2011: An ITIL Versioning Odyssey


OK, so we all probably now know that the long-awaited ITIL “refresh,” ITIL v3.1 (or the ITIL 2011 Edition as it now seems to be called), is to be released on the 29th July 2011. But four years on from the release of ITIL v3 where are we exactly?

Let’s start with the provided facts about the updated version of ITIL. The ITIL Best Practice Management update points out that this is an “update” not a new version. Paraphrasing the update on the update, ITIL 2011 Edition is designed to:

  • Resolve any errors or inconsistencies.
  • Improve the ITIL publications by addressing issues raised to do with "clarity, consistency, correctness and completeness."
  • Address suggestions for change made by the training community.
  • Review the "Service Strategy" publication to improve accessibility and understanding.

Then there is my opinion, humble I hope …

To me, the above is all-well-and-good if ITIL v3, as an IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework, had left a long line of adoption success stories in its wake. However, my observation as an analyst and someone who genuinely cares about ITSM and its community is that ITIL v3, while created with the best of intentions, lost the plot. With a certain cheekiness, I often describe ITIL v3 as the “Return of the Jedi” to v2’s “The Empire Strikes Back” (too geeky?), and my continued conversations with ITSM/I&O practitioners and ITSM tool vendors have left me still hunting for the unicorn that is ITIL v3 in the wild (… I really do hope someone will correct me here).

Unfortunately, I am still of the opinion that too many organizations state that they are “doing” ITIL or ITIL v2 when they are doing just a small subset of it (don’t get me wrong, I’m all for adopt and adapt but have you seriously looked at the more-proactive processes beyond incident, problem, change, configuration, and service-level management and discounted them? Really?). And those that say they are “doing” ITIL v3 are often just doing what they did with v2 with the addition of a service-request-oriented service catalog and some ITIL v3 training for its people (more money spent on ITIL products and services but where is the extra value for the business?).

So what’s going wrong and why are those with a vested interest in ITIL (I shied away from using the term “owners” here) not doing something about it? To me, changing something that isn’t working correctly on a real-world-adoption level (despite the continuing high numbers of people passing the exams) by just updating the content seems wrong. Yes, it might create wealth for its peddlers but ultimately ITIL was designed to assist ITSM practitioners with the efficient and effective delivery of IT. But is this actually happening with the continued development of ITIL?

Of course, I can see the benefits of ITIL, and value the contribution it has made to the IT industry, but if we are going to continue to be content with watching ITSM practitioners struggle with the more-proactive ITIL v2-espoused disciplines then surely we should be focusing our efforts on the bits people do already, not adding more things to do.

Conversely, if we want and expect organizations to increase ITSM maturity, what are ITIL’s stakeholders doing to help (other than selling more publications, software, and training)? I wrote about this “ITIL inertia” in a previous work life, and to me it still rings true … "The Elephant in the ITIL Adoption Living Room?" Getting organizations to move from the reactive to proactive elements of ITIL is difficult. Surely, adding in more proactive elements to aim/aspire for doesn’t help? If anything it just encourages staying with the status quo.

Then there are the questions that abound re: ITIL keeping pace with the changing IT and business landscapes … such as the support ITIL can give in managing IT services in the cloud (that old chestnut), in meeting end user’s increasing expectations with respect to customer service, in supporting mobility and non-corporate device use, and with the bigger picture of managing third-party suppliers and service integration. Hopefully, the ITIL update will start to cover these but with the information released so far I just don’t know … ITIL has its origins in the UK Civil Service; sometimes, however, I wonder if its origins were actually in the UK Secret Service.

I also often think that ITIL doesn’t do itself any favors. Current upfront messaging seems to be about selling more ITIL-related books and services. Two out of three pages of the ITIL Best Practice Management update are dedicated to publications and examinations. The itSMF UK announcement virtually leads with … “Pre-order your copy of the Suite (print edition) before 15th July at the very special price of £283.00.” Not great when many are quick to offer their opinion that ITIL has become a cash cow for consultants, trainers, and their ilk (it keeps us analysts busy, too).

However, I am pleased to see that financial management has been expanded upon in ITIL 2011 (how, I am unsure). But in the context of my comments above, will I&O organizations continue to keep it in the “not interested” or “too difficult” piles?

IMHO, ITIL 2011 was a long time coming (post initial announcement), and I’m not entirely sure whether the invested time and effort has been well spent. We will have to wait and see. 


UPDATE: Two popular ITIL-related blogs:

Please check out my latest blog ... http://blogs.forrester.com/stephen_mann


Change Is Good!


When I first saw this I was amused. Why?

Because it goes back to the days of when Microsoft left their "numbered version release" for things in terms of years. Well, history shows how well that has turned out, at least in terms of product naming (marketing view).

The current example made me think of President George H.W. Bush and his (now infamous) statement -- "Read my lips. No new taxes."

With any publicly available, commercial framework, all of it's customers should *expect* such changes. No, let me go further -- they should *demand* such changes! There is nothing wrong with adding new material, revising old material or rearranging things, if it serves to make the product better for the customer.

Of course, if you make it a point of pride to note that that things won't be changed, I can see how this would be a problem. Especially when it might give the appearance that something is being fixed because it was wrong or broken. For anyone who fields a product or service, that is a bad situation to be in. Still, if the shoe fits...

I would suggest that OGC should follow the COBIT example. Content is regularly reviewed/refreshed and version numbering discipline is used. From my perspective, I think that ISACA has done a good job with it and they deserve credit for what they've accomplished and how they've done it. I only hope that their ability to execute doesn't degrade over time, due to external influences.

At a bare minimum, it'd be nice to see OGC bring some actual *product management* discipline (one of the legs of the service management stool, eh?) to the management of ITIL.

There's a core of goodness in ITIL that we must not overlook. At the same time, until there is better guidance provided, it's incumbent on us (as customers) to properly evaluate:
1. The contents of the framework with the proposed changes,
2. The scope and anticipated impact of the changes,
3. What benefit we believe it can provide for us,
4. and what it will now help us accomplish within our organizations.

Bottom line is that I think this is a (stutter) step in the right direction. I hope it doesn't take OGC another four years beyond this to do more. The global community that has come to rely on it deserves better than that.


Let's step back and take a moment ...

... not you Ken.

All good stuff but I guess what I'm looking for is for the stakeholders of ITIL to take a long hard look at the current state of real-world ITIL, and to take some positive actions to improve how the theory translates into practice.

Why do so many organizations get stuck at incident, problem, and change?
Why is IT financial management so difficult or unwanted?
Why is capacity management the runt of the ITIL v2 litter?

IMHO, continuing to change and sell new versions of ITIL seems wrong without addressing the above and other issues.

On Stakeholders...


I agree with you that continuing to sell new revs of books without really attempting to address the issues and shortcomings is wrong, but book sales are a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. I'd be happy to return to that at some point.

There is a larger set of issues/concerns at play here. Let's look at your statement:
"what I'm looking for is for the stakeholders of ITIL to take a long hard look at the current state of real-world ITIL, and to take some positive actions to improve how the theory translates into practice."

I have no issue with your statement *per se*, as I would want the stakeholders to do just as you have asked.

At the same time, we (as an industry, or at least a sub-segment of an industry) need to realize that this is one of the core issues that has allowed the framework to be used, abused and devalued. There is no concrete, practical guidance about how to translate theory into practice in ITIL. Period. Many will likely argue with me, but that's fine. I don't mind the argument and I am willing to be specific about it.

The concepts are too high-level and building the connectivity between the "processes" gets laid upon those that adopt the framework. It's been my direct experience that there is too much misunderstanding about what is actually contained in the books. I interviewed a candidate for a position that I had open not all that long ago and she claimed an advanced level of ITIL knowledge. How she actually described herself, I'll save for a different rant... err, post.

She asserted that one of the statements she made "was in ITIL". I told her that it was not. She said "Oh, yes, this is in the books". Without missing a beat, I grabbed the books from the office I was in, brought them to the conference room and laid them on the table. I gave her 30 minutes to find where in ITIL it was written that supported her assertion. After all, if it's "in the books", you should be able to find it, right? Well, I left her there for an hour. When I returned she still had not found it.

The fact that she was "wrong" and I was "right" is not important here. In fact, I really don't care about that at all. What was important was that it made an important point. Because of the lack of specificity in ITIL, practitioners supplement what is written *with their own experience*.

Do I have a problem with this? No, at least to a certain extent. I fully expect that anyone who uses any framework will read, interpret and attempt to put into practice, the concepts and methods described in the framework. To do this, by necessity, they will need to rely on:
1. Their knowledge of the framework;
2. Their knowledge of their organization;
3. Their knowledge of their industry/specialty;
4. Their previous experience doing similar activities in other organizations.

Bringing a discerning eye to choosing the right tool for the job and then using it properly is a practitioners primary way of adding value. That's why, at the Service Management Society, our motto is "Value from Knowledge and Experience" -- because you really DO need both!

This is especially important when it comes to frameworks. If they don't have the level of detail and guidance needed to use them properly, supplementing this with a practitioners experience is the *only* viable path forward. This includes choosing what other tools/frameworks to supplement with to patch the holes in required coverage. Experience can patch up some holes, but it also presents a problem -- it's inconsistent. Things are only ever as good as the (last) practitioner that uses the tools.

When I walk into an organization and they tell me that they're having a problem with Incident Management, I cringe. Why? Because I can almost guarantee that the only thing that they might have in common with the last engagement that I saw is the specific "tool" that they are using. Beyond that, I have to discover what it is that they are actually doing that they are calling "Incident Management". They are filling in the gaps with limited experience and whatever functionality a software package can provide them and calling that "doing Incident Management". It just doesn't cut it. [NOTE: BTW, I don't think the software tools are the core problem either, they are a contributing factor (along with how they are sold) ]

And, wait, it gets worse! Subsequent generations that weren't part of the evolution of the framework can miss some of the plot lines, because it wasn't made explicit or it wasn't rigorously described in the foundational documents. If I have any problems with ITIL, it is here.

The stakeholders have *suffered* with things as they have been for way too long. The means that were used and the pace at which the framework has evolved has been completely insufficient, given it's stature and the extent to which organizations and practitioners alike have come to rely on it. Absent concrete guidance and realistic recommendations on how to "adopt and adapt", people will "make it up as they go" and do the best that they can do with what they've been given is "good enough".

Unfortunately, what they've been given isn't enough. Compound this with the extreme bias towards Inside-Out thinking that Ian describes and you have a potentially lethal combination. There are ways of addressing these issues, but you're going to have to look elsewhere to find them.

Anyone that doesn't think it through and take the risk seriously is betting their career and future on the current state of affairs being "good enough".
Are you?
I'm not.


ITIL demonstrates the dangers of inside-out thinking

Get ready for a year of 'Introduction to ITIL Edition 2011' presentations at conferences....

I'm getting deja vu with this latest release, update, refresh, makeover, new edition, not a new version of ITIL. The tone was set a few e-alerts ago with - "its changing but nothing will affect your certificate or existing use of the guidance". As I think Ken was implying, "read my lips, no new concepts".

We might find that so on July 29, but its likely there are new methods or mechanical aspects to how it all works. Why? because ITIL has traditionally presented an 'inside-out', IT view of how service is offered, contracted to, and provided. We are now living in the service experiential economy, where interactions shape satisfaction.

ITIL has habitually omitted the customer centric aspects and failed to help IT organizations understand HOW proven service management principles are applied to address the challenges of an IT organization, and align IT's activities with customer needs and outcomes.

The Cloud Computing dust is settling, many are realizing that a combination of a public and private cloud make sense. Service Management, or as IT terms it, ITSM, should have prepared us all for managing a subscription based set of IT services regardless of platform - it has not. Instead we read of the confusion and danger of Cloud to ITSM - what? Cloud has exposed the naivety of ITSM/ITIL, the framework, the training, and our profession at large.

Here I must lay some blame at the feet of ITIL and its evangelists, who in part have led many of us to a 'Thelma and Louise' moment. They encouraged us to base our approach on ITIL. They moved the conversation to the strategic 'service provision' level, likely before we were ready as an industry.

Now, the Strategy book, the most important element in alignment, the compass and true north indicator, is to be effectively replaced. Thats the good and the bad news. It means the previous version didn't meet the need.

So for some, their ITSM GPS is about to be reset, and frankly due to the style of 'cooperation' between their community and the managers of ITIL content, they are just not ready for what it is about to be published.

Unfortunately, despite its vastg industry use and support, ITIL remains inside-out, both in the way it explains and emphasizes its view of service management, and in how it positions itself as a product within the marketplace. I'm hoping the resurrection of the Business Relationship Management process gives us all our first outside-in ITIL element.

One last comment. As the author of the Guide to USMBOK I know only too well the challenges of writing and maintaining a reference used as guidance. I decided to early on to separate out the guidance, the how from the what, by establishing an online best practice statement library.

Via the SMBOK.com service I can react in realtime to industry trends, support questions on the content and direction, allow folks to vote for new guidance and companion topics, and offer continuous improvement and monthly updates.

Am I wrong in expecting a reference as influential as ITIL to do something similar?

One sentence says it all ...

... "ITIL has habitually omitted the customer centric aspects and failed to help IT organizations understand HOW proven service management principles are applied to address the challenges of an IT organization, and align IT's activities with customer needs and outcomes."

I couldn't agree more Ian.

ITIL Edition 2011

Ian Clayton sums this ITIL Edition up oh so very, very well.

I focus on the people interactions and relationships aspects of Service Management and Ian is SO right - ITIL is totally inside-out and we desperately need to be working outside-in. I have been frustrated by this lack for many many years which I guess is one reason why I have tried to avoid teaching ITIL wherever possible, despite being an 'ITIL Expert' now! ITIL has only ever given a somewhat cursory, even off-hand, head nod to a critical aspect of service provision - listening to our customers and users and building strong and beneficial relationships with them.


Links to further ITIL 2011 updates!

If you are interested what is going on with the ITIL Best Practice Framework - here are some details:

1. ITIL is getting an update in mid 2011! Why:
- resolve some inconsistencies and errors
- incorporate feedback by the ITIL community (see www.best-management-practice.com/ChangeLog
- to clarify Service Strategy publication
2. What does this mean?
- No need to buy new books – OGC is working on a free, downloadable ‘Summary of Changes’
- Online subscriptions will be updated free of charge
- No impact on software tools
- No impact on certifications (according to AMPG)
3. How can you stay up-to-date with all the developments?
- Go to www.best-management-practice.com/ITILRegister
For more details around the scope and development plan for ITIL V3 update go to:

For complete details around best practices go to: www.best-management-practice.com

Working from inside out to outside in fails


Thanks for the update information. Frankly what you spell out seems to be directly from the OGC/TSO/APMG 'party line'. Its changing but its not. There were not some inconsistencies - there were many and they were serious. The strategy book is being literally re-written and in here I would expect a serious refit of the whole approach, and connections to the continual service improvement book to help target customer issues better. I suspect new books will be 'required' - they are already on offer. There is no discount although online updates are complimentary.

There is a new syllabus to be issued early August to synchronize the adjusted chapter/topic sequence with curriculum. If there are no new practices then ITIL will continue to be inside-out in its approach, and continue to help fail the customer. If there are new concepts it will certainly effect existing certifications and ITIL designations. Its a no-win no-win situation and one they should never have painted 1.5 million certificate holders into...