The end of the good old ITIL world

Almost over decades, internal IT organizations have been busy trying to understand how to move away from technology focused 20th century type of IT to more modern, customer and service oriented organizations. The several evolutions steps of the ITIL frame work has been the widely accepted guide for this journey. Myriads of consultants did make a fortune transcribing “THE BOOKS” for tech-savvy teams although most of the process definitions did end-up in completely useless paper work never been implemented and lived. If you look across all the ITIL service lifecycle stages and their “hundreds” of processes, only a subset of the obvious “keeping-the lights-on” operational processes have been implemented – just for the sake of surviving the next business escalation and customer survey. To be fair, change management has become a management discipline as well. At least for those industries, where internal auditors, business quality and compliance bodies are waving big sticks. That’s almost it. “Keep-the-lights-on” is the net outcome of thousands of programs, millions of trainings sessions and myriads of consultants. What to say about any further trials to target really valuable IT capabilities around the service strategy and design processes? It is a bit like perestroika of the old Soviet Union: Quit right approach but a bit too late!

In a world of incredibly accelerated technology turnovers, you won’t have time to rethink how to finally define complex service architectures, service continuity paper monsters and bureaucratic SLA block busters (no customer will ever understand). Instead, internal IT organizations should consider:

  1. Who can do better and cheaper in “keeping-the lights-on”?
  2. How can I turn technology revolution into value for my business?
  3. What capabilities to I need for a) and b)?

If I had to answer those questions, ITIL would not be my reference. ITIL is for traditional “we do it all and our business has no choice” mediocrity IT. The game is changing and suddenly, the business has options and will cherry-pick regardless how complete my ITIL landscape look like. SaaS for HR and CRM business processes is just the beginning. What about ITIL and the ones for whom IT is the real business, for service provider firms around the globe? Even here, amongst the IBMs, HPs and Cognizants of the world, new concepts of running IT as a business are being explored. None of the new things are as comprehensive, complete and integrated as ITIL has been evolved to during the last decades and I doubt, there will be any ITIL like frame work in the near future (nor that ITIL will be continued to keep up with new world).

We do have the sourcing aspect of IT that is becoming a major management discipline now, backed by ISO Standards. ISO 37500 (“guidance on outsourcing”) is of more generic nature, serving as a reference for any form of outsourcing whereas ISO 17788 (“Cloud computing — Reference architecture”) is a fundamental reference for all cloud service engagements.

Talking about the “Cloud computing — Reference architecture” standard: There is no mentioning of any processes. Just some process capabilities, like roles and responsibilities, are being outlined. Looking to the defined cloud roles and responsibilities, one could potentially group those roles in 3 bigger capability clusters (broker, integrate and orchestrate) and relate it back to the ITIL frame work or even to the good old technology centric capabilities (plan, build, run) as shown in the following picture:


There might by a continued value of the ITIL frame by helping to structure activities and outcomes for brokerage, integration and orchestration capabilities. Most likely over time, almost all capabilities in the new cloud world will be automated completely, except the ones where automation is hardly possible: Leadership, negotiation, escalation, governance and, process automation itself.

Reflecting on any potential continued value of ITIL: There are other arising new concepts where ITIL can serve as a reference. Now we are talking about agility and speed of innovation supported by the likes of DevOps, Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD). Gartner expects that by 2016, DevOps will evolve from a niche to a mainstream strategy employed. Although, DevOps for example emphasizes people (and culture) over tools and processes, still, processes need to be defined in order to automate them.

In essence, the times, where ITIL stood for THE process model for IT is definitively over. Some practices and even processes will survive as base for new concepts and frame works, some process capabilities will be integrated in overarching business capabilities (i.e. strategy elements, supplier management) other elements will evolve into completely new business models outside of the traditional customer/provider world (i.e. demand management and service broker as a business).

2 Kommentare zu «The end of the good old ITIL world»

  1. Bernd F. Dollinger

    I Like such articles – really I‘m joking only half.

    At first it’s nice to see the power of ITIL. You’ve to for or again ITIL to get attention. This article never will be read, if it only says “Please be aware that there is something changing”.

    At second: What’s the answer? The article only forecast the dead of ITIL. There is a proverb in German that says “Totgesagte leben länger.” It means you will live long if anyone predicts your dead. Beyond the look in the crystal ball to see the future, what give us this article? I can’t see any concrete hint. Maybe I’ve to throw my processes depending on ITIL away. And what do then? When I work without guidelines, processes and documentation my ISO9001, ISO27001 and the both mentioned ISOs never works.

    Yes I’m pretty sure that something is changing the next time. I really believe in DevOps. It’s a way for faster IT – the chain from the idea to realization, testing and deployment needs less time. But what is the base for this chain? There are still the ITIL processes of Change Management, Testing and Deployment Management.

  2. I tend to agree with Bernd. Although I’ve been in IT since the early ’80’s I find the ITIL framework to hold great value today. To try and argue that a foundation to good IT service strategy is no longer relevant is like arguing that 1+1 no longer equals 2. Or put another way that the concept of “IF – THEN – ELSE” is no longer relevant in programming because the languages have “evolved”.

    With that said, there are some good ideas presented in this essay. Thanks for taking the time to share your notions.

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