It’s Time To Realize That “ITIL Is Not The Only Fruit”

“ITIL, ITIL, ITIL” is all that many of us hear these days when it comes to improving IT service management (ITSM) maturity or the availability of ITSM good/best practice and guidance (for the "Little Britain" fans out there imagine Tom Baker reading this intro). Many talk (and write) about the alternative or complementary frameworks, methodologies, and standards; but neither COBIT nor ISO 20000 (amongst others) have yet gained the market traction and collective consciousness of ITIL, the “ITSM best practice framework.”

ITIL is and will continue to be the de facto choice for most IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals. Having said this, however, many I&O organizations continue to look at the possibilities of using multiple frameworks, methodologies, and standards in tandem to help better deliver against business and IT issues – what is commonly called an “ITIL plus” or “plus” strategy, e.g., ITIL plus COBIT.

USMBOK anyone?

Another body of service management good/best practice, the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge (USMBOK), has long been lauded by ITSM thought leaders; but it has, to date, lacked the profile of ITIL in particular. Importantly, it works with, and is differentiated from, ITIL – it is not an ITIL competitor, more of a “companion piece” that supplements ITIL on both strategic and operational levels. Hopefully you noticed the deliberate naming of USMBOK – that there is no “IT” in it. It is about service management not IT service management – a solution to the issue that we often place too much emphasis on the “IT,” and not enough on the “SM,” element of “ITSM.”

USMBOK offers guidance on service management in an IT environment (or other environments should you wish) and can help to align I&O thinking to the need for customer-centricity in addition to the service-centricity espoused by ITIL. It extends (IT) service management to encompass thinking and guidance on the “new service society,” the need to both understand and demonstrate “value” in a customer context, and the pursuit of customer advocacy and loyalty. All of which are key to delivering IT (or any other) services in a “reputation economy.” A good customer quote on the power of USMBOK is "The USMBOK is valuable because it focuses on service and then describes the management practices related to the service." (Please refer to my previous blog on how these are some of the key ITSM challenges I&O professionals will face in 2012 and beyond.)

TSO announcement on USMBOK

So why am I suddenly “talking USMBOK”? Yesterday, The Stationery Office (TSO) – the publishers for ITIL and PRINCE2 – announced that a series of USMBOK publications have been included in its International Best Practice Library. A vindication of not only the need for “more than ITIL” and the changing IT delivery and customer landscapes, but also the continued work of USMBOK’s author, Ian Clayton, to move IT service delivery from the inside-out status quo of supply-driven, “20th century IT” to outside-in thinking and actions that are driven by customer needs.

My Jerry Springer-like final thought

Yes, this might be somewhat of a “puff-piece” on USMBOK, but I would also like to think that it is a big neon sign pointing you in the direction of how I&O organizations need to change the way they view and ultimately deliver IT services to the business; and the fact that we need to support the people not the technology. The business expects and the core USMBOK mantra of "What business are we in?" "Who do we serve?" "How can we help our customers succeed?" is the foundation of good service management (yes, I deliberately left the "IT" out again).

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Great summary, sir.

I think that a key point to reinforce is that the USMBOK is not a competitor to ITIL. In fact, as I am fond of saying, it's more akin to a "Rosetta Stone" that allows us to look across frameworks and methods and better understand how to leverage them from the perspective of what best serves our customer.

In this way, if you do consult multiple frameworks, you'll be better able to identify gaps in coverage AND resolve conflicting guidance towards. If it didn't provide any other service, I think that would be more than enough reason to give it a look.

Fortunately, it's that and a whole lot more!

The "Next Generation" of ITSM is upon us and it's time to get busy!


ISO 38500 is a simple

ISO 38500 is a simple standard that experienced ITSM managers and CIOs understand immediately, recognising the value it offers towards gaining top management support for their IT governance implementation project based on COBIT.

Good Point

I am a big fan of this standard, along with many others!
The USMBOK pays due respect to this standard, other key governance resources (yes, there are more) AND a whole collection of other national/industry/international standards (for coverage of other knowledge areas) too!
The BOK is *not intended to be a replacement* for them, rather a way of gaining a universal, unifying view.

Thanks for calling this out!

Awesome source for governance guidance

Actually, although the USMBOK speaks to the ISO38500 standard, it is only part of the conversation on governance and regulations. Much is also drawn from the Governance, Risk and Compliance 'Red Book' offered by, a great resource, and from writings by Peter Weill (IT Governance), and work I've done to help define the language of governance and policy management.

We have to remember that often standards offer the minimum criteria and lexicon of terms for us. We always ave to suspect at least one person has put pen to paper in the past. Herein as Ken suggests earlier is the heavy lifting inside of the USMBOK, finding valuable sources and distilling their opinions and guidance into a consistent, universally applicable reference. I'll admit that the vast array of sources, almost 200 books, set me a 'mission impossible' to apportion credit. So they are listed in the bibliography rather than cited specifically instream.

How they connect, and many of the concepts that act as glue, represent my inventive contribution to teh work.

One service society many service experiences

Just so I'm clear, and to help those who struggle to break away from the traditional ITSM event horizon. The USMBOK was developed to help provide a set of concepts and a framework of working methods applicable to any service business or service provider, in any service sector. Yes, this does include an It organization but only if they are being performance managed as a service provider.

I was fortunate to have had great product management training in a previous life from Pragmatic Marketing, who provide 'market driven' or customer centric view, not develop it and customers will come. Product management is the origin of service management and a service is a TYPE OF product, as the USMBOK explains in its opening sections. We live in a service society where the experience using and interacting with products and services is a differentiator.

Successful customer outcomes and the 4Es of 'encounter, expectation, experience and emotions' are what service management thinking manages. Books have been written. Proven methods to design customer experiences abound. Successful service businesses like Disney, Starbucks, Nordstorm and Dillards light our way.

Yes in IT we persist to reinvent and reengineer. A genetic trait perhaps?

So, the USMBOK is NOT competitive to frameworks such as ITIL or COBIT. Its just positioned that way by some who don't understand its purpose, or don't want to. Or who have yet to actually read it. The USMBOK, from an IT framework perspective, provides much needed missing language and thinking that helps these 'inside-out' starting points be leveraged to address the true challenge IT faces today. Providing a service in a service society that is comprised of the 4Es.

Customer? service> so that's what it is all about

I have now asked more than 4500 people 'doing ITIL' what is the definition of a service, less than 15% seem to know. It seems to me that too many people and organizations adopting ITIL focus too much on the internal perspective of processes and an IT view on services. I Think this (USMBOK) adds to the ITSM frameworks by bringing them back to the essentials. It is about Customers, Customer experiences, services and delivering value through services. I know USMBOK is broader than IT, but from an IT perspective I think this will help us break out of the internal focus and start creating an ITSM 2.0 - back to basics, back to sevices, back to business. A new focus is welcome, anything that can break us out of the paradigm me seem to be trapped in.

The USMBOK , USA and the US Marine Corps...

Paul - saw your tweet about some folks thinking USMBOK was USA focused.... let me suggest thats a natural mistake given it was developed by a Brit on Caribbean vacations after working around the world for 20 years, influenced by how Italians run a family restaurant and Irish run pubs, and by one particular book written by a Scandinavian.

Again, for clarity - the USMBOK represents a view of the service management landscape - hopefully from a perspective that respects the giants upon whose shoulders we stand as they say, those in product management and marketing who first took on the challenge of the service society in the 1960-70s. It has nothing to do with the USA, except to say it does leverage the very best 'best practices' used by many successful service businesses found in the USA.

Nor does it have anything to do with the US Marines. I've also heard that comment or question. Although I must admit that one day I hope its as useful as the Marine Corps Survival Handbook.... dare I mention the Mayan calendar?

Huge fan of USMBOK

I'm a huge fan of USMBOK.

I use it all the time as the lead "good practice" with our customers.

I discourage "doing ITIL." I use it to compare against ITIL, ISO 20k, etc. - so that customers can think through what they're doing and adopt a practice based upon a rational choice for their particular circumstances and goals.

ITIL is weak in areas where USMBOK is strong.
USMBOK intentionally uses existing other standards where appropriate - which strengthens acceptance with departments outside of IT.
USMBOK is, to me, more straightforward, less "fussy" and more pragmatic.
USMBOK focuses more on the outside-in result than does the ITIL, which seems overly bureaucratic.

I like to focus on my customer's customer results - and still help my customers adopt CobiT, EA, Fullcost and other controls so they can move forward to a multisourcing future. USMBOK and Lean seem to work best for that.

IT Service Management Framework & EITA

Enjoy the blog, and many in-depth comments above, USMBOK, ITIL, COBIT, CMMI, SOA, ISO...etc, many standards, as we brainstormed in the other EA thread, each framework may have its own pros and cons, moduli-zed it with architectural approach to blend best practice together as the future of standards. Especially now, at the era of cloud, what's the strategic re-check for IT infrastructure/service management best practices. thanks