Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Slow Death Of ITIL?

Nothing lasts for ever. In the heady fin-de-siecle period that we've recently passed through when dotcoms were a-booming and bugs of the millenium were being predicted, I became an ardent fan of a genre of music that came to be known as chillout. It was electronica with overt nods to hip-hop, dub and orchestral forms. It was slow and very, very lush. With each new album released by the likes of Zero 7, Sven Van Hees and Nitin Sawnhey (or the Cafe Del Mar, Om Lounge, or Luftkastellet compilations) I grew ever more enchanted. However even then I sensed somehow that this form would at some point become unfashionable and I would have to move on with the times. I'd invested a great deal of time and money into learning about (and purchasing) music within this genre. I was entrenched - Kuhnian-style - within this paradigm (see earlier blog entry). However I was determinded to avoid the fate of those aging rock 'n' rollers that I remembered seeing around in the nineteen seventies. They were still decked out in their drainpipes and crepe shoes, refusing to let go of a brilliant but outmoded form from twenty years earlier.

Needless to say chillout, after a desperate but ultimately futile rebranding as downtempo died out somewhere around 2005.

Look, there are a whole lot of bloggers who are far more knowledgable about ITIL than I am, and have better things to say on the subject than me (stand up Rob England a.k.a The IT Skeptic), but I've noticed something recently. It's this: perhaps ITIL has passed its Peak Oil moment. And you know what, maybe many people have noticed this and I'm just slow. Or it could be that I've just up and blurted out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes when you all knew it anyway but just didn't want to say. I mean, look at the anecdotal stuff - there used to so many vacancies for incident and problem managers on Jobserve and the other boards. Now there are hardly any. To coroborate this unscientific observation I went and had a look at the IT Job Stats website which offered me the demand graph above for jobs asking for ITIL Certification. Ouch. The IT Jobs Watch site offers a similarly depressing scenario for those who have wedded their career to ITIL; both the contract and permanent markets are showing a scary fall in advertised positions. Yet demand for some generic roles such as business analyst is still holding up in both the contract and permanent sectors.

The whole ITIL-in-decline thing is just a bit of a hunch and I'm interested to understand what others out there are thinking about this subject. Also, it's not just the job stats, I've noticed that some respected commentators are moving away from aligning themselves too closely to ITIL as they once did, and are starting to blog about ISO/IEC 20000 or CoBIT, or IT governance in general. These are people who are thought leaders worth following. I'll add to this stuff that Rob England has been saying for years about the lack of proven ROI as regards ITIL. I've heard it said on good authority by a senior mover in industry that while ITIL is recognised as having descriptive and conceptual benefits, the lack of proven ROI mean that leaders have already abandoned the idea that it is a tool that can help deliver a competitive advantage. He quoted the words of the CIO of a large firm "ITIL is just common terminology and a thing of the past. It’s only remaining value is that it makes it easier to engage outsourcers that support ITIL".

Here's some more numbers. Google Trends appears to suggest that searches for ITIL seem to be on a downward trajectory both in the United Kingdom and worldwide.

There are many reasons why this hunch may be wrong. The economic situation may be causing a contraction of the demand for ITIL staff or perhaps knowledge of ITIL has become widely embedded and people have less of a need to search for it on Google to find out what it's all about. Let's hope so. However, I do kinda have faith in my hunches. Especially this one. Humans seek novelty, it's one of our defining characteristics. If that wasn't the case we'd still be listening to doo-wop and rock and roll instead of the industrial, gabber and noizecore genres that youngsters are getting off on. Apparently. And chillout is still kicking around - there's an internet radio station in the mountains of Ouray, Colorado that continues to play the very best examples of the genre. The vast majority of the rest of us have moved on to new things. Perhaps then a view of the future of ITIL.


  1. Only IT Geeks would feel the need to assign an acronym (ITSM) and write a library of books (ITIL) to define common-sense business acumen applied to IT. I sincerely hope that IT departments have decided to stop talking about ITIL and are just doing ITSM, with or without certifications or a fresh acronym. However, I'm glad our industry has given Dilbert and others lots of laughs looking at ourselves from the outside in.

  2. I believe that ITIL v3 has certainly contributed to the decline. It has taken something that was somewhat tangible into an ambiguous framework that does not reflect the way most IT departments operate from day-to-day. In my case, we were just getting good with v2 when v3 came along and muddied the waters - now we are back at square one trying to figure out how to make it work. Somehow, don't think I am alone in my disdain for it.

  3. I think this issue with ITIL is not ITIL itself but the unwillingness of the IT senior leadership to get behind it and set a direction for everyone to follow (this may have something to do with the ugly IT warts that will get exposed once they head down this path). My gut tells me that IT cannot be fixed in its curret needs to be replaced with new cloud based services (just look at the what the major software companies or doing from an acquistion point of view....buying up the pieces that will make the cloud work) that already have ITIL and other ITSM frameworks and methods already baked into it...just my 2 cents

  4. "I think this issue with ITIL is not ITIL itself" You can fly if you just truly believe. You're just not trying hard enough.

    Wrong. Peter's on the money here. The fad's over.

    that's not to say ITIL will disappear, just that it will get put back into its box as a useful tool not a miracle cure.

    The industry will rush on to the next fad cure, like ...oh let's see um... cloud based services?

  5. V3 was a tap of the brakes as far as momentum.

    Part of what we are seeing is the hype curve flattening out, ITIL becoming a way of life as opposed to the next second coming.

  6. I think IT people used ITIL as a cover to say "If I know ITIL, I can talk to the business..." That's not the case. I think ITIL needs to be put into it's proper perspective (which I don't think training, software and consulting companies necessarily want) as a good reference to use, but not something biblical in nature. I would agree with the last anonynmous posting - just do it, don't get excited about it. It's not rocket science and the value of ITIL certifications and academic knowledge is dropping like home values in California...

  7. The economic climate added a dollop of reality much missing form the ITSM/ITIL universe. Results or die demands from management are back in vogue and frankly much of what ITSM initiatives and especially those centered on ITIL (regardless of version) establish practices that many outside of IT thought should have existed prior.

    Ian Clayton
    The plain truth is that most if not all ITSM (ITIL) initiatives fail the customer. Today customer satisfaction, leading to increased loyalty and advocacy, resulting in lower cost of supporting and managing customer relationships - is vital.... ITIL folks just fail to explain how they help the customer in real terms.

  8. It's high time people stop focusing on seeing ITIL as the cure-all, but starting to focus on the requirements of integrated management systems.

    Standards such as ISO/IEC 20000 provide a much clearer picture of WHAT must be done, whereas frameworks such as ITIL, MOF, CMMI-SVC et al. provide more of the HOW to achieve the core requirements outlined by the standard.

  9. People...ITIL is just a guide for you to use as best you see fit in how it serves your business processes.
    Don't take yourselves so damn serious and use the best parts of it.
    Are you forgetting why you are working in IT?
    It is NOT to put RAM in computers, it is NOT to increase server processor speeds, it is NOT to configure databases.......You are here in IT to ensure that the customer receives the Service he has requested. You are supporting this and that is why the approach taken in ITIL V3 is a much more common sense view to IT support. Support the end users of your IT services from the Service perspective. Define your Service and then determine what you need in order to deliver them

    The biggest peeve I have with IT people is that they fail to approach their support processes from the customer's perspective.
    The customer does not care how many routers, servers, firewalls, etc it takes for him to get email or to print a document.....they just want the email or the printout.

    Keep this in mind people or else we are doomed to revert back to the days when IT was hated and we were nothing but a bunch of Cowboys running around and disrupting the business anytime we wanted to.

    I thought those days were gone as well as the Cowboys living them.

  10. Tom Rankin - Melbourne29 March 2010 at 07:32

    I agree and disagree with your blog.

    Stampeding towards the ITIL (to quote from Monty Python), "Implementing ITIL" as a means to itself and to keep up with the Joneses or because you got suckered by a snake oil salesman is usually a waste of money, doesn't work anyway etc etc. Agree.

    Dismissing common language and a framework out of hand because many people are swept up in the hysteria. Disagree.

    But are any of the below things fundamentally bad ideas?
    * Agreeing what you will do and meeting your promise?
    * Learn from your mistakes.
    * Giving service in a consistent manner at the quality/price the customer is willing to pay?
    * Making sure you don't run out and don't have unnecessary surplus?
    * Making sure you don't make things worse when you try to do new or different services?
    * Deciding what is the best bang for your buck and focusing on those things?
    * Getting a fair day's pay for a fair days service?
    * Making the relationship between customer, supplier, user clearer?

    They're all things that are somewhere in the books. They're all basic business principles.

    Sure plenty of people take ITIL too bloody literally from time to time but I think that given the relative immaturity of the IT industry, ITIL has done some good for many who have used concepts from the books pragmatically.

  11. Hi Tom,

    I agree wholeheartedly with most of what you say above. However this blog entry was essentially an *observation* that ITIL seems to be less popular than it was. I suggested a few reasons why this may be so and mused whether we are lurching *away* from ITIL in the same way in which we lurched into our obsession with it.

    For the record I am a fan of ITIL. That's why I passed my first foundation in 2001. I've been around long enough to have worked in service support departments prior to the common language and instant design framework that ITIL offered. It allowed functions to be created without having to think too much, as the ITIL books had done all the thinking already.

    This is also the downside because some assume that ITIL negates the need for any further thought about their operation. This is the aspect of the bubble surrounding ITIL that I consider problematic. But more about that in a forthcoming blog entry...

  12. Here's my take as to why ITIL might be losing its luster . .. . Having been a part of other professional organizations, it is clear the ITIL V3 Foundations framework is a good "starting point" for users to learn the terminology and be exposed to best practice ideas. But, the Foundations exam is entirely too easy to pass, and therefore a bit of a let down, and what does it mean? not much. And then, what is the follow-on to keep us engaged, and to continue learning and improving? The next levels of learning and certification appear to have been hijacked by vendors selling multi-day ITIL courses, with very epensive price tags and a requirement to travel to some class in a far away location. There is little or no opportunity to keep V3 Foundations certified individuals engaged, giving back, or learning more through next-level tools that might require mentoring and shared learning and leading others in thier community or company. Nothing but giant price tags controlled by a few select providers for the next level. So, therefore, little or no interest to stay involved.

    ITIL could certainly learn from other professional orgs and certrification models such as APICS or PMA.

  13. I practised ITIL for many years before I even knew it was "ITIL". As many have recognised - it is mostly common sense and good work practice. As a somewhat skeptic myself, I look at ITIL much as I looked at Y2K. Now don't get me wrong, Y2K was a good "clean out the closet" exercise for many organisations but it was also over capitalised by consultants who convinced us with scare tactics that our microwave would stop working on 1/1/2000. I see ITIL a bit like that - it is not new but it has given us a common set of terminology. It is great for consultants and training organisations. In terms of certifications, as an ex University lecturer, I see little value in any adult training that just teaches you to memorise. If you really want to see if someone has understood (rather than remembered some facts) then the assessment should be on applied knowledge and open book. And we know why they don't do it that way ... because it is much harder to assess and takes more time than putting a template over a set of multiple choice questions. I personally talk little of ITIL and more about service management

  14. Actually I did get into IT to work on computers and their systems--not to fill out forms and monitor tickets. That is the administrative work that drove me to IT!

    Part of the loss of momentum may be that too many highly skilled and paid technical people are spending their days conforming to this nonsense instead of putting their skills to work...

  15. ITIL is definitely on the decline. It is on the decline because it was improperly defined by "experts" and adopted with all the best intentions and high expectations. Those expectations were not realized in the form of ROI. It did not measure up to the hype. Can you define ITIL?

    Most people missed the fact that ITIL is a suggested/described best practice open for interpretation. It is not "The Bible" for the way things must be done. But because it was sold as the bible, we are shaving the corners off our square pegs to fit them into the round holes instead of putting square pegs into square holes.

    Of course it does not hurt that ITIL v3 has been nothing short of a money grab by APMG. Their response to lower revenue was to release v3 with new courses and new exams, creating a larger revenue stream. In this down economy, people are not buying it and the previous misinterpretation does not support blindly following this bible any further.

    But I digress. ITIL is still relevant when taken in this light. It suggests ways to use your square pegs, without literally putting them into round holes! Learn what you can about ITIL, keep it as a frame of reference (round peg-round hole = square peg-square hole) and you will be better prepared to use what you have at hand.

    ITIL is not ITSM, so be careful when lumping the two together. ITSM/ISO20000 is a set and measurable standard. It is the bible IF you want to be ISO 20000 Certified. The problem here is that no one is using the same yardstick to measure the ISO Standards. So a 3.5 to one person, may be a 3.7 to another, and 2.1 to the next. With these wide ranging results, we have no real way of measuring our own ROI in conjunction with gain in scoring. Were they gains at all? The only solution to this problem is in having everyone use the same yardstick.

    DUCK --> There is a SHAMELESS PLUG coming.

    The best one on the market is new, relatively inexpensive, provides consistent and accurate scoring, with industry vertical and geographical benchmarks. Cut and past "SIM (Service Improvement Manager)" to Google and you will find the yardstick I recommend.