ITIL 2011 Update


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If Service Management is important to you then the ITIL 2011 update is something at the top of your agenda. If it isn't, then I'm sorry, you're missing a trick. How can delivering a business outcome to the business not be important to anyone who expects the business to pay their wages? If you want more information, check out the BCS CMSG (Configuration Management Specialist Group) or buy the book Shirley Lacy and I wrote on Configuration Management; CM is one of the foundations of ITIL. Delivering business outcomes to the business is important and ITIL is a repository of "best practices" for doing so.

So, I was at a free BCS CMSG meeting to discuss the implications of the 2011 update on Service Transition, listening to Shirley Lacy (author of the 2007 Service Transition book and Project Mentor for the 2011 Update) and Stuart Rance (author of the 2011 edition of ITIL Service Transition and co-author of the ITIL V3 Glossary; his blog is here) - at the BCS offices in London, with networking and wine and food afterwards.

First, the good news. The 2011 Review found no treason to change the core contents of ITIL Transition (although, to be fair, that was in the spec. for the update) but it found plenty of opportunities to remove inconsistencies, clarify things, add structure and add better examples. The information content was good already, now it's more accessible.

In detail (but this isn't an exhaustive list, probably every page has some changes):

  • The contents of the books (and the contents pages) have been made consistent across all the volumes. In some cases, information has been duplicated (Chapter 2 is the same in every volume, for example), so you can read each book as a standalone guide - a useful innovation when the complete set costs so much!
  • The update has added more examples and focusses more on the people aspects of transition - roles and skills. There's an emphasis on the "configuration management process owner" as opposed to the "configuration manager", a job title some organisations won't have, for example.
  • Risk management (seen as a bit of a weakness in the 2007 edition) has been consolidated into an appendix which now appears in every volume. It was there already, but sometimes it was a bit hard to find and focus on.
  • Text in the diagrams (titles in flow diagrams, for example) has been made to exactly reference headings in the text - a welcome removal of a source of confusion in the past.
  • The treatment of Critical Success Factors (CSF) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) has been rationalised - there's now a list of KPIs for each CSF.
  • The relationship of the Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) to the Configuration Management System (CMS) inside it; and the relationship of Configuration Management Record (CMR) metadata to the Configuration Items (CIs) they describe (and which may be digital assets such as SLAs stored in the SKMS or physical things such as servers, which can't be) has been rationalised a bit. Although I'm not sure that the full implications of this will be entirely clear to everyone, even yet.

The bad news? Well this really isn't going to affect anyone much in the near future, but ITIL grew out of the need to manage large, monolithic, in-house IT systems. It does this very well and its service management focus means that it copes well with SOA and so on too.

But in the next generation of the "universe of things", where business outcomes are delivered from conglomerations of services, mostly neither owned nor managed by the organisation delivering the outcomes to customers, then detailed ITIL practices may start to look less relevant.

I'm convinced that the logical kernel of ITIL will still be useful, but the implementation baggage which surrounds this, and which makes it so useful in practice today, may be less useful when services all come from a Cloud (whatever that means). If there ever is an ITIL V4, I hope it separates out the ITIL kernel more completely from the physical implementation details.

To be fair, ITIL probably already does this to a reasonable extent, with its service lifecycle model and process improvement focus, although this may not be obvious to everyone. Nevertheless, the Universe of Things may need different "best practices" and I'm not entirely convinced that ITIL will be able to simply evolve in order to cope - and this won't fit well with its current emphasis on backwards compatibility.

Still, the bottom line for the ITIL 2011 update, today, is that it is just an evolution, which makes ITIL more consistent and easier to read and use. It will make the job of both ITIL evangelists and the people trying to use it easier and I can't see any reason not to welcome it.

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