Repeat after me: “I am not IMPLEMENTING ITIL®”

'...If I go to one more presentation, or read one more blog about how to “implement” ITIL I think I will scream!'

Maybe I am being pedantic or overly precious about this, but if I go to one more presentation, or read one more blog about how to “implement” ITIL I think I will scream! And that would not be a pleasant experience for me or anyone else in the surrounding area.

Please don’t get me wrong, ITIL is a fantastic tool, and one that I use on each and every assignment I undertake in service management. But that is what it is – a tool – it is a repository of really good ideas that can help you introduce best practice into the IT Service provision hub of any business. It just isn’t something that you implement.

You are what you eat

I liken this to a book on healthy eating. You buy the book and read it, you use the good advice that it contains to improve your dietary best practice. You do not implement the advice letter for letter – chances are that you just don’t like some of the foods that they are recommending, or they are not available locally. Just because you did not follow ALL the ideas contained in the book religiously, does not mean that you didn’t gain value from your investment. You picked the advice that suited your circumstances and discarded the ideas that didn’t.

There are some parts of ITIL that are non-negotiable, just as there are some parts of healthy eating advice that you really can’t ignore. You have to get the business supporting your ITSM journey, and you need to define your services, those things are essential. You must monitor what you are doing to make sure it is working and then make adjustments. But if you only want or need incident and request fulfillment management, then nobody should be telling you that you have to do problem, change and request management – or create a CMDB.

If I am trying to lose weight (and I usually am) then I need to follow a healthy diet and exercise plan, but if a recipe calls for a good helping of broad beans, then I am just going to leave them out! But I am not going to add half a pound of butter instead, as that would defeat the purpose. What I am going to do is monitor the success of the things I am doing and adjust them accordingly, if the results are not what I want and expect.

No Priorities or Prescriptions

ITIL consists of recommendations, not prescriptions. It gathers together decades of fantastic common sense, which has been constantly updated and republished to suit current thinking, technology and practices. It is just not something you implement.

I have shuddered recently on reading claims from vendors stating that their product will “automate your ITIL implementation”. You might be able to automate some ITIL based processes using software tools, but there is no “one-size-fits-all” model for this, and there is a very high chance – almost an inevitability – that if you decide to implement processes this way, you will be disappointed with the results. Certainly not all vendors are trying to market their products with these methods, there are some excellent ones out there who understand that the tools they are supplying are just that, tools that will help provide a means for you to improve the way you provide and support IT services. My advice would be that if a vendor comes to you and tells you that their tool will do it all for you…run away, and fast.

So please, USE ITIL, and other best practice advice, to create a recipe for your business that will provide the results that you are looking for. Don’t set about implementing 27 (is that the current count?) processes and functions, just because they are contained in the books. I can guarantee that you really don’t need them all.

So now, I am going to review my healthy eating process since this morning’s monitoring tells me that something I am doing currently is not working – although I have a feeling that this may relate to a major incident that occurred over the weekend involving Whittakers Peanut Slabs!

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11 thoughts on “Repeat after me: “I am not IMPLEMENTING ITIL®””

  1. If ITIL is a tool, then don’t we implement tools? Like the recipe, we configure the tool to suit our unique situation.

  2. I know lots of people get very wound up about ‘implementing ITIL’, but I don’t personally have a problem with it. It’s an imperfect way of expressing an idea, rather a wrong idea.

    When we exhibited at SDITS in London in 2012, I talked to a senior service management consultant. He told me how all of his clients are now so mature he never hears the phrase ‘implementing ITIL’. After he left, I spoke to lots of people from different organisations – and they all told me how their companies were ‘implementing ITIL’.

    If implementing ITIL is a shorthand way for an organisation to say ‘we’re bringing in a service focus, some proper processes and a common language to improve the way we interact with our customers’, what’s the harm?

  3. Kirstie,
    One of the thrusts of current management thinking in IT is to get the unintelligible jargon out of the conversation with customers/end-users (I abhor slashes but must use this form lest I be harangued for poor word choice).

    The more time and energy we spend on semantics, the less time and energy we have to spend on service management.

    If you have ever been in a group of people who all (except you) had a particular expertise in common, then used a word that brought smirks and titters from them (“Poor unenlightened dearie; she knows not whereof she speaks, hahhah!”), you should realize that all the argument about “implementing” and “customer” and so on makes those who are not experts in ITIL® feel inadequate and stupid. And, as you may have learned, feeling inadequate and stupid is not pleasant. It breeds anger and resentment. Now, are we going to attract more people by making them feel that way? I don’t think so.

    The people who actually provide IT services (system administrators, database administrators, application developers and yes, especially those who support the services) have had to learn to live with customer/end-user verbiage.

    ITIL® (and ITSM for that matter) will not be mature until the disciplines become INclusive rather than EXclusive.

    In a famous exchange, Winston Churchill was derided for “using prepositions to end sentences with.” The witty Churchill replied, “That, sir, is an accusation up with which I will not put.” Being correct isn’t always the best thing.

    1. Roy, I agree with getting rid of the jargon (I am a front line service analyst on a small, internal Service Desk and can’t imagine when using ITSM jargon would be appropriate with a caller (end-user, customer,…)).

      But I think that a common vocabulary is useful within the department.

      Internally, we use words and acronyms like scrum, problem, CMDB, service, etc within the department and we need to have a common understanding of what those words mean. Perhaps that is where the framework glossaries come in handy, provided we do really understand what we are saying.

      1. Patsy,

        Thanks for your reply. I agree that one of the major benefits of ITIL® is a common language. It’s a question of what we spend our time worrying about.

        From whom do we expect letter-perfect discussions of ITIL®? Salespeople? Executives? Managers in other business units? And how, exactly, would you describe the idea of “beginning to follow ITIL® processes” to someone who does not have any ITSM training or certification, much less any interest in learning ITSM?

        For the record, the dictionary definition of “implement” as a verb:
        Put (a decision, plan, agreement, etc.) into effect: ‘implement the treaty’.”

        So, do we put ITIL® into effect? Should we allow people to say that’s what they are doing, or should we call them out each time? (This post is far from being the only place I’ve seen wringing of hands over “implementing,” and there are many other terms that seem to elicit eye-rolls and “harrumph” reactions from ITIL® experts.

        Let’s please work on the language that brings people in, that touches on their common understanding of how things happen in the world outside IT service management. If IT is to show business value, we need to be able to communicate with others. The same is true for service management.

  4. I like all the points of view on this, while tending to agree with Claire that whatever it’s called, the journey is a good one. Perhaps it’s human nature to use the shorthand for “we’re implementing ITIL-informed process improvements” or somesuch.

    And given the predilection in some posts for the food-diet-restaurant analogy I’m wondering if we should start calling it EATIL. :]

  5. I’ve come across a few people who had the ‘implement’ irk.. I have no problem with it. I’ve never taken the word ‘implement’ to infer you are embedding an end to end methodology. It could mean you’ve chosen to ‘implement’ only parts of it. At the end of the day, you are taking theoretical knowledge and en-devouring to apply it into practice.. That for my mind means implement is a more than adequate phrase to use.. In fact, if it is so wrong, why do so many people use it instinctively?

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