People and organizations seek out the reassurance in structured recommendations from sources like ITIL.
These sources essentially articulate in a cogent and accessible way the learning from others who have been in the same place before them, facing the same challenges. The authors of the guidance are saying “don’t repeat the mistakes we’ve made” and “use what’s worked for us”. There is great value in this.
Evolution and Natural Selection
The challenge is that, while core principles remain valid over time, our world is constantly changing. People and organizations are having new experiences, facing new challenges and defining new and creative ways of addressing them. Altered circumstances and new variables require evolving how we use legacy guidance and even evolving the guidance itself, sharing new revelations across the ecosystem of practitioners.
All of this explains why the time has come – some might argue is long past due – to update ITIL. As our world is changing, there are new ideas and new, more effective ways of applying old ideas. These must be shared to keep our conversation about excellence in service provision valid and relevant. In nature, species evolve or they die; the same is true of a body of thought.
When I say “new”, of course, there are very few things that are truly new. In ITIL, for example, there are concepts that were always there, but were either misunderstood or received little formal focus. For example, the connection between designing and developing a service and operating a service. The lack of comprehensive attention in ITIL to this topic can be seen as a contributing factor to the emergence of the DevOps movement. Nature abhors a vacuum, so people move to fill real or perceived voids in ITIL. So, it’s time to evolve.
A new recipe, but the same ingredients?
In the food world, cuisines from diverse global locations with very different ingredient sets and flavour profiles can come together in new and exciting ways – this is frequently called “fusion” cuisine; all that’s needed is an open mind. The proliferation of Mexican-Chinese restaurants in my own city shows how old preconceptions can be challenged with results that serve the needs of a broad community.
Similarly, with IT service management (ITSM) and ITIL, it’s possible to pull together different “ingredients” and focus on the common problems we’re trying to solve, regardless of whether the approach is traditional or “fusion”. The label attached to where and how the ideas are documented isn’t as important as practical problem solving. Newer isn’t automatically better, but tried and true only works if the conditions make it appropriate.
For example, despite the advent of Agile development methods, there are still situations that call for a waterfall approach while, in other situations, it would be lunacy to not use Agile. In change management, more and more, our technology can absorb or at least reduce risk, but when it comes to protecting the business from interruption and failure the underlying principles should be the same: match the level of rigour to the level of risk.
In the world of dieting, fads come and go; but there is one piece of perennial advice that always applies: move more, eat less! New diet methods put a different spin on age old principles to make them more accessible. Likewise, with documented IT practice guidance, things we should have been doing all along sometimes are given a new wrapper and are articulated in greater depth, making them more resonant with practitioners and easier to apply. That’s fine. The human factor is real and cannot be ignored.
The imperative is to focus on business outcomes rather than being obsessed about this framework or that methodology. Indeed, the proponents in all camps have something to learn from each other. It doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be, either/or – it is almost always and.
Focusing on business outcomes means that, although using a set of ideas like those in ITIL or any other documented guidance, users of the guidance are not absolved from the responsibility of applying critical thought! No guidance, no matter how well-documented and communicated, will produce the right results if it is not applied thoughtfully and appropriately.
My experience with earlier versions of ITIL and, more recently, with ITIL Practitioner have taught me that if we keep doing the same things without reviewing them then ideas can become “gospel”. People no longer think critically about the problem being solved, they just look for the particular silver bullet – a simple, standardized set of rules to follow that will easily fix everything. They won’t find that in ITIL, or DevOps, or Agile, or ….
As we work to evolve ITIL, we need to tap into the large community that exists, share ideas and have an ongoing dialogue to ensure the best practice guidance is more valuable, accessible and easier to apply to practical problem-solving at the operational, tactical and strategic levels. And that also means recognizing that ideas aren’t laid down in stone; more than one way can work.
The ITIL update team
Being part of the ITIL update Lead Architect Team means working among people with strongly held opinions and passion! Each of us must hear and truly understand what we’re hearing and be open to other points of view. Other may convince you of a new way or a different path! That’s the point of collaboration. We will continue to have a true dialogue about what will have the most value to the market and for the people who want to use ITIL best practice guidance.
For more information, see our ITIL Update section.
More AXELOS Blog Posts about the ITIL Update
ITIL® Update: Mapping IT services with ITIL to drive business value
ITIL® Update: Putting principles before process
ITIL® Update: IT Service Management Evolved
ITIL® Update: Evolution and Integration
Read more AXELOS Blog Posts by Lou Hunnebeck
ITIL® Practitioner: Essentials for Organizational Change Management
How ITIL® Practitioner will help your business get the best from ITIL
ITIL® Practitioner: The Challenges with Testing Practical Skills