Where is ITIL headed to?

ITIL is an acronym for IT Infrastructure Library. The Best Management Practice website defines ITIL as a”…cohesive set of best-practice guidance drawn from public and private sectors internationally”. It helps service providers with guidance on IT services, processes and so on.

On 1st July, 2013 AXELOS was announced as the company that would handle the future of ITIL. But considering the recent criticism that ITIL is facing over its proprietary nature, outdated definitions and its lack of answers pertaining to enterprise architecture, people have started to speculate about the future of ITIL. Some of the predicament that ITIL finds itself currently, has its origins in its past.  The initial ITIL (v1), which was influenced greatly from Deming’s cycle, was targeted at IT infrastructure organizations that delivered IT-enabled services. Initially, it stuck to that audience and it did a commendable job at enabling them to meet their immediate objectives, reducing costs and improve operations.

ITIL was considered ideal for organizations where the business environment is very stable and hence their IT service delivery suppliers operating in a more predictable way. Unfortunately, this also meant that ITIL was indirectly proving as a hindrance to the ability of the business to accomplish goals that needed rapid IT progress and fostered a rapidly changing business environment.

ITIL itself though, has been changing dynamically over the last decade.  It may have been a library for (managing) IT Infrastructure in version 1 and 2, but, with the upgrade to version 3 and then the evolution to the 2011 edition; it has extended its vision into a body of knowledge. Resulting from the ITIL Refresh project, ITIL v3 and now ITIL 2011 have tried to provide guidance not only on mere operations but also linking customer satisfaction to service delivery, alignment with business needs and the ability of a business to adopt and adapt to the ever-changing business environment.

But a big concern remains. ITIL is still being used primarily by the IT infrastructure organizations that mostly deliver IT-based services. It has been observed commonly that most implementations of processes that assert themselves as inspired from ITIL, mostly consider the IT infrastructure guys to be the main process stakeholders. Organizations like Walt Disney Resorts, Müller Dairy and Internal Revenue Service (US) are showing to the world the true results of implementing ITIL properly but even today they are more like exceptions rather than being the norm.

Organizations that develop applications see virtually anything that has developed out of the IT infrastructure domain to be intrinsically stagnant and stifling, and look to application development-driven philosophies like DevOps or Agile instead.

On the other hand, IT infrastructure organizations see most application development methodologies (particularly the agile ones) as being downright oblivious of the basic deliberations of service delivery.

This battle between IT infrastructure and application developers comes to a head during the ‘Change Management’ process, which comes under ‘Service Transition’ in ITIL. Change management is seen as a bureaucratic obstacle to improvement by the application developers, whereas the managers at the infrastructure department see it as something the application developers’ love keeping to them. In the vast majority of change management processes, change management is involved after the lines of code are written and tested.  This is conflicting to what ITIL endorses. ITIL recommends that a Change Authority Board (CAB) exists to support the authorization of changes and to assist change management in the assessment, prioritization and scheduling of changes. But on most CABs, there are mostly IT infrastructure people and rarely a true Service Owner on the board to demand anything dissimilar.

Of course, part of the reason for this is that many business organizations have intentionally kept their IT service delivery and their application development departments separated. This leads to a lack of notion on customer’s needs and lack of clarity on overall IT service ownership.

In reality, if ITIL is really going to be the most popular framework for IT Service management in the coming future, then the managers needs to see ITIL more than a infrastructure-only practice and make it something better and greater, something that will encompass IT professionals from all corners of organizations.

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