What Next For ITIL?

By Stephen Mann
05 Aug 2011 View Comments
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With the updated version of ITIL imminent, 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.”

Stephen Mann is Senior Analyst at Forrester Research where he serves Infrastructure & Operations Professionals. For more posts by Stephen, and other Forrester analysts, please click here.

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