What Next For ITIL?

With the updated version of ITIL imminent (the 29 July 2011), I participated in a BrightTalk webinar on “what next for ITIL.”

My views on this are very clear, that we need to “look back before we look forward.” I touched on some of this in a previous blog, 2011: An ITIL Versioning Odyssey, but think it worthwhile to continue to articulate my views in this area.

Let's start with what I consider to be the biggest issue: the gulf between theory and practice with ITIL.

There is no doubt that ITIL can benefit I&O organizations. There are certainly many I&O organizations encouraging, or even forcing, their people to take ITIL training and qualifications: There are at least 1.5 million people with the certification and there is no sign of this slowing down. Not only are trainers busy, so are ITSM consultants and, of course, industry analysts. But, from an industry analyst perspective, there is a lot wrong with ITIL. This is not just how it ballooned in size from ITIL v2 to ITIL v3, but also how it is adopted in the real world.

So what's going wrong?

  1. If you look at existing ITIL v2 adoption, there is a focus on the reactive elements such as incident management, problem management, change management, and maybe even configuration management and service-level management. How many organizations have moved on to the more proactive elements such as availability management, capacity management, IT financial management, and continual service improvement?
  2. I&O organizations often overstate where they are with ITIL. They say “we do ITIL” but what this really means is that we have adopted the reactive processes mentioned above. There is also a misconception that everyone else is doing it and doing it right. This myth needs to be debunked. This is then magnified with ITIL v3 where I&O organizations say that they “do ITIL v3” when in reality they still do what they did with ITIL v2, have sent people on ITIL v3 training, and have bought a service catalog. But they haven't necessarily collectively understood and subscribed to: firstly, the concept of IT delivered as a service and, secondly, the concept of the IT service life cycle. Customer-focus is also still often lacking.
  3. There is what I call “the elephant in the ITIL-adoption living room” where initial ITIL adoption activities went well but as soon as the ITSM tool vendor’s professional services team and external IT service management consultants leave, ITIL adoption loses momentum and I&O fails to progress further with this journey to increase IT service management maturity.

There are, of course, other issues I could delve into (if my word count permitted), but I think it's best to start to look forward. So what needs to change?

  1. How ITIL v4 (or ITIL 2015 edition?) is presented to I&O organizations. We need to cut down on the bloat (i.e., the number of processes) and also make it more relevant to the changing business and IT landscapes (e.g., focus on business value delivery, cloud, and multi-sourcing and service integration). Oh, and let’s not forget customer service.
  2. How ITIL’s message and education is delivered. Basic training should not be about “cramming” process-based information but be more about the concept of IT delivered as a service, the service life cycle, customer service, and even topics such as outside –in thinking. My bottom line here is that, as is, I think that my dad could pass the ITIL foundation certificate and he's never touched a PC in his life. It’s scary that people can be hired based on the qualification.
  3. The proactive processes need to be pushed, including via vendor offering support. I&O organizations need to learn how to “spend a penny to save a pound” by being more proactive. Both of the previously mentioned points should help to address this.
  4. I&O organizations need to be honest with themselves and others about ITIL adoption. What did they set out to achieve relative to what they do now? How well do they “do ITSM” now?
  5. Those with a vested interest in the success of ITIL should do more to assist with its real-world (rather than financial) success. This includes those involved in publishing, training, consulting, selling ITSM technology, and selling ancillary services. We at least need to recognize and discuss how ITIL-adoption momentum dies post technology implementation project and what can be done about it.

So that's me, done. Please let me know if you think I am “holidaying in cloud cuckoo land.”


UPDATE: Two popular ITIL-related blogs:

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


Migrating to outside-in?

Stephen, timely blog given the release of the new edition of ITIL tomorrow. I'm hopeful that the time they have had to repair what was published in 2007 has been well spent injecting more of the 'start and end with the customer' (outside-in) thinking. So far, ITIL has 28+ 'processes and 40+ roles and few if any are customer centric.

Given service management (by this I am referring to the original definition given to us all by product marketers), is all out building a systematic set of methods to serve our customers, ITIL must shift its view and quickly. ITSM to me was always about the application of service management thinking to the challenges of IT - not reinventing everything from within IT and then trying to sell it back to the business, where it originated!

ITIL needs to help IT folks think customer and business first and understand what business they are in, and who they serve, and how to go about that task. Here's hoping the Strategy refresh helps IT re-imagine its role.

Great article

Great post (and great comment from Ian). I am seeing a lot of controversial opinions these days about ITIL and the way it is deployed, which is great as I am seeing a lot of money, time and efforts wasted towards the ITIL Gods with little seen in return. Ian cited in his blog some months ago that 3 on 4 ITIL projects are abandoned or dramatically scaled back, I don't know the source or date, but I do believe it.

I would go even further regarding vision and outside-in. Why IT has to confine itself to ITSM? Drop the IT. Why can't IT champion pure, cross-departmental business service improvement? It is in the best position to lead it.

Dropping the IT from ITSM misses the point

Raul - thank you. I shudder at the thought of just dropping the IT from ITSM. I see too many new wave evangelists marking their business cards as 'service management' gurus of differing types. Few actually cite the original sources of service management thinking - the business marketers of the 1960s and 70s! As I wrote in the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge (USMBOK), a book designed to marry the best of all views on service management, the roots of service management are in product management and marketing!

IT is still acclimatizing to what it really means - and ITIL evidence of the IT habit to re-engineer and reinvent everything they see so it fits their view. Do not drop the IT from ITSM without understanding what SM is actually all about. I am delivering a webinar with Brighttalk on this very subject Aug 10... as part of the BSM Summit... I'll post the link here tomorrow.

Where is the Big Picture?

Okey, we'll keep the "IT" on ITSM for a while :-)

What I see is that usually optimizing the IT part (or the part of any other internal department) separately is a local optimization instead of a global one, hence, it is far from optimal (more at http://thevisibilityblog.com/2011/07/28/fast-food-monitoring-and-the-the...)

I look forward to your webinar, Ian!

ITIL - A badge of sucess or a sucessful badge

ITIL - a foundation or framework that used correctly can aid a company develop effective, repeatable and consistent delivery models.
In reality there seem to be people who have challenging process sets derived from the manuals that fly through audits and quality control and lurch in the workplace attempting to prove they are the best and the glitches in their daily activity are the basis of continual service improvement. As the commentary in this blog highlights, are people really using ITIL or just the bits to address a knee jerk reaction to failure?
An alternative position seem to be the firms pushing people out to do training and collect badges and then provide exciting metrics that xx% of the organisation are ITIL trained (mainly foundation) and therefore are ITIL compliant; whatever that really means.
ITIL has value in the right place under the right direction and when delivered well and pragmatically aligned with the business it supports. Badges on lapels are not a measure of success, neither are glittering process books flying off wonderful web pages or as seen recently bound volumes of stuff.
I firmly believe that ITIL like other frameworks has a place to support a business - the business however needs integrity and a heart or the whole things becomes a dream as found in such readings as the wizard of oz.
So is ITIL a badge of success? Effective, measured and demonstrating a business intent to deliver first quality services doing it for real and learning and developing through mistakes?
Or, is it a badge successfully won through attendance of a course, passing an exam and doing the bits remembered when time but extolling the virtues of being ITIL compliant; compounded by cleverly marketed solutions that dribble from "consultants" whose actually real time knowledge of doing things on the front line amounts to finding that line by way of some satellite mapping system? I accept the latter statement is contentious and I am sure there are “advisors” who have used the system in anger; I can only speak as I find and what I fall over are theory monsters.
ITIL is the framework for me - I do not need a badge to demonstrate ability; satisfied customers of our business attest to that.

ITIL 'badge'

I enjoyed the read... good job!

I look at ITIL as I do with any other methodology or approach to business... it's knowledge... now what you 'do' with that knowledge will determine whether you make it to that next level... success/wisdom.

The 'theory monsters' you reference reminded me of college where I saw 2 kinds of professors... those that taught theory because they learned everything from books and had never left academia and those that taught theory/opinon with examples of their experience. In that 2nd class there was another division...those that talked about how great they were and those that shared the specifics of reality and 'what went wrong'--I learned more from them...

In business we need IT people that get 'business' and understand that nothing short of growing market share, growing revenue, growing profit, growing customers, growing 'business' is where success resides.

So when we 'educate' ourselves or obtain 'badges' it should be something that contributes to our ability to make the business successful--and should directly tie in with value--not just another badge to add to our cert list!

Losing sight of "why we are doing this"....

Well done Stephen, good stuff.

Regardless of whether it is ITIL V2...V3...V4...V117.... if people/companies are more focused on the version than the purpose, they will not succeed. I recall having HEATED debates years ago with so-called professionals about CMDB being a monolithic repository in V2. These individuals cited "THE BOOKS" and said that they called for creating change and incident records in the CMDB in order to "control" them. What they refused to accept was that the purpose was governance and control NOT the locations of records themselves. I reminded them of the technological capabilities of the time and why they might have 'written' the books in that way. Although, I still don't understand why they would imply details of technological solutions in a process book....but anyway. I feel similarly with regards to V3 vs V4 vs...... and whether to drop the IT from ITSM, we need to refocus on the purpose.

We need to focus on the ultimate purpose of ITIL and that, to me is to enable business partners to grow their business by servicing their customers. For some businesses, maybe it is in terms of improved quality whereas for others it is in terms of quantity & speed. The measure is specific to the particular business and their customer, IT just needs to enable that goal, whatever it is. Aligning to Business is reactive....enabling business is proactive. IT MUST become proactive even though it has had a hard enough time being reactive.

With the insight of a services based organization, IT can move towards a proactive model but we need to build, as Ian states "a systematic set of methods to serve our customers". Without customers..... IT is not needed. Don't get caught up in the worries of whether it is 6, 12, 28 or 48 processes..... IT needs to focus on the goal of why they are trying to do this. There are LOTS of intelligent people in this industry trying to deliver the right solution in the right circumstance. Sadly however, some have a Utopian and Ideological view of things and deliver on the words in the book rather than the need of the customer.

Spot on post. Let's hope

Spot on post. Let's hope ITIL 4 returns to its roots and focuses on service delivery. There is still a crying need for an uber-framework for IT, but ITIL V3 failed to be it and COBIT 5 is marching into that territory.

As for "how ITIL-adoption momentum dies post technology implementation project and what can be done about it", I'm working on it. Watch Tipu.

We Need Customer Empathy not Frameworks

We have enough frameworks. In fact they seem to be getting in the way with their trumpeting of different specifications for systems and organizations. What we need is some voice out there amongst the professional associations and conference speaking to the need to listen to that voice of the customer so many quote.

Everything starts with a customer expectation - we need to learn how to capture that and appreciate it is allowed to change in real-time. remember, if you don't satisfy your customers, someone else will in today's commoditized IT industry.

And can we finally get off of this implementation cycle. Don't implement - improve. Don't reengineer, reimagine. Don't do the silo shuffle, and remember, your value to your customers is in how you help them succeed, not in how well you fix what you broke.


Can't agree more, Ian. You nailed this. (And this is why, in the quest of helping the customer, I vote to go beyond the frontiers of IT... but let's discuss this other day).

Hey, where is the link to your webinar?


Raul, it will be locked and loaded via Brighttalk Monday - I'll discuss the recent redefinition of Business Service Management by ITIL Edition 2011, which now means that if you add the traditional definition of ITSM to BSM (according to ITIL), you arrive at the USMBOK!

I'll tweet the details - follow me here @ianclayton on www.twitter.com

Thanks Ian, I look forward to

Thanks Ian, I look forward to it.

Again, Stephen, excellent and thought provoking post.

ITIL 2011 is an update, not a

ITIL 2011 is an update, not a new version. The updates to the publications are designed to:

* Resolve any errors or inconsistencies in the text and diagrams, both in content and presentation.
* Improve the publications by addressing issues raised in the Change Control Log, as analysed and recommended by the change advisory board (CAB) and approved by the Cabinet Offi ce, part of HM Government. These are largely to do with clarity, consistency, correctness and completeness.
* Address suggestions for change made by the training community to make ITIL easier to teach.
* Review the Service Strategy publication to ensure that the concepts are explained in the clearest, most concise and accessible way possible. There is no notion of simplifying the concepts; rather, improving the exposition of the ideas.

The company line

Oh puhhhlease!!! You don't really believe that: "ITIL 2011 is an update, not a new version".

just some of the changes are (ignoring "clarifications")

A complete rewrite of Service Strategy. Actually that's not what the FAQ says but it is what i'm betting we'll see. The FAQ says "The concepts within the publication have been clarified, without changing the overall message"
newly defined process of strategy management for IT services
separate descriptions of business strategy and IT strategy
business relationship management and demand management are now covered as processes
new content explaining how a change proposal should be used
The evaluation process has been renamed ‘change evaluation’ and the purpose and scope have been modified
additional content relating to asset management
improvements in the flow and integration of a number of Service Transition processes
Process flows have been updated or added for all Service Operation processes
an expanded section on problem analysis techniques
procedure flow for incident matching
The CSI model has been renamed the CSI approach
the concept of a CSI register has been introduced
documenting the interfaces from CSI to other lifecycle stages
Four new processes and two others renamed ... and it is a "minor" "update". Who'd guess these words come from the British civil service eh? Yes Minister.
[From my blog at http://www.itskeptic.org/itil-v3-2011-new-book-and-four-new-processes]

Not to mention the fact that the books blew out from 1,343 to 1,959 pages, i.e. from 4.459 kg to 6.981 kg!!!

please don't waste readers' time regurgitating OGC's (now Cabinet Office's) Orwellian pronouncements.