What’s more relatable than having to work with an outdated process? It might have been a good idea back when your boss was at his first entry-level job, but times have changed, and it feels like everyone but your boss realizes that. That never happens in IT, right? IT is so entrenched with the advances in technology that part of your job is just making sure that your coworker (finally) updates their operating system to the latest version. It just wouldn’t make sense if IT processes were outdated, right?!
But, here’s some unfortunate news: The standard to which we uphold almost all of our processes might not be all that cool anymore. That’s right, there’s been rumblings about the dated nature of ITIL. But while every school of thought has some criticism, ITIL seems to be criticized where it could perhaps be the most damaging: In regards to the very technology it was designed to help manage. If IT’s touchstone for service delivery is outdated, what does that mean for the future of IT in the enterprise?
What is ITIL?
ITIL or “Information Technology Infrastructure Library,” provides a framework for IT services. It’s currently monitored and updated by Axelos, and according to their site, it’s the “most widely accepted approach to IT service management in the world. ITIL can help individuals and organizations use IT to realize business change, transformation and growth.”
ITIL has a customer-centric approach that’s designed to enhance user experience while also mitigating potential risks. Some of the top companies in the world practice ITIL, including NASA, IBM, Walt Disney, and Procter & Gamble (P&G). Drawing from best practices from multiple industries and multiple business levels, ITIL has been the premier way to manage IT service for 25 years. Each of the best practices are designed to uphold the international Service Management Standard, and, in addition to its supporting tools, has five publications on Service Strategy, Design, Transition, Operation, as well as Continual Service Improvement.
What are ITIL’s Critiques?
It all sounds good, right? Aren’t we all striving to be the best at our jobs, and wouldn’t it be nice to have guidelines in order to do so? Well, a Google search for articles pertaining to ITIL’s criticisms turns up posts that, for the most part, have been written around the time that digitalization for businesses became more than just a requirement, but a widely accepted norm. While they focus on different specific use cases, there seems to be an overarching theme: While ITIL is ideal for a business that has stable IT operations with little changes in day to day tasks, it just might not be able to keep up in an organization that has elevated IT outside of its typical use cases — i.e., the modern, digital business.
Within the past several years, technology has become more than a tool that assists day to day tasks. Business objectives rely upon digital tools, and if you’re in the technology industry, your bread and butter is the software at your fingertips. While ITIL may have been useful, probably invaluable, to businesses 25 years ago when only a select few were able to understand the complexity of technology, that’s all changed now. You don’t have to go to a software company to see employees toiling away on computers.
These days, everyone, from human resources to developers, uses some sort of digital device. The digital enterprise isn’t a divided tool set where each piece of technology serves a single purpose and required a specialized skill set to operate it. The modern enterprise of 2016 has employees that grew up with the fast paced advances in technology, or are at least proficient with the tools. As Greg Ferro, a thought leader with over 20 years in IT, stated:
“The original purpose of ITIL was to provide a way to manage technology that incumbent managers and executives could not understand, and that generation has moved out of the way through retirement or forced engagement.”
As a result, IT has also experienced a changing role in the enterprise to cope with the widespread use of technology, elevating them to address break/fix issues and to also work towards business objectives with interdepartmental collaboration. But ITIL has had a tough time adapting to the new diverse set of IT use cases. Many, including CEO of Digital Management Academy Charles Betz, criticize ITIL for being unable to keep up with the modern IT employee’s “to do” list, which combines multi-tasking, the need for fast feedback, and the ability to adapt to changes in project requirements. In short, employees expect their processes to be as fast as the technology in their hands.
“Even with sporadic mentions of Agile and feedback, the deep, repeated narrative is one of planning, control, and documentation,” Betz writes. “The assumption is that functional silos will continue to exist, with specialized ticketing processes ensuring delivery and alignment.”
While technology may have been segmented when ITIL was first created, these days it’s much more blended. And, after all, IT is no longer chained to desks; handheld devices mean that technicians are moving around every day to find solutions. An IT team that is removed from the rest of the enterprise operations may have more success with ITIL — but that team may never extend their reach beyond break/fix issues.
But Is It Here to Stay?
Many IT service management platforms have ITIL as a basis to their software, including Samanage. As a result, these platforms help users adhere to the best practices — without the enterprise adoption or employee certification that has been required in the past. Users can log onto these solutions and take advantage of ITIL without necessarily being aware of it. So the real question is, how many organizations are still actively utilizing that flow from incidents to problems to releases? Is ITIL going the way of other “ancient” enterprise practices?
About Laura Miller
Laura Miller is the Senior Director of Sales Operations, ITSM at SolarWinds. She works one-on-one with customers ranging from SMB to Fortune 500, providing them with a modern way to look at service management. Laura's ITIL experience and ITIL v3 Foundations certification provides her with a unique understanding of the service management industry. Her guilty pleasures are anything chocolate, ice coffee, and reality TV.
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