variation)

re: My Issue With ITIL

This people and technology argument is getting old. Of course, you need both.Humans are tool beings since we climbed down from the trees and picked up rocks to hunt.Do you think Ug argued with Og about the hunting process being all about skills and that rocks had nothing to do? Or did Og say, "rocks without people don't throw themselves?"Sorry, but I am a tool designer and vendor because I believe processes are intrinsically about the union of tools and human practices. To speak of one without the other is .... insufficient.It's fair to question whether rocks are better than scissors or paper for a particular process, but it's silly to question that technology is needed. And to the point, is BSM needed? I don't know, but a service catalog is certainly needed to implement ITIL. After all, it's a problem with what? An incident to what? A change to what? Answer: A service.- Rodrigo Flores, CTO, newScale

re: My Issue With ITIL

Technology changes so fast that it doesn't make sense for something like ITIL to focus on it too much. What it does well is recognise that your people (or your supplier's people) and their skills should be given the training and resources to understand technology. ITIL will give you best practice guidance on how to direct these people.All the ITIL books I have read recommend that an IT Manager researches appropriate tools - where's the part you seem to remember that suggests one tool is used for everything?

re: My Issue With ITIL

I think the posting as well as the dialogue here highlights something that I have been talking about for several years now.Everyone is right.The problem has been how do I get technology to align and support my process. Most vertically developed ITSM solutions have an established design basis and bias that results in you having to follow the "process requirements gap" to vendor A, B and C.There is a whole set of technologies out there that gets very little notice in the ITSM space, but is having a huge impact outside of IT and around business process. BPM Suites (BPMS) answers both the process strategy, requirements and design aspect of "rules before tools", but also aligns the orchestrating technology with the design. Thus, the reason, BPMS vendors are growing at a 30-50% pace in 2008/2009 when the rest of the software industry is shrinking. And BPM highly aligns to the BSM message. I believe a service is simply the output of a process.Look at the BPM research from any of the IT Think Tanks. "... even without process redesign, a basic investment in a BPM suite yields significant returns. By simply “making the current-state handoffs, timing and responsibilities explicit, productivity improvements of more than 12 percent are normally realized[2]”. In another report, .... indicates that 78% of projects see an internal rate of return (IRR) of greater than 15%. The same report indicates that these projects were deployed in very quick order (67% in less than six months, 50% in less than four months). BPM has proven in almost every case to increase efficiency, effectiveness and agility."Given all this, wouldn't ITSM and BPM be a natural combination?? (yes, this is our pitch too :) )Look at the latest case studies - highlights that value and success can and has arisen from the business, outside of IT... Scarey example for IT dogmatist who continue to state "Wait for us, we're supposed to lead..."Regards,John Clarkhttp://www.iccmco.com

re: My Issue With ITIL

I'm more with John, and certainly not with "the Twaddler"...It's got to be both. Here's why, from where I sit. As long as we have a world where technological innovation proceeds at light-speed (albeit many times from a very point-product, focused pain-point perspective), we are going to have many (most!) organizations implementing said technology AHEAD of their ability to define, let alone create, a process by which the lifecyle use of said product can be fully managed.It's always been thus, and it will ever be thus. Heck, just look at how fast VMware took "virtualization" by storm... and just how fast those using it got well ahead of ANY process by which it could be fully managed in the context of complete IT Management (cross discipline, loosely in the "ITIL"sense)...Yeah, they had some technological tools (point only), but no complete ecosystem.But, they didn't WAIT for a well formulated, well implemented and well managed discipline (and accompanying toolsets) either...They launched, and the masses "came"...It's always going to be a Demming-type of iterative process around both a process and a set of technologies...Until such time as the technical innovation pace falls off as evidence of a technological maturity plateau...But we aren't anywhere near close to that point.Yeah, processes CAN be implemented with a minimum of technology (Paper and Pencil are, after all *a* technology - LOL), but nobody implements an inefficient process that cannot be applied everywhere it is required.The key tactic towards successfully bridging this "gap" is always going to be flexibility, adaptability, and openness of the technical "tools" chosen to GAIN sufficient efficiency to justify their use and cost.And this is further amplified during any times of "economic stress"...Nearer to my own, admittedly somewhat narrow, domain of expertise: look at the discipline of Capacity Management. It is ALL about ultimate efficiency: balancing cost of resources needed to sustain the business against the ability to deliver services within time constraints...Why would anyone NOT do it against all their services and infrastructure? Easy: because it takes too much time to do it RIGHT! Primarily because it has traditionally required a rather high degree of technical skills and mathematical "aptitude"... And if you don't do it right, the risks outweigh the benefits... The challenge there is: how do you encapsulate that expertise, such that a PROCESS can be created and AUTOMATED so that the expertise can be applied whenever/wherever it is needed.I think the issue is the same across MOST IT (and business for that matter) disciplines...It's not "the process, stupid", and it's not "the technology/people, stupid"...It is: artfully bridging them, in an automated, scalable and repeatably efficient fashion, in such a way as to continually improve on all dimensions over time.RegardsDave

re: My Issue With ITIL

Thank you all for reading this and sharing your thoughts. Let me clarifiy one thing first: BSM for me is not a single tool, but a concept in re-engineering the tool set by adopting a service centric view of the technology rather than a siloed technology approach (and service catalog is very much part of BSM, as is the CMDB and other technologies). My second point is that I did not say that the process comes from the tools, but that it has to be influenced by the tool. In the rock and hunter example, I am not saying that the rock creates the hunter, but that the process of hunting is modified and improved by using the rock, and it could also be modified by new skills learned from our experience with the rock. As it would be modified again when I replace the rock by the bow and arrow.The point I made is that a process results in a "product" (which could be paper based). You can influence the transformation that leads to the product by applying skills and methodology (as in my work as an analyst) but this has to be achievable through the available toolset. If it's not, then the tools or the process have to change. When the tool technology changes, it does improve the process and sometimes modifies it dramatically. My conclusion is that one cannot ignore one aspect and focus on the other. And that's my problem with ITIL.

re: My Issue With ITIL

I disagree with the comment above stating that ITIL needs to address technology. It is a framework for defining best practices as they relate to Service Management. ITIL originally applied these principles to IT Service Management. However any Service can benefit from these best practices. Even Services not related to or dependent on technology.

For this reason it is wide open to improving the quality of service of any organization. Its open and simplistic approach is what has made it poplular world wide.