ITIL® and Me

In the trenches with ITIL and ITSM.

I’ve been noticing a few things on Twitter lately regarding getting IT aligned with the business and the importance of understanding what the business side actually does to provide value.  Usually my eyes just pass by this kind of knowledge with a minor thought in my head of “duh,” but it’s starting to bother me that we, as an ITSM community, need to keep reminding the rest of the IT world that IT needs to understand the business and get on board with providing value instead of sucking away precious budget dollars.

In a recent conversation with my friend and colleague Jake Dunmoyer (https://twitter.com/zenitsm), I had a chance to hear Jake’s view that in the (probably not so) distant future everyone will be a part of IT and the successful people will be those that are good at business.  I tend to agree with his views and I look forward to the day when the phrase “IT Department” is only muttered when I tell my grandchildren stories of the “early days of technology.”

So, if the trend is towards IT and business merging, and the voices of ITSM have been constantly loud and proud about making sure IT understands the business and has the goal of providing value, why isn’t “IT” listening?  Or to be more specific, why isn’t every CIO, VP, director, manager, supervisor, analyst, engineer, developer, etc., listening and starting their day with the agenda of providing value to their employer of choice.  I don’t mean to sound like Lumbergh from the movie Office Space, but there is truth into the saying “is this good for the company?”

To offer my own thoughts for an answer on this rant, I’d like to point out that in ITSM we’re not just dealing with process, and we aren’t only dealing with technology (even though it’s the most fun), but we’re dealing with people.  Now, I don’t have the greatest experience in dealing with people as I gave up my psychiatrist dream years ago, but my wife’s a behavioral therapist and from her daily rantings I can confidently tell you that changing a person is hard, let alone changing the mindset of a group of people.  It’s true that we can use incentives (pay raises/money/gamification) to help drive change, and fear is another tactic (job firings/Death Star blowing up your planet), which isn’t as effective given how Star Wars went down, but it can still work.  But the greatest way to make the change is the culture, since culture will influence the entire organization down to the individual employee.  Considering changing culture takes a lot of time and energy in its own right, it’s yet another thing that’s going to take time to complete, especially if it’s at an organization that has been around for several years and makes only conservative changes.

So is there hope that people will be blinded by the light of IT + Business?  Of course.  As always, it will take time and constant prodding to convert the conservative population over to the realization that the IT landscape is changing, and I’m sure there will never be an end to the reminders to IT to get to know the business (I recommend taking the business out to dinner, maybe someplace romantic where you both can talk and get to know each other without any outside pressures).  I do promise that when I see the obvious Tweets and posts about the need for alignment, I’ll try to ignore making snarky remarks of “duh” and “obviously” and will try to keep in mind that the constant reminders are needed to help push the culture in the right direction.  Until the day of reckoning comes about, here’s a video that pretty much describes my feelings on the topic….

[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7O7sBg-iJc” start=”134″ end=”142″]

 

I originally started this blog with something akin to “People Sell Out, so Why Can’t Process?” with the goal of giving a (minor) criticism to the fact that the Capita JV really is the sellout of ITIL.  Instead of being so negative about the joint venture, and with it being the Fourth of July tomorrow, I really sat back for a minute and considered; what’s the best thing that can come out of the JV?

I’ll be honest that when I heard the news of the name for the new JV, Axelos (or is it AXELOS?), I felt a little betrayed by the UK Government (they may have intended the betrayal to get me back for losing the war in 1776, but that’s a personal conspiracy theory).  A big part of the betrayal came from the fact that with a change in ownership comes a change in management, and the change is apparently starting with a rebranding of the venture.  While Capita spent millions of dollars and has the right to rebrand the management of ITIL anyway they want, it’s a solid reminder that the “best practice” framework that I love so much is now in a major state of flux.  In alignment with what The IT Skeptic posted (http://www.itskeptic.org/content/some-thoughts-capita-jv) regarding his thoughts on the venture, I’m not feeling like this privatization is a good thing.  I do agree that we won’t know the full extent of the fallout until 2014, but I’m neurotic and I hate waiting for any length of time (despite agreeing that “Slow IT” is a good idea).  Needless to say, it’s evident to me that ITIL is on its way down into the “Trough of Disillusionment” in the hype cycle and this sell-out of the intellectual property is only pushing the trough down to lower depths.

In the spirit of July 4th, and being American which means I generally like rebellion, I’m pushing the agenda that the only answer to truly improving the IT Service Management framework known as ITIL is to toss it out the window and start over.  Yup, you heard me correctly; get rid of the thing.  And not because the content is outdated or corrupt (even though it’s probably outdated), but because it’s now owned by a private organization and at a time in technological history where successful IT endeavors are coming from open source projects, and oftentimes these newer platforms are cheap or free.  So why is process any different?  Why is it that as Android starts to take over the mobile space, Linux gains desktop share, and Chrome is the #1 browser, one of the most widely known process frameworks is being sold-out to a private company that may possibly deter anyone from the ITSM community from actively contributing to the material?

Besides, ITIL is only a framework.  By definition it’s only a skeletal reference and doesn’t have a lot of substance to it anyway.  Don’t believe me?  Read over Release & Deployment Management in Service Transition and draw me up the defined process from the knowledge contained in that specific ITIL V3 volume.  So the lack of material contributed from active practical experience is already any issue, let alone compounding the problem from privatization.

So maybe it’s time we take some lessons from the 21st century and apply it to a process framework of the future.  Why can’t we create a crowdsourced, open source framework for process that has active contributions from the ITSM community, but unlike ITIL, not be stashed away in a castle (thanks to The IT Skeptic for the analogy) hidden by expensive training and certifications.  We certainly have the tools, and there are a lot of brilliant people out there in ITSM.  And since it’s almost July 4th, I could certainly go for a little rebellion against the British.

By the way, an open source process is not my idea.  I simply own a blog  and have the opinion that the privatization of ITIL is pushing the ITSM community towards this solution.  I’m sure on July 5th I’ll be feeling less rebellious.

I’ll admit it, this is an IT/ITSM blog, so why would I post something that could be analysed as bordering on obsessive behavior for the love of doughnuts?  Simple.  I own this domain and blog and I can write anything I want.  Another, not quite as simple, answer is that I like to keep my blog personal and for anyone that knows me, it’s a very well known fact that I absolutely love doughnuts and I can’t help but be overjoyed that there’s a national day (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Doughnut_Day) devoted to the fried tasty dough of delight that I’ll soon be enjoying.

Without further adieu, I’d like to present a nice little poem I wrote last night during my intoxicating dreams of jelly filled pastries:

’twas the night before National Doughnut Day and it was as quiet as can be, except for the bakers readying to make the tasty fried morsels for me. The flour and eggs and powdered sugar to mix, will soon delight hundreds and thousands wanting to get their morning breakfast fix.  Oh, how thankful I am to Hanson Gregory for his simple quick wit, because a doughnut without a hole isn’t the same…not one bit.  And if you live in England, Australia or Peru…well, it’s an American holiday I’m sorry to tell you.

It’s been some time since Capita entered into the “joint venture” with the Cabinet Office over ITIL and Prince2, and I just couldn’t help myself but to post a blog entry on the topic.  First, in six months or so, I want to see if my opinion matches what I now think, but more importantly I’ve been looking for a more ITSM topic to blog about as I’ve really been in the technology trenches with ServiceNow (it’s hard to have a blog titled ITILandMe and not blog about ITIL or ITSM).  Besides, who doesn’t own an ITSM blog and doesn’t have an opinion on the topic?  I certainly don’t want to be left alone in that category.  Unfortunately, there are a few different possible outcomes from this venture, and I think it depends on which point of view you’re using for analysis.

Historical POV:  For one minute, I want to recap the overall situation as I see it.  A framework, touting itself as the “most widely accepted approach to IT service management in the world,” and sanctioned by the UK government, has now joined in ITSM matrimony with a vendor that specifically uses the word “outsource” in its advertising on its website.  I’m a fan of history so let me point out two historical events that may bring some significance to this relationship.  First, the UK government hasn’t necessarily made the best decisions since the Magna Carta.  As a citizen of the US, also affectionately known as being a “yank” to the rest of the world, I can never help but to look at the events around 1776 and wonder “Would I prefer tea over coffee if the British just did things a little differently?”  Same goes for this case.  If Her Majesty’s Government (I’ll credit the IT Skeptic for my learning of this term in blogging) had decided to make ITIL an open source type of framework, would it have been possible to avoid vendor partnership and increase collaboration from the ITSM community?

I also don’t want to ignore the fact that the partnership includes a vendor that lists itself as specializing in “outsourcing” service delivery.  I recall that in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, there was a big movement to outsource call centers to India.  Sure, there’s a lot of technical talent in that particular country, but for some reason the outsourcing just didn’t seem to work out so well for the companies that chose that route (anyone remember having to call Dell tech support during that time period?).

Outcome:  Not Good

Privatization POV:  When ITIL first came out way back in the 80’s (along with big hair, synthesizers and MTV), it was a natural progression for some body to recognize the importance that IT would play in the future and at least start to document the “best practices” around its use.  To be honest, I’m not surprised that an actual government body decided to make such a publication because, by the very practice of capitalism, it doesn’t help a for-profit technology company to share it’s “best practices” with possible competition.  In the end, ITIL was published and just about anyone could purchase the content and/or take training classes for certification.  Sure, cost may have been high (even the 2011 certification isn’t cheap), but at least it’s available for all to learn.

Unfortunately, after becoming a V3 Expert I’ve also come to the understanding that ITIL is a framework, not to be confused with process methodology.  While common processes such as Incident and Problem (sorry, I mean incident and problem) management are well documented, has anyone noticed that complex processes such as release management leave A LOT to be desired?  Sure, ITIL outlines the processes in a way to state “you should do it” and “here are benefits,” but there’s no concrete documentation of “how.”  The good thing is that this understanding isn’t new and there are several vendors out there who have hundreds of pages of well defined processes collected from years of experience (my current employer being one of them ), so there’s really not a change in the material to ITIL with its privatization.

What I am worried about is contribution to ITIL in the future.  If I’m a consultant, or work for a vendor, that has years worth of IP, what’s the incentive to share it to a framework that’s owned by another vendor?  As a practitioner in the ITSM space I was wholly on board with contributing to a body of knowledge owned by a government.  Now that the IP is owned by a vendor, my “this is for the greater good” motivation and inspiration has been effectively squashed.  I’m not sure how the actual contributing authors feel on the topic, but to me, there’s a certain feeling that the UK has sold-out the contributing ITIL community.

Outcome: Worse than Not Good

For Profit  POV:  So, ITIL has been privatized and the IP is now in the hands of a company that, like so many other companies out there, has the goal of making a profit.  This means that they now become a service provider for those that want to take on learning and understanding of the wonderful IP that so is a part of my blog title.  While it seems that there may not be a lot of alternatives to ITIL, they are out there and now Capita is taking on the burden to continue the competition of “best practice” frameworks.  This also means they need to keep their customers happy by providing up to date content, accessibility to the material (preferably in electronic format), and actively marketing their content that they are now heavily invested in.  Since Capita is a vendor, and they’re hoping more people take part in a universal “best practice” framework, they also need to be cognizant that they can’t afford to not be objective of any new content they produce.  In other words, they’re putting themselves into a tough spot where they’ll be under constant scrutiny.

Outcome:  Worst Case – Nothing Changes

I wouldn’t exactly say that the Capita and ITIL joint venture is keeping me up at night, but there’s definitely a lot left to the unknown and there are a few possibilities of the long term outcome depending on which point of view you want to entertain.  With my current negative feelings toward the Capita + ITIL union, the best possible outcome is one in which someone comes out with an open-source framework that is 1) contributed to by the ITSM community and 2) is free/cheap.  The “meh” possible outcome is one where ITIL just slowly declines and other frameworks/methodologies slowly take over, and at worst case ITIL stays as the “go to” ITSM framework for beginners and contribution to it by the ITSM community slowly goes away until I change my blog to “COBIT and Me.”