Is it time for a two-speed ITIL?

Do we need faster access to new ITIL concepts?

At the UK itSMF conference this month, somebody asked me “What do you think the ITSM community are looking forward to next from ITIL?” As I tried to answer this question I realized that we don’t really have an ITSM community with a shared set of objectives.

We have many different people with different goals and objectives, and we all want different things from ITIL. Over the last few years I have seen an increasing divergence between two distinct groups of ITIL users and I think it will become increasingly difficult for the ITIL we currently have to satisfy both groups.

We all want different things from ITIL

One group includes training organizations, exam institutes, tool vendors, and organizations that have made investments in developing ITIL related solutions. These organizations are looking for stability, so that they can realize some value from the large investments they have made in ITIL related products, services and solutions. There was a major release of ITIL in 2007 and a smaller release in 2011, and they really need time now to consolidate their work and extract value from it.

The second group includes organizations that are creating and adopting new ways of working to create increased value for themselves and their customers. Some of these are using DevOps and Agile to deliver very rapid rates of change for their customers, some are using complex multi-supplier relationships to create value, and some are adopting BYOD to increase productivity of their users. These people and organizations are looking for ITIL to release new material to support them, and tell me that although the underlying concepts in the core ITIL publications still apply to them, they need significant and frequent updates to provide guidance that is suitable for these rapidly changing environments.

We cannot support all needs with a single set of publications

I think that ITIL needs to support both of these groups, as well as all the other shades of opinion in between, but I don’t think we can support such disparate needs with a single set of best practice publications. The solution I propose is to create a new set of “ITIL Fast Track” publications. Let’s keep the core ITIL 2011 publications unchanged for a few years, so that organisations that need stability can extract value from their investments, but let’s also create new ITIL publications to support those on the leading edge. These ITIL Fast Track publications could be based on leading edge practices and what’s happening in the industry now, rather than on tried and tested best practices. They would not be intended for exams, but to provide guidance on how to apply great service management practice in a way that works with the latest practices from other sources.

We could produce ITIL Fast Track Service Strategy with ideas from COBIT5 and recent work on supplier integration and management, ITIL Fast Track Service Transition and Service Design with ideas from DevOps and Agile, ITIL Fast Track Service Operation with guidance on how to use Rob England’s Standard and Case

A chance to create new ‘best practice’

The really good thing about this solution is that in a few years’ time some of the material in the ITIL Fast Track publications would have been tried and tested by sufficient organizations that it would become best practice, and could be merged into the ITIL core in a future update.

So what do you think? Would you be interested in reading ITIL Fast Track publications, or do you just want to stick with the ITIL core?

(A Russian translation of this article is available on the itSMF Russia website here:

Image credit: © flucas –

40 thoughts on “Is it time for a two-speed ITIL?”

  1. Surely the first group should be driven by the second? In another industry, say motor vehicles, would the vendors survive if they continued to create products and services that actually hindered their customers getting from A to B?

    1. Stephen, I agree that the organizations doing new and interesting things should be driving the process. My intent was to suggest how this could be facilitated.

  2. I very much support your problem statement, claiming we need to find a way to bundle and optimize the sharing of new ITSM practices, based on devops, agile, lean, social media, ToC, BiSL, etc.
    However, I don’t think this needs to be an “ITIL branded” format. Please let’s not constrain ourselves to whichever framework in improving the value from our ITSM work.

    1. I agree that there are many ways that these things could be published, and I would encourage people to write and publish their service management ideas in many different ways. I also think that ITIL needs to keep up with new trends, and this is why I suggested the idea of Fast Track ITIL

  3. I rather like the concept. The idea that there would be some type of “official” ITIL/Lean publication or ITIL/Standar+Case publication – how the two work together and such. I think I would be interested in that.

    And as you mention (as well as I think Stephen Mann talks about in another comment) the ‘newer’ stuff will eventually become the ‘standard’ stuff. I think this also opens the door up for more revenue streams for the various ‘educators’ out there – so I’m sure they will be onboard with it.

    I think a good starting one would be “ITIL/Cobit5”

    1. I really like COBIT5, it has made great strides in helping us think about governance of enterprise IT. I’m not sure that it is best practice yet, but it is certainly important thinking – so it looks like perfect fodder for inclusion in Fast Track ITIL.

  4. Excellent article. At the danger of adding complication I would add thast there is also that large community who just want to know what the basics are they need to bring IT under control and who don’t need four fifths of the current content of the ITIL books

    1. Good point James. Do you think that the current ITIL complementary publications work for this (foundation handbook, capability handbooks, key element guides, ITIL small scale implementation) or is there a need for yet another publication?

      Maybe what is really needed is some kind of Intermediate training that could take people who have learned the terms and basics on a foundation course and help with a small scale implementation. Instead of taking an exam they could take what they learn and implement the ideas in their own environment.

      1. Stuart, Well in the UK we have the developing ITSM MSc market that covers some aspects of this, but perhaps requiring too much of a time commitment to be useful to the general market in the current economy.

        I’m tempted to say that rather than publications per se what is going to help in the short term is the rise of communities like Back2ITSM and the debates going on the blogs coupled with effective use of conferences and webinars.

  5. ITIL as it stands doesn’t provide much practical guidance to the issues I see IT orgs really struggling with: integrating processes across a multi-vendor environments, process automation, and integrating their projects & processes. I can’t help but think your suggestion would result in these topics being addressed better.

  6. Are we missing out on an opportunity here? These techniques and issues are in no way limited to the IT space. All business processes are embracing the kind of automation and analytics where IT Services are out in front. If the future is a world with no separation of IT and business, shouldn’t we start now??

    1. There are two distinct discussions we could have here

      1) Is it time to remove the IT and just talk about how to do service management? We have discussed this extensively in many forums. I am not convinced that the IP that ITSM people could offer is sufficiently advanced compared to service management in other areas

      2) ITIL doesn’t really help us think about the kind of IT services where the business is IT. Services that are the core value proposition such as Facebook, Google etc. There are some very interesting discussions to have in this space.

  7. I enjoyed the article, though I find I must disagree with some of the assumptions.

    I do not believe it is fair to state that ‘We all want different things from ITIL’ – those that are utilizing ITIL for its intended purpose are seeking the same thing; to employ best
    practices in order to improve. Those of the group that “… includes
    training organizations, exam institutes, tool vendors, and organizations that
    have made investments in developing ITIL related solutions” are not USING
    ITIL, but rather have found various ways to profit from its existence. Stating
    that ITIL should stay unchanged so that these organizations can obtain ROI is
    like saying that the Auto industry should not change their models from year to
    year so that after-market parts and accessory manufacturers don’t have to
    change what they produce. ITIL was not designed so that these ‘after-market’ organizations could profit from it; it was designed to assist those that actually use it in their business as it was meant to be used.

    I do very much agree with the idea of ITIL providing content that encompasses new or updated concepts and methods, such as COBIT5. Rather than a separate set of publications, however, I would see this material as extensions of the current published core volumes. This, to me, is more in line with what ITIL surrounds its core with: Continual Service Improvement. This concept should apply to ITIL itself as well as being a part of its guidance, and it seems logical that the inclusion of “fast track” publications should have been an addition to the core set all along. Of course, as stated, as the ‘new’ ideas show their worth, they should be included in the core.

    In summary, I believe that the ‘latest guidance’ can – and should – be included as an extension of the core publications – a separate book for each lifecycle stage might be warranted, or it may need only one that covers the latest guidance for each lifecycle – but the guidance should not be ‘separate’. I like the idea of having the most current industry practices covered, but am not supportive of seeing the core guidance stagnate to favor the ‘after-market’ organizations need to recover an investment; these organizations need to build the agility into their products and services that allows them to continually improve and still obtain the value their investment demands. This is what customers expect, and frankly deserve, and so should be what every organization attempts to design and plan for.

    1. Michael, I have some sympathy for your point about the “after-market”, but when I referred to “…organizations that have made investments in developing ITIL related solutions” I was also thinking of a number of very large corporations that have developed their own ITSM solutions based on ITIL and that use the ITIL books and ITIL training to help their people work in this environment. I have personally worked with multi-nationals that found adopting the small changes of the ITIL 2011 edition an expensive challenge.

      The one thing we do agree on is that ITIL needs to be much more agile about adopting new ideas and helping organizations incorporate them into their practices. Now all we have to do is agree on a publication format and governance approach for making this happen.

  8. This reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a CIO who wanted to spend a lot of money to make his organization “ITIL compliant” (yes, I know). I asked him “Why would you want to spend a lot of money to do that? Does your industry demand some kind of demonstrated compliance to ITIL? Are your business partners saying that you need to be ITIL compliant? Bottom line: is ITIL compliance the best use of your limited budget?”

    As you might imagine, the sales team that invited me to the conversation was having second thoughts. Then the conversation took a different turn. “ITIL incorporates a lot of the best thinking about how IT can operate and add value to your customers/clients. What if we were to construct an engagement that uses ITIL principles to improve your value to the business? The focus is on your business needs and ITIL (and other standards like COBIT) are tools to help meet these needs quickly and effectively. Since I’m recounting this story you can probably surmise that the story ended happily and the engagement was a success.

    My point is that, in my experience, ITIL is most effective when it is used as a tools (often as part of a larger toolkit) to bring about the business changes that are necessary for IT organizations to increase their value to the enterprise. Occasionally consultants and the rare tool vendor position ITIL as the solution – the end point. This frequently leads to sadness, or at least disappointment.

    IF we believe that ITIL is an effective framework for supporting the ongoing transformation IT to retain its relevance AND IF we believe that tools, techniques, and operation of IT is evolving faster than ever before (and, for the record, I believe both of those to be true), THEN Stuart poses an interesting solution: The core publications can provide stability and help to better define the relatively slowly evolving relationship and blurring of the line between IT and “the business”. The “fast track” publications might eventually evolve into application guides that help fit the latest (more quickly evolving) approaches into a consistent framework. This approach might best support the kind of cost-effective agility that so many organizations seem to be seeking.

    1. Joe,

      Thanks for the well thought out response.

      I think that a lot of what I want from ITIL Fast Track was originally intended when OGC defined the purpose of complementary publications, but this doesn’t seem to have captured the kind of content that I was hoping for.

  9. I like this as a positive debate on how to bring the polarised dabate together. How about an annual publication of new ideas, papers and discussion around practice and futures, with the mandate to be inclusive, bleeding edge, controversial, challenging, as well as practical…? maybe overseen by a broad and diverse industry panel ..?

    1. Barclay, I really like that idea. I think it is nearly time to start engaging with the Cabinet Office to see if we can get some interest – I am convinced that this can only work if it is inclusive and based on the ITIL brand.

      1. I think some ItSMF chapters have published collections of white papers. Something like that could work, making use of material that already exists and pulling it together with some commentary on themes. I’m not sure whether that would appeal to both worlds though

  10. As I understand ITIL it is for Service Management, and concepts like Cloud Computing and BYOD are too low level for ITSM. What we have in ITIL is Stages of a Lifecycle and Processes, also Activities into process, but try to approach the phase of technology is too much, but also I will say “out of scope”. ITIL is not the solution to everything, we cannot have a book for “ITIL & BYOD”, “ITIL & Cloud”, “ITIL & Social Media”, “ITIL and personal data protection”, “ITIL for HR managers”… out of scope.

    1. I do agree that technology choices should be out of scope for publications about service management, but I think that BYOD, social networking and cloud can all have a direct impact on how we design our service management practices. I will be very interested to see how other people respond to your post

      1. Well, we agree that technology issues are out of the publication scope. Then for all other interceptions and relationships we have the community. This is the wonder of itSMF Congress, ISACA, and new organisations. you idea is good, but I honestly think it is too much low level and too much dynamic for Cabinet Office, an organization that needs a decade to note a change.

        1. My take is that ITIL shouldn’t address specific technologies, but if those technologies lead to a strategic change in how IT services are delivered then ITIL should change… unless of course ITIL is robust enough to still be relevant as it is. Sadly in the cases of cloud and multi – supplier ecosystems I think it has been found wanting

    2. Sorry but using phrases like ‘out of scope’ just highlights the real gap between the ITIL establishment and the new world – ITIL looks ‘inside-out’ and inward looking here. The point is not the scope but the context – people need to feel that what they are reading and spending cash on is relevant and current, and talks to them in thir language…

  11. I can see the need and there are many sources already out there, it’s more a case of how to pull them together rather than try to re-invent the wheel in another forum. Should we add to ITIL only or to others like, USMBOK, COBIT, LeanIT etc. or try to create a central community/repository for all Service Management related practices and information?

    1. Ken,

      I think that we need to keep all of these frameworks up to date. I wrote about ITIL because that is the one that I have been most involved with.

      I can see the value of creating a central community/repository, but this will need strong governance – otherwise I think it will be dominated by people pushing their own message with limited value.

    1. Brian,

      HDI publish some great content in the service desk space, but they don’t cover the full ITSM lifecycle.

      I am convinced that we need to use ITIL as a framework for the improvements we need if we want to get wide support from the people that we want to help.

  12. Good article Stuart it is reminding me to idea I had in the past when the IPESC was very active. At that time Dutch colleagues have usually some new revolutionary ideas that ware not always in conformance even with ITIL glossary. The question that I had in mind at that time was why cant we have literature classified as widely accepted or classic and experimental, where new ideas ware explored and eventually included in classic part – widely accepted.

  13. The idea, concepts and assessment of industry requirements is first class. My concern, Stuart, would be with the presumption that you make that the result of your excellent sugegtsions would be a two track ITIL rather than a two-speed set of Service management best practice.
    To an extent we have the early stages of this now. ITIL = stability and a good market for training/qualifications. We do need some means of getting the basic concepts across. Good people can then bend and adapt those concepts as required to deliver innovation in their implementation. that’s an approach we used to call engineering, certainly one that Brunel would have recognised.
    You mention COBIT 5, devops, agile and Rob’s rather marvelously simple Standard+case ideas. They potentially (and perhaps even actually already) deliver this variation. What I can’t see happening is the IP put into COBIT and the rest ending up in ITIL. Not without some major change to ownership and exploitation policy.
    What you describe is what we all want – access to the best ideas and a combination of them into a cohesive whole. Let’s dream of a comprehensive whole – personally I think it would be great if ITIL were donated to create the foundation for it.
    Worst possible scenario might be parallel development of multiple basics – that makes it very difficult to innovate and adapt and makes the whole damn thing a lot less useful.

    1. Ivor, If we agree on the outcome we want then that is a very good start.

      I too am not sure of the best approach to putting all this together. It definitely needs some kind of governance, otherwise we could end up with a huge dumping ground for every idea that anybody has regardless of merit or quality of writing, but it also needs to be inclusive and to encourage contradictory voices and new ideas.

    2. I like the idea of seeing how others are applying developing concepts (DevOps, Agile, etc) to their best practice based operating models (ITIL, etc) without waiting for the next revision/release of a particular framework. Some kind of “mechanic” should be able to be developed for that. But I agree with Ivor in that taking a “two track ITIL” approach feels unsustainable. I’d prefer to see more effective channels for demonstrating ways in which shops have fast-tracked the evolution of their operating models based on both the current versions of frameworks and emerging concepts. Everyone can stand up Change, Incident and Problem Mgt. The tough part is implementing the other (and appropriate for a particular shops) lifecyle stage processes and where to start. That is where the focus should be.

  14. It is an interesting concept, to kind of break ITIL down into more specific “implementation guides” of a sort. A “quick start” kind of thing. There are a few obstacles I see in the work I’ve done in the ITSM field. First, the difference between ITIL and ITSM. ITIL is the “what”, whereas ITSM is the “how” and the “why”. Too many companies look to ITIL to solve all their issues. If we start to get too specific with ITIL practices, then we run the risk of moving towards a “methodology” rather than keeping ITIL as the adapt and adopt framework that is meant to be. As you and others have already stated, what we need are people who are willing to look at individual organizations and focus on specific pain points….the phrase “low hanging fruit” comes to mind. Focus on the “how”..which will be different in each organization and technology. A community that would put out there real-world examples of actual implementations, showing how the framework was adapted and adopted to fit the particular orgniazation would be most helpful. And, to remind organizations that you don’t implement ITIL…you implement best practices using the ITIL framework as a guide….

  15. Corporations differ from individuals. An ITIL practitioner will have needs closer to the first group, where individuals get their training from.
    The second group’s needs can be satisfied by producing an ITIL handbook for the organisation or commercial entity. Free from the current focus, which at its core champions the ITIL practitioner. Take the leap and start certifying small IT service providers so to accelerate adoption. We can only grow from there.

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