Monday, 29 December 2014

Who Will Go To The Ball in 2015?

It is that magical time of year when ITSM pundits everywhere make their predictions for the coming year, safe in the knowledge that no one ever checks up on how well their predictions have performed in the past.

Well possibly Rob England does.

So ignoring my previous and frankly repetitive predictions from other years what do I think is going to get us all excited?

By now I hope you've realised SIAM is well along the hype curve but here are my two SIAM specific predictions.

Number 1: People will wake up to the number of "SIAM Experts" out there who actually aren't. They've either never done it, done it once, or know somebody else who has done it.

Number 2: People will start talking about "SIAM and....." Insert buzzword of choice but DevOps has to be one of them.

Number 3.:Your buzzword of choice shall be either:

3a. BizDevOPs because DevOps is so 2014


3b Customer Experience / CX

Number 4:  People will start talking about having a career structure in ITSM again, for the first time since the late 90's.

Number 5: OK this is an old one I'm re-visiting, but I sincerely hope there will be at least one conference this year that breaks some boundaries and includes ITSM, project managers and architects.

So that is it for this year. Short and sweet for once

(Note: I've had to close comments on this post due to persistent spamming)

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Space 2014

Many of you will have played the Apollo 13 ITSM simulation. Many more of you will have seen the film. Some of you might have been sufficiently  intrigued by the story to go in search of more information about NASA  and the lessons we can learn from both their successes and failures. Some of those lessons were  clearly described by Col Hadfield at the last Pink conference in Vegas, for instance the need to practice failure.

What you almost certainly won't have done is to attempt to run your very own space programme.

At least not until now.

Let me introduce you to Kerbal Space Programme.

Just moved into a beta release  it offers you the chance to build up to manned, or at least kerballed,  interplanetary space exploration from very basic beginnings.

The physics are slightly simplified, and currently component unreliability is not built into the game engine, but trust me as you play it you'll find quite enough things go wrong to keep you busy and to keep you thinking about ways to avoid mistakes that lead to failed missions. I'm not proud, I have to confess that still I have several kerbals stuck in orbit around distant planets with only the very vaguest chance of being rescued when my technology reaches the next level. And one or two kerbals who sadly didn't make it home

So what are some of the lessons a game like this can teach you that are transferable to ITSM?

Gene Krantz, the crew cut Apollo programme controller  is on record as saying "The main reason Apollo succeeded after the loss of the Apollo 1 astronauts is that we introduced excellent configuration management."  It applies in this simulation as well. As you build launch vehicles, capsules and landers you'll get to understand how important it is to know exactly what equipment you've put into every vessel. Few things are as annoying as piloting to the other side of the solar system, successfully landing and planting a flag only to find that the gallant crew cannot get back on board to return to Kerbal because you've  forgotten to add back on a ladder that you took off an earlier version to save weight. Just like in IT we get caught out by that unimportant change that nobody bothered to record.

Why did you have to save weight? Well because nothing comes for free in this world, or out of this world.  Everything has an impact on something else. Often that impact does not become apparent immediately so Root Cause Analysis becomes interesting, as it does in IT when the root cause isn't something that happened immediately before the outage.

As well as keeping track of configuration items another key tool  essential to getting your kerbals to set foot on distant planets is good workflow. You always need to be on top of what id due to happen next, and whether it it still the "best next action". That leads to  considering your...



...Timing. The same action can have disastrously different results if mistimed. Much like those IT departments who only decide to implement best practice ITSM after senior management have already lost all faith in them.

Obviously that error of judgment is obvious to any one who has seen the progress of previous ITSM initiatives. That is unless those lessons learnt in the past aren't actually transferable. For instance a knowledge of how Russia and the USA used un-manned probes to go where no man had gone before doesn't really translate to the kerbalverse, where unmanned probes drain limited battery power much quicker than the almost indestructible kerbals. Just because something worked for one organisation doesn't mean it will work in your situation, and in particular you need to be aware of the dangerous halo effect.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The 2014 Retrospective


2014. What a year. My absence of blog posts betokens just how crazily busy it has been and how quickly events have unfolded. So it is time to catch my breath and catch up with what I think have been some of the key developments before coming up with my predictions for 2015 and reviewing the ones I made for 2014.

I think I've broken most of my personal records for travel this year. I managed to visit twelve countries and to present key notes on three continents.  Compared to Kaimar Karu of course I am just an amateur at this travel business.

What it has highlighted for me is how mature the ITSM market is becoming in India, Australasia and Scandinavia, and how complacent Europe and the USA have become.

The think tank on multi-vendor management   that I was privileged to be part of at  Pink 14 showed how powerful the ITSM community can be when it  mobilizes the range of knowledge and experience that it possesses. Yet the audience still seemed to struggle to grasp the message that the outsourcing and commoditisation of IT services is the norm for large enterprises outside of the USA. Not only that but I detected a distinct vibe that technology is still seen by IT departments as an end in itself,

In the UK, in contrast, I'm seeing CXOs focusing exclusively on the value technology can deliver to the business, but I'm not seeing the majority of the UK ITSM community grasp the implications of that. I'm still appalled and shocked at how many times I've interviewed candidates for senior roles this year who have answered questions with "Because ITIL says so."

We've seen, the beginning of big changes at itSMF UK but I think 2015 is going to be a make or break year for them, and, indeed, for the UK ITSM conference and exhibition market in general.

It has been interesting to see AXELOS develop this year, and indeed, to be part of some of those developments. To some degree I can say the same of the ISO standards world, which seems finally to be waking up to multi-vendor models and the value of governance. On the othe rhand I get the impression that for many of us COBIT is appearing increasingly attractive.

And then there is DevOps, or even, and I believe correctly, BizDevOps.

I can't talk about DevOps without talking about my trip with Stuart Rance to the itSMF Australia conference this year.

What a great experience it was. Not only was it great to meet up yet again with Karen Ferris, Breed Barrett, April Allen and Kathryn Howard, but also to meet  Kathryn Heaton, Bradley Busch, Claire Brereton, Michael Billimoria and others, including Steve, the koala, seen here with Stuart Rance

Away from the conference I got to spend a lot of time with CIOs and the big message I got was how mainstream both Lean and DevOPs have become in this geography, and how keen they are to embrace SIAM.That has to be balanced against how simple the business models they are operating within seemed compared to the complexity in Europe.

The DevOps debate I took part in at LeadIT was a fascinating and fun experience. If you thought it was good being in the audience, and the feedback we got suggests it was, then being in the behind the scenes preparation workshops was something else. What would you expect with the likes of Kaz Ferris, Malcolm Fry, Rob Stroud and Rob England involved?

Another great experience this year was the itSMF India conference. Suresh has made a massive impact on itSMF India, and on everyone he has met this year as those who ran into him at SITS and the itSMF UK conference can probably testify. Personally it was also very satisfying to see TCS getting actively involved as gold sponsors.

A final high for me was the meeting Stuart, Barclay and myself had with the newly fledged IT4IT community.  Again this is something I'm immensely pleased that TCS is supporting.

So what will 2015 bring, and what of SIAM in 2014?

Watch this space.

Thursday, 29 May 2014


When I talk about ITSM and SIAM I'm increasingly struck by the development of an implicit underlying model that I guess is analogous to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

In the mists of time it seemed vital to get people to embrace the concept of process and following ITIL guidance. That still remains true, but it is really just an enabler for ITSM excellence.

When I begin to look around at the organisations and individuals who are successful in our world I don't see people who say

 "We should start  doing it this way, because that is what ITIL says."  

Instead I see people who don't confuse the means and the end.  They ask

"What does IT need to change to be more effective in supporting the business?"

Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't  The ones who succeed answer the most important question:

"How do we make IT become more effective in supporting the business?"

If we are honest most of us know what IT needs to do differently but what we don't know is how to make it behave differently.

There has been some interesting research into the difficulties of making parents take up vaccination programs again after the damage caused by pseudo-scientific claims of a link to autism.

What interests me, apart from the fact there isn't a single glib answer, is the value put upon an individual. or an organisation's, self image.

When we ask a  manager, a team, a whole IT department to change their behaviors to protect their jobs they actually hear a totally different message:

"You aren't as capable as you think you are - or worse still you really are as bad at your job as you worry you might be at 2am in the morning"

So the question becomes how do we persuade people to change without undermining their sense of self?

I don't have that glib answer, but it is a question we need to ask.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The 2014 Service Desk Show

This year's Service Desk & IT Support Show has now finished, the stands are packed away and many of the exhibitors and attendees have already jetted off to exotic locations. I'm in Coventry myself.

Once again the show was a great success in the eyes of those who attended, despite the impact of the tube strike and Know14 taking place in San Francisco at the same time.

In previous years I've struggled to get around the show to see all the stands and shake all the hands, so this year I made the conscious decision not to attend any of the conference sessions, excellent though the programme was. TCS also helped out by taking a stand this year.

Sophie Danby, Ivor Macfarlane, Myself, Suresh and Andrea

As you might have already guessed, I still didn't manage to get around the whole show.

I did get to meet a lot of great people, including friends old and new. This really is a social event. For many of us a highlight of this year's experience was the visit of HP's Suresh GP, the charming and enthusiastic  host of the Indian ITSM podcast. You can hear his extremely positive views on the event on the upcoming ITSM Review podcast. Which also provides me with an opportunity to once again congratulate Barclay Rae, on winning the ITSM Contributor of the Year Award, against stiff competition.  It felt a little odd to be back on a podcast, especially since literally seconds before being dragged off to join it I'd publicly announced that I was planning to leave future podcasts to a younger generation.

Incidentally Barclay and I are also among the contributors to LANDesk's guide to Shadow IT. Just look at this content page of ITSM goodness.

And if you didn't pick up a hardcopy at the show don't worry because they will be releasing it as an ebook.
A key point I made on the podcast is that if you are deciding which ITSM tool to go with thenyou need to look at their contribution to thought leadership, not just the technical capability of the tool.

If you decided not to make the trip this year because of the travel disruption then I entreat you to make the effort to come next year when it will be returning to Olympia, and if you are lurking on SocMed then please please feel free to announce that you are going and come and join the party.

On the subject of parties I couldn't end this post without a special thanks to SysAid and ITSM Review for organizing the social side of things after hours, and to LANdesk for keeping myself and the team stoked up on excellent coffee and, at the appropriate time of the day, Pimms. Incidentally there is a blogpost that needs to be written about how LANdesk's contracted in for the event  barista went out of his way to be an active part of their value network.

And finally a big big thank you to Toby, Carsten and particularly to Laura for making this event happen.  In the word's of the Terminator "I'll be back"

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Re purposing SMCongress

In my review of Pink14 I mentioned that we held some discussions about the future of SMCongress.

The ever energetic Charles Araujo  has provided an update based on those conversations but the future remains unclear. To be honest I think many of us involved in those discussions are ambivalent about that. The  Rev Net/SM Congress meeting at Fusion13  was an exciting, perhaps overly exciting, moment in time. Despite, or perhaps because of the fallout I still regret that work commitments in Europe prevented me taking up my invite to be a part of it, whilst also standing by the views expressed about it by Rob England. Oddly I've been accused of being an "SM Congress hater" for agreeing with Rob, whilst Rob seems to have been spared the abuse.  You have to larf, as we say in England.

As Charles says in his blog it would be great if we could find a role for SM Congress going forward . So here is a sugestion that started off on the Back2ITSM facebook group.

SM Congress started as a sub-event at a mainstream conference. What if we were to relaunch it as a type of conference in its own right? An event that would combine elements of both an unconference and a TEDx style event?

An event where speakers could work within strict constraints to deliver very personal, very powerful  and very succinct messages? An event where audience and speaker would work together to deliver value, where there would be no free-rides?  And an event where the content would be made available to a wider audience using SocMed channels, but that would still focus on that special magic that can only be generated by face to face interactions? A conference as well that would include plentiful contributions from our stakeholders and other diusciplines from which ITSM could learn?

Unfortunately the official TEDx model and branding  is only available to multi-discipline  events arranged on a geographical basis, so we can't be part of that programme, and we obviously would not want to do anything that could be perceived as misusing their IP or branding.

Some of the initial thoughts on facebook   were about hosting the event in Iceland and setting up a committee to organise it. Obviously at some point it would need the involvement of a legal entity, either an existing one or a new one.

And the name for this new event? what about SM Congress?

Comments please.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Talk Talk Care Not Not

Those of us who work in the service management industry are equally cursed and blessed. I get so excited seeing excellent customer service in action, both when it is driven by the passion of individuals and when technology is harnessed to deliver a great customer interaction.

And then there are experiences like today's with TalkTalk.

I have no idea whether the fault we've been suffering for the last few days lies within TalkTalk's control to fix or if it is something to do with our end of the line. What I do know is that the experience of interfacing with them has been difficult, disappointing and  so far a depressing  dead-end.

A couple of days ago our phone line suddenly became very, very noisy. So much so that it wasn't possible to hold a conversation with anyone who rang us. It sounded like someone had rung our number and not hung up, there was electrical interference, or there was an issue with the wireless channels, which in these days of cordless devices can be a problem.

If I'm honest in the past TalkTalk and BT, who provide the service between them, have generally been quite proactive and they also provide simple to use diagnostic tools. So if there is a problem at the local exchange it is normally fairly easy to identify and to know that Talk Talk are aware of it and taking action.

On this occasion though their on line diagnostic tools showed nothing wrong.

That is when the fun started.

Many of you will know and understand that I'm normally a busy man. If I have to take a day off to deal with domestic issues it has a knock on effect.

Foolishly I presumed that starting the diagnostic process at around 8.30am would mean that by around 9.30am we would either have the problem fixed or know what the next steps were.

Silly me.

It turns out that despite having a "Report & Repair" page on their website TalkTalk don't actually provide the facility to do either of those things. The only mechanism open to report something is via an on line chat with an agent.

There are times when I find that sort of option really useful. If I have a simple query for instance.

It isn't useful when:
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • Every time you log back in the agents ask questions with no apparent connection to the previous session
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • Sometimes you get asked security questions, sometimes you don't
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • The agent appears to have no record of your previous call despite having a reference number
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • The agent takes no account of information you've given them
  • The chat session keeps getting ended 
  • The expectation is you will get back to them, rather than them proactively telling you what their tests have/have not found.
Of course like many organisations Talk Talk have a Twitter account, @talktalkcare and to be fair they were quick to pick up that I was unhappy. Less quick to get back to me though despite knowing my contact details and the call reference number. less quick as in "Still haven't done so" OK they have now, but far too late and the damage is done.

I could go on and list other things about the customer experience that have been deeply disappointing,  but what would be the point? I've already wasted a day of precious annual leave trying to sort this out, I still don't have a working phone, and obviously we've already decided to change phone line provider.

But the underlying messages are key:

Customers accept that things break, but they expect the experience of fixing failure to be customer centric. They understand the capability of  CRM tools and they recognise when they are being asked pointless questions or dealing with an agent who is following a poorly written script. They also expect faults to be fixed with minimal friction on their part. We accept that technical diagnostic work has to happen, but where possible we expect that to take place behind the scenes and for the technical teams to understand when and how to interface with the customer.

Above everything else customers want providers to understand the impact the fault is having on their lives.

You know at the end of this saga, which I'm still waiting for , it is quite possible if not even probable,  that the fault itself will turn out to be nothing to do with Talk Talk, but the way they've responded to it is how I will, judge them as a provider.

Unfair? Possibly

Understandable?  Definitely.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Irrelevant in the Room

So much is happening in the ITSM world that I really don't know what to post about next.

Now I'm aware to many of you this level of activity might not be visible.

Not only that but as I accept my inevitable journey into middle age, and as a result I  find myself agreeing with Rob England on more and more topics, I also find myself wondering how much we are actually achieving.

Perhaps I'm simply too old and cynical to be a revolutionary.

Yeah, B******ks to that. There is a reason I was one of the first people to suggest Punk ITSM as a movement. It is why I was so pleased to receive Charles Arasujo's invite to be part of RevNet that went on to spawn SM Congress, even if I couldn't get to the event because of that boring four letter word work.

But I do feel that we need a healthy dose of realism about where we are and where we are going.

So here follows my state of the ITSM address for 2014.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here not to repeat cliches or to promote agendas but to bury them in a sea of vanities, for all our previous versions of ITSM profundity have lighted skeptics the way to dusty irrelevancy.

Don't you just hate faux profundity? There is a lot of it about.

Twenty years ago people sat down to address a key issue. That was that operational IT didn't benefit from the sexy frameworks and methodologies available to developers. So ITIL was created from the spare rib of a somnambulist business analyst.

It is easy to presume that ITIL was created out of thin air. It wasn't. There were people who had been running very effective, well controlled  data centres who realised that operational IT had three basic challenges:
  • Being relevant to the business
  • Responding to changing business requirements
  • Not forgetting the requirement to operate a controlled environment.
None of those basic issues have gone away, but to listen to some people you would think that  what really matters is what they are currently getting excited about. and nothing else.

We need to be clear that BYOD. wearable IT, the cloud and big data do not alter any of these fundamentals.

Get real.

The future doesn't lie in a presentations about the internet of things, or wearable tech  What they have to say can be truly interesting, insightful and intelligent, but it doesn't alter the basic issues we have to deal with.

IT exists to serve the business.
The business thinks we fail to support them.

That is the issue.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Post Pink Ponderings

It seems that many of us who were at Pink14 this year have been in a reflective mood since returning, and that those reflections have some common themes.

Sophie Danby has been questioning what it means to be an ITSM Community whilst Charles Araujo has been putting into words an overview of the discussions we had about the future of SMCongress. Those of us who were in the Pink Think Tank are thinking about how we can make the content we discussed useful to a wide audience,   and there has been a wider debate on the Back2ITSM group and on Rob's blog  about how itSMF International can be reinvigorated by giving people access to material that is currently hidden in plain sight.

I think these different discussions are extremely important for the future of both ITSM and ITIL. Not because I believe the future lies in crowd-sourcing but because I believe the future depends on getting three things right:
  • A career structure that keeps people engaged with ITSM in the long term
  • ITSM approaches, including ITIL, being driven by market needs
  • A professional body for those working in ITSM in whatever role
This actually mirrors pretty much what I experienced many years ago when Internal Audit began to develop as a profession in its own right. Of course being IT people we would much rather reinvent the wheel than look outside IT for guidance.

How does this relate back to those post-Pink discussions?

We might as well start with the Pink conference itself. I've said many times that all the events we go to have their own sweet spot. Pink probably has several sweet spots. It manages to reach out to a wide range of participants, delivers a variety of content, and, perhaps this is the key, it actively reaches out to engage with participants, speakers, and , thanks to the streaming of keynotes and the encouragement of independent SocMed content it even reaches out to those who were not in the room.

There is a reason that so many of  us believe that Pink is the once-in-a-lifetime-must-go-to-event-for ITSM and to be honest it isn't because they get the best speakers and have the best programme. It is because they encourage an environment in which networking and the discussion of ideas, both theoretical and practical is not only encouraged but actually hard to avoid. Compare that to the many conferences I go to where in  all honesty the audience remains un-engaged and unchanged.  I'm not recommending this, but you could go to Vegas the week is Pink is on, checking in on the Saturday, enjoy all the attractions of Vegas during the daytime and then in the evenings sit in on the discussions that take place in the two piano bars and you would take away an awful lot of ITSM goodness.   

Despite of, or perhaps even because of, Pink's commercial nature it actually feels more like what I used to experience at conferences for Chief Internal Auditors.  This is a meeting of professionals who believe in what they are trying to achieve, who are open to learning in many forms and who are given the resources and support to help them do things better when they go back to the office on Monday morning.

The ITSM chattering classes on SocMed that are such an easy target for Rob's blog love talking about the ITSM community. I think there are some good reasons for that, not least because the nature of ITSM means that it attracts people who, mostly, genuinely care about other people and want to share not just knowledge but also emotional support. However I believe that it is a red-herring. We won't make progress until we stop thinking

How do we engage the wider ITSM community?

and start thinking

How do we make ITSM a profession?

So, how do we make ITSM a profession?

You'll find lots of definitions out there but let me suggest a few things from my days as a professional internal auditor.
  • A professional body membership of which is effectively amnadatory
  • A career path that includes multiple options 
  • A body of knowledge
  • Exams that are controlled by the professional body
  • Professional standards that allow an outsider to judge whether a professional is acting in accordance with good practice
  • Support from higher education
  • A code of ethics and a disciplinary body 
Perhaps here we have a role for SMCongress. Perhaps it should be the catalyst for the switch to becoming a true profession?

I await your thoughts.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Something Pink

One of the things I love, as we often commented on in the days of the late lamented Rest of the World podcasts, is that all the conferences and shows we go to seem to find their own sweet spot. So I was delighted this year to be once again enjoying the unique experience that is the Pink Elephant Conference in Las Vegas.

Big Thoughts

This year the twelve hour flight out there was made even more worthwhile by my participation in the Pink Think Tank on multi-supplier integration. I'll blog more on that latter, and myself and the other members will be producing thought leadership artifacts over the coming months. Suffice to say it was a real joy to be in the same room with such luminaries as:
  • Troy DuMoulin
  • Rob England
  • Charles Betz
  • David Cannon
  • Karen Ferris
  • Charles Araujo
Sadly Rodrigo Flores couldn't join us in the end, whilst Jack Probst kept us all in order as the facilitator.

You can see our initial presentation here but there is a lot more to come.

Big Themes

I think we chose the right topic for the Think Tank because it resonated with many of the big messages that were floating around the Bellagio. Having said that other blogs have picked up other themes and messages, so perhaps I have a selective perception. Be that as it might, here is my top 10 list:

  1. The business are looking for proof that IT is delivering value
  2. Enterprise IT lacks the skills to deliver that value or to prove it is delivering value
  3. Suppliers are both commoditizing non-value adding services, including the basic ITIL processes and building value based relationships with the business
  4. Shadow IT within the business is taking various forms
  5. Enterprise Governance of IT  remains weak 
  6. ITIL remains useful but to deliver value the emphasis has to shift to those parts of ITIL that have been largely, ignored such as service strategy
  7. High level supplier management is key to success, but too often is lacking
  8. Multiple frameworks, tools and methodologies need to synthesized rather than indulging in framework wars
  9. Culture trumps everything in 8
  10. We can't do this on our own, we need to reach out to developers, suppliers, architects, and, most of all, the business

Big People

We are lucky to be part of an industry where so many people are willing to share their thoughts and experiences with others and to do so expecting nothing back in return except a willingness to do the same.

The list of great people I've met for the first time at Pink conferences is a long one and if were to attempt to name them all I would be bound to leave out someone.

Suffice to say though that conversations in the bars and in the networking events are a key part of Pink and this year discussion topics included the role of universities in developing a new generation of IT managers and the future of SM Congress. Once again SocMed played a big role in facilitating some of those conversations and once again the Twittersphere also did a good job of keeping people aware of what was going on in the sessions, especially those who could not attend in person.

Big Hearts

Also brilliant for those not able to attend the event is the now well established practice of streaming the keynote sessions at Pink. Personally I enjoyed all of them but the most powerful were those that dealt with human issues, be it Adrian Gostick on the importance of motivating staff, Caroline Casey on overcoming personal difficulties or Cmdr Hadfield on the effort needed to reach into space. On several occasions large parts of the audience were reduced to tears. I just hope we can all take some of that emotion back to the workplace and put it to practical, life enhancing, use

Big Blogs

Read all about it in these other blogs

Thursday, 23 January 2014

ITIL: Now the Truth can be Told

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this guest blog from Ivor Macfarlane

A lot of time has gone by since ITIL was born, and a lot of ITIL's history has either been forgotten, willfully misrepresented, or simply not ever been in the public domain. Ivor was there at the birth and remains an active member of the ITSM community As such he is in a position to give a genuinely unique perspective to the story of ITIL's conception and early faltering steps.


How did we get here? Twenty five years of ITIL and ITSM

I’ve seen a lot of things start, happen and fade in our industry over my time here. I can’t quite look back on memories as grand as ‘Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion …’ but I realise I was there when things we take for ‘ITIL granted’ were being made.
  • I’ve seen some right things done for the wrong reasons, 
  • I’ve seen many wrong things done with the best of intentions. 
  • I’ve seen ideas and reputations driven by vast egos and a desire for power, 
 I’ve also seen consummate political skills used to solve disputes, by people behind the scenes in their own time and taking no glory for themselves.

Mostly though I have seen so much happen that I realise many do not know how we got here, and that has limited our ability to see where we are going. So I was grateful to James Finister’s invitation to document some of those things before my aging brain succumbs.

How did it all start?

It’s hard to believe that ITIL was to be just one more in a successful line of proven methods. GITTIM (Government IT Infrastructure Management Method) as the embryonic idea was first known as, would follow SSADM2 and PROMPT3 as an equivalent method covering IT Operations, as SSADM addressed System Analysis and PROMPT did Project management. Once started, it clearly wasn’t a method, but a library of books. So the name changed to IT Infrastructure Library. One thing was different though: ITIL was launching into an empty space, unlike SSADM and PROMPT where there were alternative products available.

In those days, the1980s, IT Operations was the opposite of glamorous. Good people in IT Ops got promoted out of it.  In the UK Civil Service aptitude test, those with high marks could be Systems Analysts, those with less went to IT Operations. One of ITIL’s aims was to rescue these IT Cinderellas from the Ops sculleries.

Like most new initiatives, it was welcomed by some and distanced by others. As with all successes in new spaces, we saw bandwagonning as early doubters and naysayers lined up behind it when success appeared assured. That success has been attributed  to various fathers, grandfathers, godfathers and more of ITIL. Some were involved at the start, others only came on board on later.

And the word was ITIL (not ITSM … not yet)

Initially ITIL was the only game in town, the first time Operations practices had been seriously documented. The supplier community supported it because it helped commercial companies sell their products. ITIL’s initial justification was to improve UK Government IT, by documenting what the best organisations (presumably private sector) did and encouraging government IT to copy it. While UK government IT was, indeed, abysmal at times it was soon clear that private sector IT was not much better and sometimes worse.and the books started selling well to private sector customers too.

Once that happened, suppliers of both consultancy and tools saw the take up of ITIL as building a sustainable market. This is really what kick-started ITIL into the world outside UK. Pink Elephant in Western Europe, then Prolin in Asia and Ultracomp in South Africa and Australia. They all sold ITIL first and then their own products to facilitate the benefits. Those benefits came from formalising IT Service Management, but before that term existed and with ITIL the only articulation of it, then people just said ‘ITIL’, the way they might say ‘hoover’ for vacuum cleaner in the UK or ‘band aid’ for plaster in the US.
For a while there was this tacit assumption that we all worked together to grow the cake and everyone got bigger slices, even if it meant lots more slices. Then we got, if not exactly competition to ITIL, alternative ways to write down good ideas in the ITSM space. We saw BSI first with their PD0005 product that used much of the same terms as ITIL but didn’t acknowledge it, then COBIT and MOF who did both acknowledge ITIL as influences in their first editions. BSI later committed to a concordat of cooperation with ITIL, with much the same team developing ITIL v2 and BS15000 – so alignment there was no great surprise!

More than books

ITIL was just a set of books. Commercial companies had started selling things to deliver/support ITIL. Consultancy advice that had always been there, on things like Capacity, Help Desk and the rest, suddenly became ‘ITIL consultancy’. Tools that supported Help Desks and fault fixing took on the ITIL jargon.
The money potential of software and consultancy was clear enough for providers to appear and latch on to ITIL, but some things needed encouragement: seed corn had to be bought, planted and nurtured. Two of those initiatives were crucial to the position ITIL achieved: qualifications and a user group. Both owe their start to UK government money and involvement.

ITIL Examinations – a clue, an idea and a success story

Awareness and adoption of ITIL (or anything else) is clearly encouraged by people learning about it. CCTA wanted something to focus training in the ITSM space on: ITIL. ITIL was following in the tradition of SSADM, for which an exam was available from ISEB (Information System Examination Board) owned by the British Computer Society. ISEB were "encouraged" to have a good idea: an exam based on ITIL. Some UK government money funded the pilot scheme and the first exams were in March 1991. These exams were in ‘IT Infrastructure Management: Service Management’. The syllabus was ITIL but initially the exam was not!

To get people ready for that exam, training was needed and again CCTA funded things.  The Civil Service College won a tender to create training materials and the College got a period of exclusivity to deliver that training before competition arrived. When that competition was free to run, the CSC material was sold to prospective trainers by CCTA; cheaply enough to encourage take up, but expensive enough to make them take it seriously. CCTA support generally extended to some hands-on support for new trainers, or at least a ‘guest speaker’ slot on their first course. (Eventually UK government decided the CSC should stop providing ITIL training because a sustainable competitive private sector market for ITIL training existed.)

ISEB alone delivered those ‘managers exams’. There was considerable take up of ITIL in the Netherlands, the Dutch IT Exam Institute (EXIN) were interested and worked with ISEB to deliver managers exams in Dutch. EXIN saw space for a foundation level exam, developed this and licensed ISEB to deliver it in English. A neat reciprocity that lasted a few years until ISEB decided they didn’t need to pay anymore. In the 2000s, CCTA managed to retrospectively take ownership of – and receive royalty payments for – ITIL based exams.

A User Forum that grew beyond original ideas

In parallel with the education initiative, CCTA also felt the need for some kind of user group. A few initiatives had been mooted across the community, inconsistent and with some vested interest on show. So a group of sympathetic people was assembled, with direct CCTA input and a company called the IT Infrastructure Management Forum was created. CCTA offered a free room – in the Treasury building off Whitehall – for the initial meeting in 1991. That meeting was well attended, and a viable group was born. Although the initial idea was a User Group, in fact it was always a combination of user group and trade association. Without the suppliers encouraging their employees’ involvement, funding through sponsorship etc then it simply would not have been feasible.

That model of tacit user group/trade association stayed as ITIMF evolved from a one country (UK) operation through to some 50 chapters across the world. Although suppliers have traditionally been looked down on within itSMF, without them itSMF would have died an early death.

As the community spread, first to Netherlands, then South Africa, Australia and North America, so some coordination of the chapters was necessary. ITIMF International was first formed around 1995, and they took a seat on the ITIL steering committee when ITIL was first outsourced in 1996. That international withered away but was replaced by informal gatherings, then a 2 day workshop in Montreal in 2003 set up a constitution.

itSMF conferences grew in size and scope and range, itSMF was healthy and booming on every continent, but it suffered in the 2008 recession, and has suffered from some inevitable politics as, especially when times get hard, those with power try to hang on to it.

So what?

Actually, in strictest terms it doesn't matter how we got here, we know where we are and we should perhaps worry about where we are going. But ask anyone in capacity management and they will tell you that extrapolation form historical use is the obvious starting point for predicting the future.
So history might be useful, and if anyone liked this, then next I can look at those trends and suggest where they might be taking us.