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In a recent Tweet, I said:

The frameworks in common use today are fine the way they are. What needs to alter is our expectations and the manner in which we use them.

When I wrote this, I was specifically thinking about the I.T. Infrastructure Library (ITIL), but it’s important to remember that this thought applies to any framework, methodology or body of knowledge.

I could just as easily have put COBIT, MOF, PMBOK, Agile or whatever other framework or methodology one might be fond of there. Even the USMBOK! <gasp!> 😉

Some of you who know some of my other work may be surprised to see me writing “nice things” about ITIL. If you are surprised, then you have completely missed the point or misunderstood what I’ve been attempting to say the whole time!

ITIL is neither bad or wrong — it is incomplete and inconsistent. We can see evidence backing my assertion in the form of OGC’s mandate for change. After all, if it were complete and consistent, there would be no need for the ITIL refresh, would there? :-)   Is this a problem? Yes and no. The degree to which it is depends upon how you use it.

I said in another blog entry:

If the release of ITIL v3 helps IT organizations to recognize these key themes and take actions designed to start functioning as effective providers (and consumers) of services, then I believe that ITIL v3 will have made an important contribution to the discipline of IT Service Management.

Does this statement mean that:

  • I believe it has covered all the areas that it needs to for people to be able to execute on an ITSM initiative and be successful? No.
  • I think that organizations should not use ITIL? No.
  • I think that “adopt and adapt” is a viable strategy for “implementing” ITIL? No.

It’s highly likely that you’re always going to find gaps in content, introduce new concepts into the frameworks, alter methodologies, etc. Even with reasonably successful frameworks (like PMIs Project Management Body of Knowledge [PMBOK]), there are regular updates and refreshes to ensure that they remain relevant to the profession. Things change and we need to deal with that. Bottom line is that this has nothing to do with a specific framework or its content.

The real problems come from how we try to use (or abuse) them and/or what we results we expect to drive from that. Mere adoption of a framework isn’t going to make our problems disappear, allow for an exponential rise in productivity or have our people become more capable.  These are signs of (actual or potential) abuse/misuse. By recognizing these signs, we can start down the path to understanding how to use them properly.

More on this later.

4 Responses to “Are Your Frameworks Failing You?”

  • sm101:

    Very interesting subject.

    So what is the purpose of an ITSM initiative?
    How do we identify and plug gaps?
    Should frameworks be more disciplined in explaining their purpose, for example are they acting as safety rails, a compass, or perhaps a sharp stick?

  • All excellent questions and worthy of blog entries unto themselves. So, if you don’t mind, rather than attempting to offer up something less-than-adequate, I’ll take on doing blog entries for each of these!

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Sa'ad Al-Qeshtaini:

    This is an important subject! I have always been asked by some of my students on ITIL Foundation classes, questions like: “Why do we need ITIL? How ITIL will solve our IT problems?”…etc. Using ITIL marketing materials, I used to answer those questions. But, if I will agree on your point of view, you need to give me better answer on why do we need to use best practices on ITSM in order to bridge the gap between customer expectations and service provider capabilities?


  • Sa’ad,

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to post a comment. Sorry it’s taken a few days to get it approved… I’ve been rather busy working (given it’s end of quarter).

    Now, I wasn’t sure whether or not you were asking your last question directly to me or rhetorically in the context of your ITIL Foundation classes. For the moment, I’ll take the position that you are directly addressing this to me. I love the question and think it’s worth a more detailed examination. My short answer is — you DON’T. ITSM is an example of Service Management concepts being used within the context of an IT organization. That is Inside-Out thinking (or as my wife might say, “It’s all about you, Ken, what about them?”. What is required is a customer-centric orientation — Outside-In.

    Before any readers start saying or thinking “Ken, that’s absurd. You’re just trying to prop up the latest thing you want to push”. While I can appreciate that perspective, I can assure you that it’s completely wrong. I’ve been working my entire career from this perspective. The only difference is that I now have a convenient moniker to use when distinguishing between the two approaches.

    Please note that I am NOT saying that there is no value in ITSM. Viewing an issue from just the polar extremes doesn’t help. It just helps cement preferences and biases. Yes, there are legitimate Best Practices within the context of ITSM that can help make the needed changes and improvements, but only after discovering the connection to the customer and driving it from there.

    In our recent ITSM-SOS (Save our Service) Event in Columbus, OH (look for a blog post soon on this), we had the chance to work with a number of organizations on their ITSM initiatives and get a temperature check on where they have been, are now and are going towards. While I am not in a position to reveal detailed results yet, as there’s still a lot of analysis to do, I can tell you that my preliminary reviews of the hard data we’ve collected validates my assertion. I look forward to being able to publish a report on this for everyone in the ITSM community to see. I’m not sure when that will be, but I’ll keep everyone posted here via the blog.

    In the meantime, if you want to pursue this further, please reply and we can go from there.

    Thank you!

    P.S. I also encourage you to examine my previous response on here and examine the USMBOK site. Have a specific look at the Knowledge Domains and Knowledge Areas — (generally speaking) everything on the left of the diagram is Outside-In, on the right is Inside-Out.

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