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ITIL Dreams

ITIL Dreams

A silver bullet mentality can shoot down the best-intentioned ITIL effort

The CIO was clearly thirsting for easy answers and in no mood to listen. His organization in a mess, suffering major inefficiencies and with processes that were all over the shop, he looked at the consultant's work and liked what he saw.

"We'll have all of those," he said, eyeing the processes under development while ignoring altogether the bones of the overriding process architecture framework the consultant had been laboriously developing to hurdle the silos. "I want them in within a week, and I am going to insist on compliance."

If ever there was a way not "to do ITIL" (that is, follow the practices of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library), the consultant says, this CIO, while far from unique, had stumbled upon it. That is what happens when the hype ratchets up so high that some people start to see visions of silver bullets dancing in their heads. But clearly no argument was going to dissuade him.

ITIL is designed to stabilize the IT domain and then improve it, while actively supporting business operations

"There was a large set of retrenchments at the time and I also remember having, not a stand-up debate, but an exchange with one of the CIO's right-hand people who said: 'We are going to sack half the staff, put in these processes and become efficient', the consultant recalls. "I tried pointing out that if you change any process you are going to have inefficiencies and to avoid that you have to front load the process with a lot of training and resources, so that you don't end up doing more harm than good. And they were telling me I was completely wet behind the ears, and using many other choice expressions and phrases to describe me.

"So they basically published the processes and then tried running them overnight — and it gave them a significant amount of major problems. Systems fell over, nobody knew what it was that they were doing, and it also coincided with the CIO being 'shot'. To describe the result as chaos is an understatement.

"And the people decided the whole effort was rubbish, and then proceeded to do what they were doing before because they had no training, they had no understanding, and they were even told: 'This stuff is obvious and therefore you don't need training'.

"I think they have now recovered, after a couple of years," the consultant, Ariston Strategic Consulting's Chris Jones, says wryly.

Jones, an international reviewer and contributor to ITIL since 2000 and Fellow with the Institute of Service Management, says what that CIO — like all too many of his counterparts — ignored is that ITIL is useless without an overriding process architecture framework to tie the silos together in a meaningful way. He says every time an organization tries to adopt a piecemeal approach to ITIL — putting in change management here, and an incident management process there, and problem management somewhere else — they develop a process silo in isolation. That means the interfaces between processes will be ill-defined, so the organization will all but inevitably have to eventually re-engineer part of the processes.

"The ITIL set talks of what I refer to as silo processes but the interfaces between them are not well described, partly because each organization has a different or a unique set of requirements. The ITIL set comprises seven process sets: business perspective, service delivery, service support, infrastructure management, application development, and planning, and security management. Now all of these realistically need to plug-and-play together and you can't have them in isolation," Jones says.

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