Frameworks & Standards Reality Check: Let’s ask Google Trends

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In my last blog I wrote about ITSM & the Agile Manifesto, which was shortly after followed by a hype around creating an ITIL Manifesto. Coincidence? It doesn’t matter. Anyway, it’s now time to do something different, to do some solid statistical work.

So my simple question was: BPMN, ITIL, Prince2, CMMI, Six Sigma, Kanban, ISO20k (…) – What are people looking for? After having played around with Google Trends, I think this tool gives us a pretty good answer. Google Trends shows us the Google search volume for specific keywords (or topics) over the last 7 years. Don’t forget, first of all, this is ‘just’ data (and it’s BIG data), which reflects real crowd behavior.

Warning: Don't do any wrong correlations & conclusion out of the data in this blog

Warning: Don’t do any crazy correlations & conclusion out of the data in this blog

You therefore have to be careful when drawing any conclusions or doing casual analysis out of Google Trend data. Otherwise you might end up in the same situation as recently the Princeton University researchers, which made some predictions about Facebook (very funny, don’t miss this article). So basically you can read the following out of Google Trends:

  • Volume per keyword (relative to each other): This is a good indicator for overall search popularity, but not necessarily for the specific importance.
  • Trend over time: This is a very good and valid indicator. It shows the change in popularity over the last 7 years or any other shorter timespan.
  • Geography: By splitting results by country, this gives you an idea about regional differences in keyword popularity or trend
  • Keyword drilldown: Very interesting. It shows you what the people are really looking for (per keyword). E.g. ‘ITIL’ very much relates to ‘ITIL certification” or “ITIL v3”, but DevOps rather to ‘What is Devops?’

Setting the Scene: Keyword List Definition

I collected a list of known standards and frameworks, some you might also call methods or approaches. The thing they have in common is that they are all relevant for IT, but many of them not exclusively. They cover Project Management, ITSM, Governance and Process Management and other areas, some of them are industry specific. I decided also to include Standard like ISO 9000 as this is relevant in comparison to other QM-focused IT frameworks. Below chart shows the terms I was using (btw created with wordle.net):

Setting the Scene: An unrefined  List of Frameworks, Standards and Methods

Setting the Scene: An unrefined List of Frameworks, Standards and Methods

Let me know, if I missed any important standard, framework or method and I will add it.

Search Popularity Analysis: The ‘Big Five’

I compared all the keywords, some refined by topics or negative keywords. For example, the term Scrum also refers to sport (rugby). Additionally I discovered that something is wrong with ITIL: It’s an extremely popular search term in Indonesia, which made me curious. After consulting Google Translator I found out that ITIL means Clitoris in Indonesian Language (funny, isn’t it?), which explains the regional spike. Again, I was able to filter all that irrelevant data out. Looking at the ‘Top five’ (Snapshot as per now), we have the following picture:

Google Trends: The 'Big Five'

Google Trends: The ‚Big Five‘

As you can see, ITIL is by far the top one, followed by Scrum, ISO 9000/9001, Six Sigma (all at the same level) and finally Kanban on Rank 5.

If we go further down the list, the ranking continues like this (exact order):

ASL, TIPA and GAPPS I had to remove completely, because they returned invalid results (multiple meanings with no possibility to refine).

Analyzing the Trends over Time

Looking at the big five, one surprise for me was ITIL: Many people say that there is a decrease in popularity. It’s not true. Over the last 3 years the trend is flat, preceeded by a peak at 2007 (obviously related to the publication of ITIL V3) and a decrease which stopped 3 years ago.

Another observation is the continuous and impressive increase of popularity of Scrum over the last 7 years. In the agile area, Scrum seems to continuously rule out other agile frameworks/methods like DSDM/Atern and XP. No surprise. However, if we look at ISO 9000/9001 and Six Sigma, there was a huge decrease of popularity since 2007. Going through the whole list, we see the following:

  • Winners: Scrum, DevOps (First appearance 2011, now Rank 9) and TOGAF (slightly)
  • Evergreens (flat curve): ITIL, Kanban, Prince2, PMBOK, BPMN, ISO20’000, ISO 27’000 and Cobit
  • Losers: Six Sigma, CMMI and ISO 9000 /9001, XP, DSDM/Atern
  • Newcomers (first appearance in the last few years and not yet dead): DevOps, IT4IT, Standard and Case. They might reach the plateau of producitivity one day or become obsolete

This is just observation. It’s up to you to make any conclusions.
As a side-note: Statistically, evergreens are actually still winners. An already infected community cannot be re-infected. This has an impact on search behaviour.

Geographical Differences

Doing a geographical analysis, I don’t see very much regional difference in popularity, with the following exceptions:

  • ISO 9000/9001: Although worldwide loss of popularity, it’s still unbroken popular in whole Latin America
  • SixSigma is rather popular in India, the US and some Asian Countries, but not in Europe
  • The UK (including the Scottish) & the Netherlands love Prince2
  • PMBOK is rather popular on the American Continent than in Europe or Asia

Again, I present here just the data. I leave it up to you to interpret it.

Keyword Drilldown

I picked a couple of frameworks & standards and looked into the related searches:

  • ITIL: It’s all about doing a certification or training. Top searches include ‘ITIL certification’, ‘ITIL foundation’, ‘ITIL training’, Prince2 goes into a similar direction
  • In contradiction to that, DevOps is rather about searches like ‘What is DevOps’ and ‘Reaction to DevOps’. DevOps is new and popular and people want to know more about it
  • Similar to that, searches on Cobit, Scrum, PMBOK, CMMI and other are very much related on the content of the respective framework

So this was just scratching on the surface. But I think there were some interesting observations. Try it yourself and do some research on Google Trends.

5 Comments
  • the IT Skeptic

    18. September 2014 at 08:50

    Clever and witty.

    Interesting the perfect Hype Curve formed by the ITIL data.

    I will go look up DevOps and USMBOK.

    Many thanks for including Standars+Case, I appreciate being in that company.

  • John G

    25. September 2014 at 23:08

    I suggest trying PMP (Project Management Professional) rather than/in addition to PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge).

    Having just taken the PMP exam, my attention was 90% on PMP and 10% on PMBOK. And PMP > PMBOK in Google search by a factor of 4 or so.

  • Alex Lichtenberger

    26. September 2014 at 06:16

    Thanks for bringing this up, John. I agree PMBOK is too narrow in context of the overall PMP. I looked it up and statistically it’s a little bit tricky: PMP is mainly an accreditation (based on PM experience etc.), so, we don’t talk here only about a framework or standard. On the other hand PMP can have different meanings, with no possibility to refine in Google Trends by topics. But I agree it should given a higher ranking, in best case it could be even seen at the same level as Scrum.

  • Vance Hallman

    26. January 2015 at 21:51

    I laugh HARD every time I see someone say DEVOPS is new. Maybe the term DEVOPS is new but the steps\processes involved have been around for 30 years. I find it more than amusing than every time a new technology comes along, new names are applied to old process stacks. No wonder people and executives are confused.

  • Alex Lichtenberger

    2. February 2015 at 11:46

    I agree that the concept of DevOps is not really new, some even say that it is old wine in new skins. A lot of DevOps ideas I alredy find e.g. in ITIL. My blog is only about analyzing certain Google Trend keywords, that‘ it. So, the ‚term‘ DevOps popped up 2011 and obviously it also has a hype character, which creates a lot of confusion.

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