Can ITIL Survive?

The Cabinet Office recently entered into a joint venture (JV) with Capita to manage and develop the U.K. government’s frameworks including ITIL® and Prince2®.  More details on the frameworks are available on the Best Practice Management website.

After a week of lobbing emails and phone calls around the industry, I have yet to find any groundswell of support for the move. In fact, most practitioners I spoke to hoped that ITIL will finally be updated on a timelier and consistent basis so that it is more relevant to changes in technology and organizational culture. They also want the guidance to become more practical and support emerging methodologies such as DevOps.

That said, a major objective of the JV is to make money and there will undoubtedly be a widespread hit in the pocket. This Information Age article gives a good perspective on just how much.

So let’s look at some of the challenges for the JV in particular and ITIL as a whole:

  • Arrest the decline in ITIL: There is no doubt that most organizations “do” ITIL to some extent, but my recent conversations identify ITIL as heavy, too process-oriented and not aligned to agile process (hence the emergence of DevOps). Many ITIL implementations do not deliver the benefits or value that are assumed as part of the business case.

  • ITIL has not kept pace with the changing nature of IT-enabled business: There has been a rapid transition in the market from the CIO just “keeping the lights on” to being a key source for innovation. Business is demanding agility and rapid time-to-market which doesn’t fit well with the traditional ITIL consulting practice. ITIL needs to updated – urgently, in my opinion (for comparison, look at what’s happening with DevOps, which can make companies far more agile and effective.)

  • Moving the population beyond Service Operations and Service Transition: Most implementations start with a Service Deck, and then implement Incident, change and problem management, followed by a CMDB. This is all bottoms- up. Organizations need to focus on strategic intent and its impact on the delivery and operations.

  • Service Strategy book – fix it or toss it away: ITIL 2011 rewrote Service Strategy and was a major improvement. But it is still not a collective integrated approach-just a collection of strategy disciplines. My advice is to toss it away and look at other intellectual property (IP) already residing within the JV or look to leverage other good external IP. The secret to being of value will be to insure it is well integrated into the flow. The JV could learn a lot from COBIT 5 from ISACA . COBIT 5 delivers a great framework from the Enterprise Governance of IT connecting the business strategy to value to execution. (full disclosure – I am deeply involved in COBIT development).

  • Development of the IP moving forward: Bring subject matter experts on staff to write the IP. Make it practical and get the guidance in a truly useable form.

  • ITIL a Standard?: Some people still refer to ITIL as a standard, but isn’t that what ISO\IEC 20000 is for? Multiple standards won’t work. If ITIL is to continue as a framework, it needs to map easily to ISO/IEC 20000. If ITIL is to become a standard, then why also have ISO/IEC 20000?

  • Future of the itSMF?: As a former international and itSMF USA board member, I believe the JV has the opportunity to financially support and leverage the user community, one that has invested its life in Service Management. The JV should reach out to this community immediately. As with me, they shouldn’t learn what’s going on in a press release

More thoughts to come over the next few weeks. For the JV and ITIL the clock is ticking now and I have been contacted by one group that is preparing to move forward with an alternative approach. If ITIL is to regain its luster and more importantly, become relevant again, the JV  had better move swiftly!

What do you think?

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Robert Stroud

Vice President Strategy & Innovation IT Business Management at CA Technologies
Robert Stroud is vice president of innovation and strategy for IT Business Management at CA Technologies. Rob is dedicated to the development of industry trends, strategy and communication of industry best practices. Rob is a strong advocate for the governance, security, risk and assurance communities working closely with the community to author, develop and communicate standards and best practices. Rob also advises organizations on their implementations to ensure they drive maximum business value from their investments in IT-enabled business governance. Following a four-year term as an ISACA International vice president, Rob served on the ISACA Strategic Advisory Council, and is currently serving as ISACA ISO Liaison sub-committee. Earlier, Rob served on the itSMF International Board as Treasurer and Director Audit, Standards and Compliance, the itSMF ISO liaisons to multiple working groups and spent multiple years on the board of the itSMF USA. An accomplished author and blogger, Rob is widely recognized for perspectives on industry trends. He also has contributed to multiple standards publications including COBIT 4.0, 4.1 and COBIT 5, Guidance for Basel II and several ISO standards. Rob served as an active member of the ITIL Update Project Board for ITIL 2011 and in various roles in the development of ITIL v3 including the Advisory Group, mentor and reviewer. Prior to joining CA Technologies, Rob spent more than 15 years in the finance industry successfully managing multiple initiatives in both IT and retail banking sectors related to security, service management and process governance. Follow Rob on Twitter: @RobertEStroud

This article has 2 comments

  1. Interesting and thoughtful comments, Rob.

    I can’t argue with much you’ve written at all. However, I wonder if ITIL really is in decline. Maybe there’s people like us who’ve been around it so long are waiting for the slump, but according to the exam stats numbers just continue to go up.

    I agree, though, that ITIL is more in need of frequent updates now than ever in its history. Cloud, mobile, social, BYOD, self-service support, etc. all have a direct impact on ITSM – and while most will agree that process is a good thing, it needs to be relevant.

  2. Bob, thanks for the excellent post – and having the courage to ‘tell it like it is!’

    As a co-founder of Business Relationship Management Institute, ITIL has been a double-edged sword. The good news is that it has, along with ISO/IEC 20000, legitimized the BRM role. The bad news is, that ITIL positions the role rather tactically.

    As you’ve note before, ITSM is a key building block – you have to have that to achieve ‘table stakes’ in delivering IT products and services. But it is not the end of the story, and the BRM really has to drive business value realization and innovation, and an ITIL-flavored BRM will be unlikely to have the credibility and ‘heft’ to face off with senior business leaders and be invited to the proverbial ‘strategy table.’

    However, ITIL does have a devoted following, not to mention an ecosystem of eager ITIL consultants and training organizations who are not prepared to see ITIL challenged, or to engage in meaningful discussion about how ITIL needs to change for the times, or to look beyond ITIL for the benefit of their clients.

    Thank you again for opening the discussion with such a thoughtful and balanced post.

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