Last week I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with George Spalding, one of the co-authors of ITIL v3, Continual Service Improvement. At one point George made the statement that ITIL is a framework and problems only occur when people treat it as the bible. I honestly hate that analogy and I’ll admit I’m happy to treat ITIL as “the Bible,” even going so far as to say that I believe Moses brought ITIL down from the mountain along with the 10 commandments (ok, maybe he didn’t quite bring ITIL down 5,000 years ago…he came down again from the mountain in 1989, and then in 2000, and 2007…but he only made a half-trip with this latest refresh).
So if ITIL is the bible, then I think it’s safe to say as a practitioner, I’m a rabbi (I’m Jewish so I’ll stick with what I know – but for the sake of inclusion you can change the title to whatever you want). Here’s where I now twist the analogy to avoid sounding like ITIL needs to be followed to “the letter.” The Hebrew Bible is one book, but do you have any idea how many books have been written on its interpretations? Hundreds, maybe even thousands. To add more fuel to this confusion fire, hundreds of more interpretations have been written on the interpretations. I hope you are starting to understand the picture I’m painting, but in case you don’t, I’ll lay out my opinion. ITIL is a collection of “good” practices that, for the most part, have been canonized as a sort of guide for “here’s what the most successful IT departments are doing.” But it’s not a definite instruction manual; it’s open for interpretation as to how best to implement the practices. On the other hand, every IT department, no matter how big or how small, is more than likely following the canonized concepts to some degree. This means that even though a small IT shop may not have an official Incident Manager, they still have to resolve their users’ issues in some fashion to prevent or reduce impact on the business, which falls under Incident Management. On the same note, organizations that don’t have some variation of certain ITIL processes, such as Problem Management, may find that they’re not able to provide as much output as similar companies that do.
So as a practitioner and someone that loves ITIL (yes, I’ll admit that I love it – hence why this blog is titled ITIL and Me), I’ll take the position that ITIL is a holy text of IT processes and has very good reasons to be canonized as “good practice.” But this doesn’t mean it can’t be interpreted differently by different people. At the end of the day the goal of ITIL is to improve the way IT functions, not to get as many organizations as possible to adopt ITIL – which is why I’d rather work with interpretations instead of door-to-door conversions.