Tuesday, 13 April 2010

So what exactly do you do?

"I use TQM to build new ITIL paradigms through empowered PMBOK team dynamics. Dogbert, meet Daisy."

I rather liked Matt Hooper's tongue in cheek response on twitter as @VigilantGuy to my last post. If you remember I left you trying to explain what you, as an ITIL/ITSM professional, actually do.

The Hoop-meister's parady compares well to the actual nonsensical management speak produced recently by the CIO at News International. OK, so I guess I won't be getting any consultancy work from them in the near future*.

Back to the question in hand though. 

If someone tells me they are a lawyer, or an accountant, or a nurse then I have a pretty good idea, in layman's terms, of what they do and what they know. The lawyer might go on to say they specialise in contract law, the accountant to say that they are a forensic accountant, and the nurse that they specialise in geriatric care. I would still have some idea of what they do, the value they deliver, and the relevance of their training to the job they are doing. I also know that I wouldn't want legal advice on a contract, an investigation into a major fraud, or the care or an elderly and infirm relative to be entrusted to someone who did not have relevant training and experience.

Does having an ITIL qualification mean a reasonably well informed layman, AKA a customer, will know what you are capable of doing, and provide them with an assurance that you are capable of doing the job?

Let that question hang in the air whilst I hare off in a slightly different direction.

Anyone who has gone through ITIL training in recent years will be bored stiff of being told that functions, processes, capabilities and job titles are different kinds of thing AND SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH ONE ANOTHER. Sorry, the capitalisation was a typing error, but for anyone who has done a foundation course it seems rather apt to keep it in.

At some point though, in that strange thing we call the real world, we have to put these concepts together to create an organisational design, we need to derive job descriptions from them, we need to recruit and develop staff and however clichéd it is we have to deliver value to our customers.

So what does "An ITIL expert" do, where do they fit, and how do they add value?

Can you actually be a standalone ITIL expert, or do you have to be an  X+ ITIL expert.  A service level manager and ITIL expert, for example?

If someone comes up to me at a party and says "I'm an ITIL expert" how should I react? What if they introduce themselves that way at a project kick off meeting? Incidentally I doubt there are more than, oh twelve people worldwide who can justify having "IT evangelist" on their business cards. The rest of you have delusions of grandeur. Sorry to break it to you here. And no, I don't include myself in those twelve.

Where am I going with this and why is it an issue?

I'm not sure about the where I'm going with it question, but it concerns me because on the one hand I'm seeing people promoting their ITIL "expertise" as if it is an end in itself, and on the other hand I'm seeing job adverts asking for the currently mythical ITIL v3 Masters qualification as a pre-requisite. I'm sorry, but that doesn't fill me with confidence.

In the early days of ITIL we were clarifying, reinforcing and enhancing existing IT roles. Along the way new roles emerged:

- Service management  director
- Service delivery manager
- Service level manager
- Business relationship manager

And I guess more recently Service catalogue/portfolio manager.

Roles such as configuration manager and change manager have also been enriched by ITIL. But at the end of the day, gosh I hate that cliché, we still have to do the day job.

At the same time we can't expect a small. un-empowered, service management team to achieve miracles.

In the UK, at least, I'm seeing too many job adverts that require the applicant to wear their underpants on the outside of their body hugging costume and achieve the impossible.

Post to follow on job adverts to avoid and questions to ask your recruitment agency...

*Just a  quick reminder that despite**  all the horrible things I say about both consultants and ITSM  I am currently available for ITSM consultancy gigs that are a little out of the ordinary

**OK, perhaps it is because I call it as it as it is.


  1. My dad always advised my to take a career that I could explain to mom... sorry I failed you dad.

    "ITIL Expert"

  2. And if you've ever tried actually explaining what being an ITIL expert means to said laypeople, after 10 seconds they're either asleep or secretly wondering what they have to collect from the supermarket on their way home, while pretending to listen. How can organising IT processes possibly be so obtuse? If engineers built bridges or buildings this way we'd all be in hospital.

  3. EXPERT? Gak!
    X is an unknown quantity, and a spurt is a drip under pressure.
    Unfortunately, we didn't pick the certification title - the experts did.

    In any case, it is just as difficult to explain what a management consultant does.
    Drink coffee? Talk to people? Write unread reports?

    Thanks for keeping it real OK Guy. :-)
    Cheers, Paul

  4. I hate the term "expert" but we have to live with it suppose. My response? "What does an ITSM expert do mommy?" http://bit.ly/957evj

    -Hank Marquis