The missing ITIL Manual you always wanted

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Content Copyright © 2012 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

Some time ago I reported on the ITIL 2011 update and commented that ITIL might have trouble in future if the robust logical model behind it wasn’t separated from its implementation. I commented that its saviour, when the world moves from in-house services based on physical hardware that you own, to rented services owned by someone else, might be its service life-cycle model and process improvement focus.

Now I’m reading a book, associated with the ITIL 2011 update, that seems to make the ITIL service life-cycle model more accessible than perhaps it was originally: “Introduction to the ITIL Service Lifecycle”, written by Anthony Orr of BMC and published by HM Government (ISBN 978-0-11-331309-9). To me, this fits with the ITIL 2011 update’s aim of making ITIL easier to use – it describes each stage in the life-cycle and how they all fit together.

The book is designed to stand alone, if necessary, although (of course) reading it in conjunction with the other volumes is recommended. It will certainly help to bring the other ITIL manuals together but I think that one of its key beneficiaries will be the generalist, working at a strategic level, trying to get his/her head around questions like “what does ITIL do for me overall?”; “how does ITIL fit with other governance-oriented initiatives such as COBIT?”; “how will our ITIL practices change when we move into the cloud?”. For me, it’s the missing manual that tells me what ITIL really means.

It is written in an accessible style. The second chapter, “service management as a practice”, for instance, includes a set-piece conversation between an operations manager and a strategy manager about the meaning of the term “services”. It also explains the difference between utility (“fit for purpose”) – which people buying technology tend to over-concentrate on – and warranty (“fit for use”) – which tends to become increasingly important to the people actually trying to use technology to do business. Utility is what a service does and warranty is how it is delivered, and this book explains that value comes from a combination of the two.

My speciality at Bloor is “governance” – which is not the same as compliance. I liked Orr’s statement that “governance is the single overarching area that ties IT and the business together” and his definition talks about policies actually being implemented, roles, and responsibilities – rather than just ticking boxes for an auditor. I think that “governance” is a vital part of implementing ITIL and achieving business value from it.

There are chapters for all of the ITIL best-practice areas – strategy, design, transition, operation and continual service improvement. For each, it describes the area (overview), principles, processes and interfaces (inputs/outputs). These are very much, with the pretty meaty second overview chapter, the meat of this book.

There is a (short) chapter on ITIL qualifications and credentials although this doesn’t cover the ITIL Software Scheme, which isn’t really relevant to the Service Lifecycle but (I think) should be mentioned, together with appropriate warnings – buying ITIL-capable software can’t ever deliver ITIL good practices or its service life-cycle by itself! I’m not sure that the qualifications chapter shouldn’t be an appendix, anyway.

There is a useful set of appendices: example inputs/outputs across the life-cycle; where to find related guidance; and a pretty full ITIL glossary. In a world where vendors often redefine terms to suit their own marketing strategies, the ITIL glossary is an extremely useful independent reference, one that vendors still respect.

This book does not, of course, replace the full ITIL volumes – although it is a very good starting point for practitioners new to ITIL. However, for many managers and strategists it could be all the ITIL they need – and I think it could also be appropriate reading for many technology-aware business managers too. Integrating IT with the business is a two-way thing – not the sole responsibility of IT – and I think that many business managers, these days, would find “Introduction to the ITIL Service Lifecycle” readable enough to give them an insight into the technology processes underneath most business processing.