While we’re busy enjoying the ITIL rewrite debate, a much bigger issue is looming over the horizon which threatens the fabric of ITSM, writes James West.
Arguing about ITIL is to IT service management what the Great Red Storm is to planet Jupiter; a ceaselessly churning swarm of energy and hot air. Just take a look at Twitter (#ITIL) and blogs from James Finister, Rob England and Stephen Mann to see this theory vividly illustrated.
ITIL supporters and distractors are equally headstrong, passionate and stubborn. On one hand, this is a good thing, because the collective energy and debate they bring have banished the biggest enemy of innovation – apathy. ITIL has been forced to grow and improve to appease its fans and those who criticise it, and we are left with a very active industry forever questioning and attempting to solve problems.
However, there is a flip-side to this activity. Just as the majesty of the Jupiter storm dominates observations of the gas giant, the weight of ITIL can mask a much bigger picture and ecosystem. I’m hesitant to undermine the ITIL debate and its significance (for the record, I think rewriting the books is brave and absolutely correct, as long as the project delivers the publications that should have been there in the first place), but when I consider the problems faced by our industry, I can’t help feeling that the precise wording of a guidebook is not really that important.
What are these problems? Well, there’s cloud computing for one. Microsoft Office365, Google Apps, Chrome web-powered netbooks, iCloud – this is just the beginning. These rich, influential and innovative companies are attempting to simplify computing and its management forever. If we look at it another way, they are trying to commoditise the very thing that ITSM and internal IT departments exists for – delivering seamless IT services.
We like to think that ITSM is more important than that – and of course it is – but when these big brands find the optimal way to package and price IT functions so they become funky, consumer services (business ‘users’ are consumers too – only IT tries to differentiate and split people into the non-existent consumer/end user groups), is ITSM positioned to respond? Does ITSM have the tools and measures in place to prove it is doing a better job than an outsourcer, or a cloud hosting company?
I sense it will take a few years of analysis before we truly understand how devastatingly drastic the changes we are witnessing within enterprise IT are. Tablet computers and smarketphones, and the pain these devices are causing IT departments as they scramble to either lock out or incorporate them into the corporate mix, are ruthlessly exposing limitations to traditional IT delivery.
IT is changing at a pace that no-one can really comprehend. Depending on how it shakes out will define the roll of the internal IT department – and indeed whether there needs to be one at all – for the next ten years. Put into this context, the ITIL debate seems petty and inconsequential.