The Cult Of ITIL: It Has More Followers Than You Think

OK ITIL, the IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework, is neither a cult nor a religion, but hopefully I grabbed your attention.

The point of this short, but hopefully interesting, blog is that when we usually think about ITIL we normally focus on the IT service management and IT operations organizational domains as its playground. And, while we appreciate that other IT roles might have an interest in ITIL (especially enterprise architects or those looking at DevOps), I imagine most will be surprised at the following percentage readership demographic for my recent “Adopting ITIL” report.

Percentage split of Adopting ITIL readers across Forrester “role types”

So what is this showing?

Firstly, I find it amazing that the intended audience, the IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) Professional role, only accounts for 28% of total reads. The other reader groups while somewhat expected are interesting in terms of volume relative to the intended audience.

This can be viewed in a number of ways including that:

  • I&O professionals don’t need to read the document as they already “know it all” (glass half empty).
  • Other IT professionals are interested in how ITIL can help with IT service design and delivery (glass half full).

Given the actual, rather than the percentage, read volumes (circa 500 in this February 2012 snapshot) the former probably isn’t true; rather that the messaging around ITIL and its perceived benefits have permeated out of the I&O organization and into the wider IT and business community. I often quote that fact that the ITIL branding/marketing machine is to be admired for the way that ITIL has gone beyond the I&O organization to reach a level of board-level consciousness.

So what does it mean for the I&O professional?

There are few things that, in my opinion, may or may not make your life easier. Let’s start with the awkward one first: I&O might come under pressure to adopt ITIL if it has previously side-stepped the “opportunity.” Not a great position to be in – a mandated ITIL adoption that will technically be a mandated ITIL implementation that ultimately fails. Be prepared to argue the case as to why ITIL is not right for your organization if you truly think it the situation. Also be open to this “outside” opinion on the worth of ITIL, it might change yours.

On the upside, the “outside” interest in ITIL can be leveraged (OK, let’s exploit it). It might mean that the time is right to seek business support for either a Greenfield ITIL adoption or an extension to existing activities. So seek out interested parties and combine cerebral resources to create a compelling business case for advancing your ITSM and IT service delivery maturity whether it be via ITIL or not.

Finally, the “outside” interest in ITIL could also be used as a platform for conversation or ongoing dialog about what I&O does and how having a common interest and focus on IT service delivery can help not only the individual “IT silos” but also the IT organization as a whole and, most importantly, the parent or customer business.

As always, your observations, thoughts, and comments are appreciated. I’m off to dance around my ITIL 2011 books ;)

UPDATE: Two popular ITIL-related blogs:

 

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If you enjoyed this, please read my latest blog: http://blogs.forrester.com/stephen_mann  

Comments

"ITIL is neither a cult nor a

"ITIL is neither a cult nor a religion" yes it is http://www.itskeptic.org/node/17

Thanks Rob

I particularly like the bit about nose blowing ... "In a recent survey “72 percent claim the biggest barrier to ITIL adoption in their business is organizational resistance.” Well, hello. What makes you right and them wrong? Several billion people find it disgusting to blow one’s nose then store it in one's pocket."

I admit that for some ITIL is "cult-like" ... that they automatically follow without questioning. I added in the line you refer to almost as an afterthought to try to avoid the blog being anti-ITIL (I'm personally not anti-ITIL, just frustrated as to how it is "sold" and how too many people use it as an excuse to disengage their brains). But I have yet to see brain washing (OK, maybe a little), abductions, family members trying to grab back loved ones, intimate relationships that are considered unacceptable by modern society, etc. But I admit that ITIL does have some strange rituals.

I wonder if the real ITIL cult members (this is an admission that there is an unhealthy ITIL propaganda underbelly) are merely those with a vested, livelihood-based, interest that merely seek their own survival at the expense of others? The rest are merely people who "believe everything that the read in the tabloids."