ITIL® and Me

In the trenches with ITIL and ITSM.

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.

Last week I was happily listening to the itSMF monthly podcast ( and the main topic of discussion was about “green IT.”  During the session a good point was made that, unfortunately, the reason for “green IT” initiatives is more related to saving money due to the economy and not actually for environmental concerns.  I couldn’t agree more – money does make the world go ’round, but that’s not the point of this post.  What strikes me as odd is that the “efficiency” projects have focus when they’re needed the most instead of when they’re easiest to implement.  Take “green IT” as an example.  I think it’s safe to say that environmental conservation was just as important 10 years ago as it is today, but being green is in the spot-light now because it’s seen as a way to cut costs instead of simply being as “good” practice (since I live in ITIL V3, I’m making an effort to use “good practice” instead of “best practice”).

Alright, you should be picking up on my topic that we always need to think about efficiency and money in the IT world (I personally hate thinking about money, which is why I’m in IT).  So why am I dragging Southwest Airlines into my blog?  First, my current director used to work for their company and he always describes how fun it was to work there and it sounds awesome, so I’m kissing tokhes.  Secondly, I always hear about how Southwest is one of the few airlines still making money and a big reason for that is because they inherently function as efficiently as possible.  Amazing!  A company that has simply functioned efficiently, and now when the economy goes south and money is tight, they’re still out there just as strong as ever.

So the lesson I learned, and am trying to really put a focus on, is that an economical recession is not the time to push for improvements in efficiency, be it with “green IT,” ITIL, virtualization, etc.  The best time to make those changes are when resources (a.k.a. time,  money and people) are readily available, then when times get tough an organization doesn’t have to react to survive.  Hey, no wonder why successful companies are studied to find those “best practices!”

The itSMF Central Ohio LIG is hosting a great event on Thursday, January 20th.  “HOW DOES IT ADD VALUE To The BUSINESS – Providing Value to the Business in a Lean Economy.”

In today’s economy getting “the business” to see the value in IT is a tough challenge (which can be helped with marketing, by the way).  This event will host a panel of CIO’s from several organizations around Central Ohio, including “THE” Ohio State University, Columbus City Schools, Abercrombie and Fitch, the IBM Software Group, Progressive Medical and OCLC.  (Now here comes the boasting)  These companies aren’t just big for Ohio; they’re major national players so you can be sure their IT departments are being led by some brilliant people.

Last but not least, this panel is being facilitated by George Spalding; Executive VP of Pink Elephant and co-author for ITIL core:  Continual Service Improvement (so if you’re a fan of the CSI publication, you can probably get your copy autographed).

And if I haven’t gone on enough about the planned evening, there may also be an appearance from none other than Doug Tedder, president-elect for itSMF, USA (hail to the chief).

Click here to download a PDF version of the invitation.

Now that the first week of 2011 is over, I think it’s probably time to add my name to the growing “good bye 2010/predictions for 2011” blog posts.  In case you’re curious, I didn’t want to just jump on the posting bandwagon at the turn of the year because, quite honestly, I had such a good New Year that the hangover is now wearing off and I’m finally thinking clearly again (not really, but that excuse makes me sound pretty cool).

So, here’s my big goodbye for 2010.  Goodbye 2010!  That’s it, nothing more.  I could go into a “here are some lessons I learned” list, but in reality I’ve learned so much about ITIL and ITSM that I couldn’t list them all if I tried.  And Besides, I really don’t like lamenting on the past.  2010 is gone and now it’s time for 2011.

In 2011 I see some big things on the horizon for marketing in IT Service Management.  ITIL doesn’t address marketing outright, but I’ve written on it in the past and I see it becoming more important when it comes to justifying IT to “the business.”  I’m also realizing that “marketing IT” really does start with the Service Catalogue since marketing is essentially the same as telling everyone “here’s what we do and we’re the best at it.”  The Service Catalogue answers the “what we do,” metrics and KPI’s answer “we’re good at it” (or it can say “we suck,” depending on the reason for reporting), and I really do see social networking as the “how” to do this marketing.  If everyone in “the business” is using social networking for communication, you might as well go with the flow.

That’s all I’m going to write for my focus in 2011 for ITSM (please observe how I said “focus” and not “predictions” – if I could make successful predictions I would have won the lottery several times by now).  I’m sure all the ITIL debates from 2010 will continue (V2 vs. V3, worth of V3 certification, ITIL vs. ISO2000, etc), but evolution does not occur without some debate so I welcome every new opinion and idea that comes along.

Happy New Year!

Go Bucks!