People and products: we all get old eventually

ivor graphWe all know that as we get older we lose some of our faculties and our usefulness changes. One interesting aspect of ageing workers is that it isn’t just about being good, bad, better or worse. In many jobs – and jobs as diverse as consultancy and bricklaying come to my mind – the actual deliverable usefulness changes as our strength and endurance fade but knowledge and experience grow to compensate and allow us to deliver continued, albeit different, value.

I suspect this feature, seen in the human species, is widely applicable, and extends even to best practice frameworks.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

For those of us who are parents, the first step to accepting the inevitable path to obsolescence and replacement is when we find ourselves asking our children to get something for us – because bending down or going upstairs is easier for them than us. Once past that point you have accepted not only aging but your progeny being better at things than you are. Inevitably that superior ability will spread from minor physical capability, like getting upstairs quickly, through to intellectual and perceptive ability such as understanding the world and innovation. For professional footballers, this tends to happen around 30, after which experience and positional understanding need to compensate for sheer speed and strength. For non-manual workers it is much later, but it happens just the same. The positioning of senility in best practice frameworks is less precise and perhaps still open to discussion.

Like parents, ITIL was originally young and fancy-free, and the only go-to place for building ITSM processes and practices. But in due course, ITIL spawned progeny (like COBIT, MOF and ISO2000[1]) – or alternatives if you prefer to see it that way. And some of those newcomers have now matured, as children do, to offer stronger options than ITIL for some aspects of the ITSM best practice world.

So, maybe ITIL has started to show its age, the joints are creaking a bit and we see some really interesting challenges from the next generation who understand the new environment a little better and maybe still have the flexibility to adapt more. More crucially, we see initiatives that don’t have to be bolted on to a historical behemoth of existing products and commitments.

Of course ITIL still has massive value. Like experience in craftsmen, the years of refinement, the market pervasiveness, global understanding and more mean ITIL still leads and delivers real value to those who use it to help them get better at service management. But like the aging craftsman with good apprentices, have we reached the point where ITIL has something to learn from the newcomers, rather than trying to stick to the idea that age and longevity equals right and correct and form the only way to go on?

Certainly it seems to me that some of the new ideas being floated challenge established ITIL detail in many ways but not ITIL’s experience, position and reputation. Preserving that (for want of a better word) authority in the industry will rely, to some degree, on accepting where others might now be better. Most of what originally went into ITIL came from elsewhere. Quite deliberately there was very little original put into ITIL guidance – the whole point of best practice is that it is out there working in the best organisations. Since ITIL’s launch we have seen, in turn, ITIL’s ideas instigate and invigorate new best practice ideas. That’s the good part of getting older, seeing your children be successes, perhaps even seeing them outdo your own efforts.

In practice, I wonder about ITIL in two ways.

  • It should be no surprise that in terms of basic mechanics and core strengths – like process details – ITIL is falling behind its younger children, friends or competitors. But the breadth and broader strategic focus that came with the later versions still sets it apart and gives it value – but perhaps a different kind and less exclusive value – experience taking over from strength? It is encouraging to hear Axelos talk about new white papers discussing the integration of ITIL and others best practices. But where does ITIL go? Should it compete head on with other process approaches, seek an overarching integration role, or simply claim it is the original and best?
  • Is ITIL flexible enough to take on new ideas, or should those ideas look to younger backs to carry them and just point out to them? As just one example, recent discussions questioning the merits in retaining a separation between incident and problem make real sense. But where will they get properly documented to gain broad acceptance? Because, for sure, we need a well documented alternative approach for any degree of acceptance. (Interestingly much of that idea has come from old human heads rather than young upstarts. I suspect that once the young upstarts do get going in our industry then the degree of challenge to established idea might go up by a few orders of magnitude. I’m rather looking forward to it all!)

As an ageing parent myself, I know the best chance of contentment lies in accepting my children’s now superior abilities, and in letting them do things for me. Certainly they now solve more challenges for me than I do for them. There is satisfaction that your genes – and lots of work – are actually firmly embedded into the future – the quickest route to immortality may indeed be via your children?

Of course, analogies should not be pushed too far and we need to see best practice use in its own right. We should expect much more overlap, some competition and hopefully a bit of mutual support. Oh, hang on; maybe they are like families after all?

The golden rule

But the golden rule for using best practices – be they for ITSM, cooking or anything else – has always been to look at all the relevant ideas and build what is best for you. In ITSM now we are both lucky and challenged to have a wider range of ideas than ever before. That might actually lead to diversity of ITSM approaches rather than the convergence to one (ITL based) view as we have seen in the last 20 years.

ITIL is the product in charge still, its market position makes it well placed to lead and inspire. Integration would be wonderful, but unlikely, coordination would be helpful, competition would be disappointing. Whichever way things go, ITIL made this happen, and should be proud of that. Learning from your children is a good trait, I’m learning a lot and enjoying the experience, hope ITIL will too.

[1] All of these acknowledged their basis on ITIL in their early versions

itSMF UK seeks new leadership

Ben Clacy leaves itSMF UK on the 15th November after three years as Chief Executive.
Ben Clacy leaves itSMF UK on the 15th November after three years as Chief Executive.

itSMF UK have begun their search for a new CEO after it was announced that Ben Clacy is to leave the organization after the annual conference in November.

Ben first joined the non-profit organization in 2006 in a business development role and has served 3 years as Chief Executive. Ben is leaving the IT sector to lead operations at the Foundation Trust Network.

The CEO role is currently being advertised on The Guardian website which states that the new candidate must “build upon the success of the current CEO and confidently take us to the next stage of the strategic plan.

Ben’s departure follows Chris Roberts leaving the organization as Member Engagement Manager in July.

The new CEO will certainly face some interesting challenges:

  • Traditional ‘country chapter’ member organizations are still trying to find their role in the world amongst the growth of worldwide digital networks. If I want to discuss problem management, I want to discuss problem management – it doesn’t have to be limited to talking to people in my country.
  • The new owner of ITIL, Axelos, has become an outright commercial operation and has stated it’s intent to be community and discussion led with the ‘Big Friendly Onion’ strategy. This seems to encroach on itSMF’s core purpose (However, whilst Axelos talk a good game we’re yet to see them execute).

Ivor Macfarlane, Service Management specialist at IBM, discussing the news on Facebook said:

“Ben had to guide itSMF through tough times. Under Ben’s guidance itSMF seems to have survived – not without casualties but survived. itSMF has grown up during Ben’s time – a lot of that the sad, end of innocence kind of growing up. In an organisation supposedly occupied with delivering service, Ben understood that it is the service that counts not the visibility or glory of the deliverers. I will miss the confidence of a steady hand on the tiller – especially when often it seems the final destination is not certain.”

The ITSM Review team wish Ben well in his new role. We look forward to giving him a good send off at conference next month (Don’t forget to check out our free conference ticket giveaway).

Future of ITIL workshop – a little insight


The following comment piece is contributed by Stuart Rance of HP and Stephen Mann of ServiceNow.

Yesterday a number of ITSM professionals convened in London to talk about the future of ITIL. From the get-go, it was stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to provide input to AXELOS’ thinking and not to make decisions.

Who was involved?

It was a passionate group of people that represented: ITIL authors, examiners, consultants, service providers, vendors, penguins, and AXELOS. The attendees were:

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
AXELOS CEO, Peter Hepworth and ITSMPenguin

And of course ITSMPenguin. Everyone had opinions and ideas to share and it was a good mix of people.

Some attendees travelled a long way to attend: Anthony from Houston, Sharon from Canada, Jayne from Florida, and Rob Stroud would have attended from New York but for personal reasons. Even though most of the attendees reside in the UK, they work for global organizations and as such have global experience and global views. Not withstanding this, we all agreed on the need for more input across geography, culture, industry, and language.

If you wish to provide your input please respond to this blog (in the comments section) or email AXELOS direct.

Community input

You can already see much of the input from things people have already shared with the ITSM community:

Scope and content of ITIL

The discussions included the scope, content, and structure of both ITIL and the ITIL exam system. And started with people suggesting ideas for strategy and principles for ITIL going forward. It was surprising how long this took (shouldn’t we already know this?) and not unsurprisingly everyone agreed that ITIL should be driven by business and customer needs.

Other suggestion related to:

  • Having a visible set of values
  • Separating architecture and structure from narrative and examples
  • Collaboration with a wide community of practitioners, examiners, trainers, consultants, vendors, and industry bodies across geographic and industry boundaries
  • An emphasis on relevance to end-user organizations
  • Quality being more important than time to market.

From a content perspective, AXELOS introduced the concept of what it calls the “Onion Model”, shown below, that encompasses the previous feedback on how there is a need for different types of content and, importantly, community input to the ongoing development of ITIL.



  • The centre has the very stable ITIL core
  • The next layer has modular content such as role or industry-specific information
  • And then further layers have more practical content such as templates, guides, and case studies
  • The very outside layer is community owned and community driven with AXELOS and the community curating and promoting this

Content is able to move inwards as it becomes accepted best practice.

                                       Training and exams

Of all the qualities we might look for in a SAM Managed Services Provider - proven track record is key.
The workshop group

We discussed the importance of people, culture, and organizational aspects. In particular the need for more practical guidance about how IT organizations can benefit from the experience of others, and how they can start to gain value from ITIL within their own organization.

There was a lot of passion around training and exams. An interesting point was the absence of guidance on the development of skills such as negotiation and management as part of effective IT service management. Everyone recognized the need to make the exam system more valuable to both individuals and employers. But there was a consensus that that any change requires more input, more time, and needs great care not to disrupt the status quo. Again, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL exams, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct.

Next steps

Following day two of this workshop (a second blog will follow), AXELOS will continue to seek out global community input.

If you want to follow what’s happening, please look for their communications on Twitter or Google+

As always, thoughts and comments are encouraged.