Sunday, November 11, 2012

Is ITIL the Enemy?

Is ITIL the enemy? At the end of ServiceNow's Knowledge12 conference in May, a presenter noted that the term "ITIL" had barely been heard the whole week. A decent amount of cheering followed. My take was that ITIL concepts had become such an ingrained part of IT, that talking about those concepts as "ITIL" was unnecessary. Now I'm not so sure.

I was messaging with a former colleague the other day, when she commented on how poorly ITIL is perceived at her current company. "ITIL ... (was) executed in such a half-witted fashion that the amount of overhead and time wasted significantly increased." Like most ITIL failures, it was done as an "ITIL implementation" project. It got me thinking about my own perspective, and this was my response:
Believe it or not, I take a pretty cynical approach to ITIL; not so much in the framework itself, but in the way most companies try to implement it. First and foremost, any attempt to "implement ITIL" is doomed to failure. Most companies try to implement it like it's an ISO standard, like the closer you match the guidelines, the better. I laugh at CMMI assessments of ITIL maturity. The base assumption is that more adherence to the framework = more "mature". That is not the point of IT service management at all. You could have the most clear processes in the world, and still not be meeting or exceeding corporate expectations. I use ITIL as a means to help bridge gaps between business/customer expectations of IT service, and their perception of the actual service provided. If they expect Apple Store service and get what they see as Sam's Club outcomes, there's a huge gap that ITIL (and CoBIT, ISO 20000, etc.) can assist in bridging.
My experience is that ITIL cannot be a goal, and should not be used as a measure of service management success. However, elements of ITIL, such as Service Strategy, can be an incredibly useful tool after you figure out where the customer-provider disconnects exist. What do you think? Is ITIL getting in the way, or does it remain a useful tool for helping address service problems?