The announcement of MITUS2, a methodology for building effective IT support, has caused some commentators to question why we need another set of processes, particularly now that ITIL2011 has become bigger than ever. Its author Noel Bruton offers more details on MITUS2, what it will offer support teams and why it is not another subset of ITIL.
MITUS2 is the ‘For Everyman’ version of the ‘Methodology for IT User Support’ that I have been using as a practitioner and IT user support manager, since even before I started my consultancy practice back in 1991, and to the benefit of my clients ever since. When I announced it two weeks ago on this website, there was some subsequent Twitter traffic suggesting, that as MITUS2 is about IT user support, it might thereby be classified as a subtopic of IT Service Management (ITSM) and can thus be referred to in the same context as ITIL. That suggestion is mistaken.
MITUS2 is solely about how to run IT user support. It is not part of ITIL, although it may coexist and cooperate with ITIL. It may however also ignore ITIL and in some contexts, render it superfluous.
User support, not ITSM
To contend that as MITUS2 is about IT user support, it must therefore be part of ITSM is a bit like saying that David Cassidy is a subset of Justin Bieber – a flaky comparison based a similar artistic idiom, but nullified by chronological distortion. I was ‘doing’ computer user support back in 1980 – it is an ancient and noble profession that predates the coinage of the ITSM concept by at least twenty years. ITSM didn’t exist until the 21st century, and only then because IT user support’s ITIL guise, the service desk, began to gather its own software-driven momentum with ITIL, and so was given a shoehorned place in the new-fangled idea of ITSM. Indeed, ITSM is even younger than the idea of the service desk.
MITUS2 has a completely different scope to ITSM, stemming from a much older school of thought. Rather than dealing with theory and principles in the strategic stratosphere of corporate IT, MITUS2 instructs in practicalities at a customer-facing workgroup level. It is specifically and solely about the day-to-day and minute-by-minute activities and practices of query receipt, control and resolution in IT user support – which are a lot more complex than many senior managers may comprehend. ITSM may have latterly subsumed the service desk, but the very different philosophical basis and historical roots of MITUS2 make it a poor fit for such uneasy incorporation
Procedures, not processes
Unlike ITIL, MITUS2 is not based on a set of processes – it is more like one single, end-to-end, branching process, conducted as a series of very specific, detailed, interlinked and interdependent procedures and subroutines. Where ITIL suggests “you need these individual processes, now tailor them to fit your business”, MITUS2 insists “do A followed by B, giving you statistic C which you will then use to inform decision D of your consequent recommended action E.”
ITIL is deliberately generic – tailoring is both expected and required, because it deals with the whole of IT and its role in the uniqueness of the business. Conversely, MITUS2 is very specific and highly detailed. Tailoring is intentionally minimised in favour of direct instruction.
Philosophy, not convention
However, MITUS2 also has its own higher values. Looking beyond its specialisation in IT user support, MITUS2 approaches things in a similar way to ITIL in some respects and very differently in others. Crucially – and a major difference – in MITUS2 there is a documented philosophy behind every single component. You don’t just do something because the framework proposes you might, but because there is a solid, thought-out, tried, proven and clearly explained reason why you must. Indeed if you don’t do X that way, you may cause Y not to work properly further down the line. MITUS2 won’t entreat you to use its methods just because the hyperbole claims that other people have apparently benefited from them, but because there are genuine, inherent, benchmarked and proven reasons for doing it this way.
As an example of this difference in philosophical approach, let’s take ITIL’s contention that there should be four lines of support – from first-line service desk, through systems support and developer, to fourth-line vendor. No philosophical basis is offered for that structure, but that is how the committee have ordained it and there it is to be obeyed. And as such, it wobbles at the slightest practical challenge. Why four? What is the real IT-support functional difference between every line outside the service desk? Aren’t they doing essentially the same job, tackling the calls that cannot be handled by the front line? In truth the difference, such as it is, only reflects technical hierarchy – a mere accident of IT politics, having no bearing whatsoever on service quality or functional practicality.
Conversely, MITUS2 says there are (not should be, but are) only two lines of support and describes the philosophical, practical and sound business reasons why, only to benefit service delivery and regardless of conventional IT salary strata. And it takes that tack across the entire IT support factory floor that it comprises.
History, not imitation
There are other similarities and differences between ITIL and MITUS2. An equivalent of change management is there, but it’s not called that, mainly because the administration, notification and scheduling of systems upgrades is not really ‘management’. There is also a reference to something like the service catalogue, but it goes much further into certain consequences of its content and is structurally rather more influential than the ITIL equivalent.
There is real attention paid in MITUS2 to proper management, being the orchestration of people and resources to produce a co-ordinated result, not simply the monitoring of mere processes. So unlike ITIL, MITUS2 will tell you how to manage your first and second line staff and their customers. Unlike ITIL, MITUS2 deals with and relies on the fact that IT support staff and users are people.
There are coincidences, like how ITIL and MITUS2 both happened to arrive at five layers. But that’s pragmatism, not plagiarism. Many of the techniques of MITUS2 are drawn from my books ‘How To Manage the IT Helpdesk’ and ‘Managing the IT Services Process’, both of which predate ITIL v3 (now 2007) by several years. Readers of those books may be struck by the coincidental, later appearance in ITIL of some ideas first documented in those volumes. Indeed the second of those books was published in 2004 purely to deal with the essential incompleteness of ITIL, which immaturity was of course itself acknowledged in the invention of ITIL V3 three years later.
Meaning, not rhetoric
MITUS2 is designed to be implemented internally and independently by those who will eventually operate it, to encourage ownership, not just compliance. There is necessary complexity in its documentation and software – and so if needed, training and assistance in several formats will be available to those who want to accelerate implementation. But that training will show how to ‘do’ user support, not merely test your ability to briefly memorise and multiple-choice select the invented jargon for concepts you may never use. I’m very aware of some of the ill-conceived nomenclature in ITIL, how it distorts the meanings of important words like ‘management’ and ‘service’ and is frequently trained instead of genuine usefulness. I deeply intend that MITUS2 will not make the same mistakes.
MITUS2 is being offered to the market precisely because there is nothing else like it, and frankly, by now there really ought to have been. I find it saddening that we should need something so unique this late in the game, because up to now, the industry’s approach has been so fragmented.
There is much splendid material around – like SDI’s ‘Best Practice’ series, or the repeatedly outstanding programmes of talks at that and other organisations’ events, like the annual SDITS show at Earls Court. But with all that material, as with ITIL (and I’m guilty of this myself), what you get are isolated treatises on various discrete aspects of producing user support excellence. And useful though that may be, it is non-contextual. It says, “here is a useful idea – and by the way, here is another, subjectively, but not causally related – and another, and another.”
That’s the usual way, but it cannot and does not take the MITUS2 approach of “Start here – then do this – next do that, in this quantity, with this many people, to that financial value.” MITUS2 is end-to-end, procedural, statistically inclined, engineered. It is not a set of suggested silos. It is instead a fully scripted story, a factory production line taking IT user support queries from demand, through raw material to end product. It is not just “what to do” – it is, in detail, “how to do it and in what order”.
I realise that MITUS2 is a faint whisper heard against the cacophonous hurricane of ITIL hype, but I would urge you please not to lump the two together. They have different goals, different audiences, and for the moment at least, different pundits and commentators. It may take me a while to explain it fully – and if this website will give me the readership, I have much more to say on that. All being well, the first components of MITUS2’s documentation and software will be available for download before the end of 2011.
Noel Bruton is an independent, UK-based consultant and trainer with over twenty years’ experience in advising organisations on the practicalities of IT user support management and improvement. He is the author of best-selling books on all aspects of IT service delivery. See more of his work or contact him at noelbruton.com.