Published on November 4th, 20112
Can we stop arguing definitions and instead collaborate to improve ITSM?
Is Lean more suitable than ITIL for addressing the challenges facing IT? James West says that the debate around this question reveals a fundamental flaw in the ITSM industry which is stopping us progressing and answering the questions which threaten all of our livelihoods.
The Lean and ITIL article predictably inspired much debate, with some comments supportive, while others critical that the former cannot replace the latter because it is a methodology rather than reference tool, and that the two entities are very different and I shouldn’t dare confuse them.
It’s not a new phenomenon, people in our industry have always been quick to jump on the backs of commentators who stumble when defining something as a standard, a methodology, or just guidelines. My view is that these ‘debates’ are increasingly pointless because they are distracting us from the real issues. Isn’t it time that we stopped the pointless semantics argument, paid more attention to the world around us and actually found ways to meet the challenges that threaten the future of IT?
Before you wade in and argue that these definitions are important, please ask yourself the following questions: did any of these methods/reference tools/standards fully define and shape any ITSM strategy? More importantly, do any of them offer absolute solutions for the real world problems facing IT today? If the answer is no, then why are we so precious about guarding them, let alone how we define them?
The industry has been so protective of ‘best practice’ because it is comforting to fall back on bodies of knowledge. Having a bubble of unique language and terminology to hide behind means that if outsiders try to question what we do, we have been able to counter by saying the criticism stems from ignorance – “you don’t understand book/standard X so you can’t possibly comment” – regardless of the validity of the point being made.
This cosy club may have once made us feel part of the business; privy to information that only technology experts like us can understand. The problem is now everyone understands the value of technology because it has been successfully packaged for consumers, and the only meaningful question they have is: “why doesn’t business IT work as well as it does at home?” Our desperation to cling to our petty debates and definitions is one of the main reasons why we are unable to offer an answer.
Whether something is a reference or a ‘method’, slavishly following it while ignoring common sense and the nuances of the adopting business is foolish. Failure to understand this principle has led to a perfectly useful body of work (ITIL) becoming elevated in importance to such an absurd degree that it has stifled thinking and innovation in the industry it is designed to support. Going back to my article, Lean shouldn’t replace ITIL for defining how we manage ITSM if it is considered in absolute terms. My point was that the ethos of Lean is more suited to the needs of IT than a set of books that is pitched at professionals, already overburdened and fighting complexity, by becoming bigger in each incarnation.
Fear is one of the biggest factors defining business IT right now, predominantly fear that cloud/outsourcing/personal devices will make the internal technology department redundant. In-fighting and arguing over small details will not help. Instead, let’s collectively find ways to meet the challenges, to make IT more personal, more attuned to the need of the business and start feeding in new technology that will help our businesses compete in the global economy.