The future of ITIL

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ITIL Change Management Process

Where to now, ITIL?

With the future of ITIL® now in the hands of Axelos, this may be an excellent time to do some zero-based thinking on its next step.  Much of the dilemma that ITIL® finds itself in now stems from its past.  ITIL® started out as an acronym for IT Infrastructure Library. Its target audience was the people who ran IT Infrastructure shops that delivered IT-based services. And when it stuck to that audience, it did a really good job at helping them meet their immediate objectives.

But while business organizations may have found that their IT service delivery suppliers were operating in a more predictable way, the very discipline that was making things more stable was also hindering business ability to achieve goals that needed rapid IT progress.

ITIL® did not remain static, however.  It may have been a library for (managing) IT Infrastructure in version 1 and 2, but, with the evolution to version 3 and then the 2011 edition; it has expanded its vision into an intended body of knowledge for managing (IT) Services.

A big part of the problem with that evolution is that ITIL® is still being used mainly by the people who run IT Infrastructure shops that only deliver IT-based services. Because of that, much of the wider intended philosophy is being bypassed. Many implementations of processes that claim to be ITIL-inspired still consider the IT infrastructure people to be the only process stakeholders.

However, I don’t think the intent was to continue to target only this IT infrastructure audience.  After all, ITIL® in its current state is built around concepts such as Service Ownership, Total Cost of Ownership and Value to the Business.  It almost defaulted to only this audience by functionally ignoring half of the IT world – the world of Application Development.

In many environments, the organization that develops applications sees itself as the producer of value and views the delivery organization as a bureaucratic, technology-driven hindrance to value creation. They see themselves as the real home of the concepts of Service Ownership, Total Cost of Ownership and Value to the Business.

Application Development organizations see almost anything that has evolved out of the IT Infrastructure world to be inherently stifling and stagnant, and look to Application Development-driven philosophies like DevOps instead.

On the flip side, IT Infrastructure organizations see most application development methodologies (particularly the agile ones) as being entirely ignorant of the fundamental considerations of service delivery.

The clash often comes to the forefront in the Change Management process of the Service Delivery organizations. Change Management is seen by the application development people as a bureaucratic impediment to progress and by the infrastructure people as something the application development people keep in the dark as long as possible.

In the vast majority of Change Management processes that I’ve seen, contrary to what ITIL® advises, Change Management gets involved AFTER the code is written and tested.  A Change “Advisory” Board, whose members are generally all Infrastructure people, is also given a “reject” button. There is seldom a true Service Owner to demand anything different.

Of course, part of the reason for this is that many business organizations have intentionally separated their IT Service Delivery organizations and their Application Development organizations and wonder why there is no concept or philosophy of overall IT Service Ownership.

Perhaps the bottom-line message is that if there is any hope for ITIL® (or whatever it evolves into) to become a real IT Service Management discipline, it has to encompass IT Service as a whole, which must include Application Development as an integral part.

I know a lot of people feel that ITIL® has become too big for its britches already. In reality, if it is going to be what it now claims to be, it must shed its infrastructure-only roots and become something that will inspire all IT professionals.

To a great extent, it must be business organizations that demand a single referential best-practice-based architecture for their IT Service Provider(s). If ITIL® is to evolve into that, it has to be something that Application Development professionals agree includes the best practices of their world.

David Mainville

David Mainville, CEO and co-founder of Navvia, is a passionate advocate of Service Management and a frequent presenter, blogger and well known member of the ITSM community. With over 35 years of experience, David has held progressively senior technical and management roles allowing him to "connect the dots" between the Business and IT. At Navvia, David leads the charge to bring innovative ITSM solutions to market focusing on Product Development, Marketing and Operations.

• Posted by David Mainville on Aug 29, 2013
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