The cult of ITIL - It has more followers than you think

OK ITIL, the IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework, is neither a cult nor a religion, but hopefully I grabbed your attention.The point of this short, but hopefully interesting, blog is that when we usually think about ITIL we...

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OK ITIL, the IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework, is neither a cult nor a religion, but hopefully I grabbed your attention.

The point of this short, but hopefully interesting, blog is that when we usually think about ITIL we normally focus on the IT service management and IT operations organisational domains as its playground. And, while we appreciate that other IT roles might have an interest in ITIL (especially enterprise architects or those looking at DevOps), I imagine most will be surprised at the following percentage readership demographic for my recent “Adopting ITIL” report.

Percentage split of Adopting ITIL readers across Forrester “role types”

Forrester ITIL.gif


So what is this showing?

Firstly, I find it amazing that the intended audience, the IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) Professional role, only accounts for 28% of total reads. The other reader groups while somewhat expected are interesting in terms of volume relative to the intended audience.

This can be viewed in a number of ways including that:

  • I&O professionals don’t need to read the document as they already “know it all” (glass half empty).
  • Other IT professionals are interested in how ITIL can help with IT service design and delivery (glass half full).
Given the actual, rather than the percentage, read volumes (circa 500 in this February 2012 snapshot) the former probably isn’t true; rather that the messaging around ITIL and its perceived benefits have permeated out of the I&O organisation and into the wider IT and business community. I often quote that fact that the ITIL branding/marketing machine is to be admired for the way that ITIL has gone beyond the I&O organisation to reach a level of board-level consciousness.

So what does it mean for the I&O professional?

There are few things that, in my opinion, may or may not make your life easier. Let’s start with the awkward one first: I&O might come under pressure to adopt ITIL if it has previously side-stepped the “opportunity.” Not a great position to be in - a mandated ITIL adoption that will technically be a mandated ITIL implementation that ultimately fails. Be prepared to argue the case as to why ITIL is not right for your organisation if you truly think it the situation. Also be open to this “outside” opinion on the worth of ITIL, it might change yours.

On the upside, the “outside” interest in ITIL can be leveraged (OK, let’s exploit it). It might mean that the time is right to seek business support for either a Greenfield ITIL adoption or an extension to existing activities. So seek out interested parties and combine cerebral resources to create a compelling business case for advancing your ITSM and IT service delivery maturity whether it be via ITIL or not.

Finally, the “outside” interest in ITIL could also be used as a platform for conversation or ongoing dialogue about what I&O does and how having a common interest and focus on IT service delivery can help not only the individual “IT silos” but also the IT organisation as a whole and, most importantly, the parent or customer business.

As always, your observations, thoughts, and comments are appreciated. I’m off to dance around my ITIL 2011 books ;)

Posted by Stephen Mann

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