Published on June 14th, 20110
ITIL; what's ITIL? The language of #SDI11
“Service” and “Social Media” have usurped “ITIL” and “Processes” as the buzz words at the SDI Conference. James West wonders if the changing language indicates real cultural change, or if the ITSM industry is just following the crowd?
For many years, ITIL was a comfort blanket, the go to word at ITSM events to assimilate yourself into the crowd. If you understood ITIL and the terminology used by those practicing it, you were relatively safe in the company of IT professionals.
Fast forward to the SDI Conference (follow the #SDI11 Twitter stream for live updates – and there are many thanks to the provision of free wifi in the venue) running today and tomorrow, and the lack of mentions of ITIL are deafening. At the time of writing, not once have I had a conversation, or attended a session, that even mentioned ITIL, let alone debated its fine details.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that ITIL is no longer relevant, because it clearly is an excellent reference point for building and improving IT services. It does however indicate that the industry is tired of ITIL, because it became overused and given far too much prominence.
The scene is therefore set for something fresh to step into the breach, and social media and the storm of hype it continues to drive seems perfectly positioned. However, just because social media suffers from hyperbole, it is still relevant to IT services, for two reasons. Firstly, social media adds a level of information transparency that IT has not had to contend with before; customers can and will complain about a service independent of the traditional support channel. The fear of what social media can do to a business or its component functions is driving interest in the medium and heightening awareness of why IT must think more like an external service provider (hence the buzz around the word “service”). Whereas once, IT customers were a captive audience, now they have a forum to air their frustrations which is impossible to police, while the ease of buying IT from a third party is putting more pressure on IT to deliver not just acceptable service, but service that exceeds what others can offer.
Please note that the social media drivers detailed above are all negative. It is the threat of social media that is peaking interest, not the opportunity it presents and it is this latter point which is the second reason why social media is relevant to IT services. Social media presents a wealth of opportunities to communicate and interact with customers; to understand their frustrations and challenges and then relate how IT can help. If used correctly, it can provide a shortcut into communities, for delivering information about new services, outages etc.
In answer to the question I first posed about whether the change in key words represents real change, at this stage I’m sceptical that it is. Social media uptake being driven by fear is not the same as using it to transform how IT communicates with customers. A live audience poll at #SDI11 saw 39 per cent of attendees state they already use Twitter. It is likely that this means: “we have a Twitter account and tweet the odd snippet, perhaps maintenance windows.” While this is a positive move, it is not going to transform IT services to the level that justifies the hype. However, at least it gives us something to talk about other than ITIL.