Does ITIL have a future, or has its time passed? Steve Straker joins the ITIL paradox debate and says we need to ditch the unrealistic aim of turning all service desks into world leaders, and instead decide if we are to create ‘pub IT‘ or emulate world class Olympians.
While reading the ITIL paradox article on ServiceDesk360 I began thinking about Paralympics and realised there were parallels which help explain why many organisations are still in the dark ages of ITSM, and why others have gone off and won awards and matured.
Looking at ITIL and its inception, it was created to fill a requirement in IT, at a time when it was struggling to be taken seriously and in setting a way of working which would be recognised as a standard (not the standard); using common language and simplifying complex concepts into smaller operational activities.
At the Paralympics, we saw 5-a-side football using the standard rules of the football which have been in place for years. Yet, to adapt to different challenges and capabilities of the people doing the “work”, a sub set (adaptation) has been introduced. The pitch is smaller, the technology is different, there are no throw ins, no offside – creating a very different organisational set up, yet still following the overall rules of football. I use this analogy because I think we have missed the point about service management and ITIL. If we take the rules of football as the ISO/IEC 20000 standard then everything else is adaptable. Some football teams will be Premier League, while others are seven leagues below that, and yet more are pub football teams, yet all comply with the fundamental rules in place.
I cannot see any pub football or village team attending a seminar or summit on “World class football in 7 easy steps”; “Football – Analysing your performance” or even “Football – The lifecycle explained in 5 steps”. They are just not interested in it and recognise that their own capabilities are well below world class, yet they still regard themselves as part of the football fraternity. Why have we presumed every organisation wants to aspire to be or is capable of achieving this ‘world class framework’ ideal which constantly floods ours inbox? Recognising your own capability is a human thing to do; you know where you are, you know where you want to be and you perform within those two boundaries.
Don’t use ITIL at all if it doesn’t suit. Pub teams will do analysis of their performance over a pint after the match – they don’t do trending, neither do they breakdown individual team performance on metres run. There’s no over engineering lessons learned and certainly no worries about KPIs. Yet Premier teams employ myriad technologies to analyse every aspect of team, individual, competition and targets achieved. IT organisations fall across all of these categories. If you like COBIT use it and don’t be ashamed that ITIL isn’t used. If Lean and Six Sigma is your thing, then fine. Use whatever works for you.
Where does this leave ITIL? It still has its place, but as a much smaller focussed sub set of the official way of working. For organisations who want to be ‘pub IT ‘- and there are many out there – let them be just that, working away, doing a really good job and performing within the boundaries of their capabilities. Looking at LEXI, the official way of classifying abilities within the Paralympics movement, you see comparisons within the maturity of IT organisations. If you have challenges of sight, or movement then athletes are classified and placed in competition with their like-for-like peers. Yet in our industry we place everyone in the same category and shame on you if you don’t make the finals.
In summary, lets consider reducing the scope of ITIL to the core set of common simplified operational activities through the life cycle of a service. In other words: one book. Agree a common set of categories that organisations can place themselves in and benchmark themselves against. Recognise that all organisations are different in behaviour, nature, culture and capability and let them do their own thing.
The future of ITIL? It’s only going to be there if we don’t tar everyone with the same brush.