Now that kind of thing, apart from making me feel old (which is, admittedly, a fair enough feeling at my age) also made me look back and think on where we (the ITIL community) have come from and where we are now.
The first thing that occurs to me in thinking back to the early days of ITIL is that we now find ourselves in a place that none of us imagined we would. Don’t get me wrong, the original inventors and drivers of the ITIL idea were not short on confidence or vision, nor in seeing the benefits that documenting this aspect of best practice would bring. But I suspect that world domination of this industry sector by the word ‘ITIL’ was beyond even their best possible visions.
The key to the expansion of ITIL was that it quickly became about more than just the books. The ITIL advertising leaflets produced in the mid 90s coined the term ‘ITIL philosophy’ to represent this expanded
scope of ITIL. I suppose I should confess that I invented that phrase and also the diagram that went with it – a version from about 1997 is shown here. The accompanying words suggested that, even back then, less than 1% of ‘ITIL-related sales’ were about the actual ITIL books, and the rest were evolved services.
The fact that I couldn’t even hazard a guess at what that percentage might be today indicates a few, pretty self-evident truths:
- When I was writing those things in 1996-1998, I felt I could pretty much ‘take-in’ what was going on related to ITIL, and even know most of the people developing and delivering new ideas. Nowadays no-one can honestly claim to be able to do that.
- What is ‘ITIL-related’ has become a much more debatable concept. Whatever its faults might have been (and there were many) ITIL was just about alone in its market space. The initiatives kicked-off by ITIL have spawned fellow travellers, such as COBIT, ISO20000 and others. The fact that I could easily start a long running – and probably vitriolic – debate on the social media pages by asserting which are and which are not ITIL derived, ITIL alternatives etc indicates that this is now a loosely bounded region. That makes any assessment of its scale, scope and success very hard
Some other things have changed too.
Nowadays the maturity of the ITIL ideas means most players are focused on market share rather than growing the sector itself. That means more competition than there used to be. Nonetheless there are still lots of examples of that collaboration still easily found. Probably the best example is the ‘Back2ITSM’ facebook group – a place where free advice, constructive debate and openly shared thoughts are still the norm.
The itSMF was born in 1991, and played – probably – the major coordinating role is promoting the idea, importance and approaches of service management. Like ITIL, itSMF predates the term ‘service management’, having started as the ITIMF. Even here we have seen a lot more competition during the last third of its lifetime: both competition from other community organisations and also considerable internal competition. I hope itSMF will evolve form this to carry on delivering benefit to its members. I am a bit too frightened to work out what percentage of my time has been given to itSMF over the last 17 years – or at least frightened what my employers over that period might think. But that commitment does make me wish hard for its future health.
So, looking back should makes us appreciate where we are now – nostalgia can be deceptive for usually the past wasn’t better; because progress is exactly that – going forward and getting more. And wherever ITIL is now, IT Service management has come a wondrous way in the last 20 years. Global technology changes have made a difference to that journey; we’ve seen personal computing and the internet make all but unbelievable levels of change. We may well see Cloud do the same; personally I think cloud might do that by freeing us from some of the technical baggage and letting us see and address real service management issues, without the obfuscation of technology issues or the opportunity to hide behind them any more.
We’ve seen a move from books being the go-to source of wisdom when ITIL started to an amazing range of information sources. Nowadays your typical service management will expect their influences to come via social media, electronically delivered white papers and the like. Interestingly, in many cases, they would also expect them to come for free, and that throws a real challenge on the thought leadership business. If ITIL 4 ever happens I think it will be a radically different entity from versions1-3.
Where I want to see ITSM going is towards SM. IT is now so pervasive that it is everywhere, which to me means that ITSM cannot be a subsection of overall SM anymore because it logically applies to everything, since all services now depend on IT. Nevertheless, IT has treated SM well, and – after some effort –has taken it seriously. I hope those lessons will work their way into broader adoption and we will see an improved – and critically an integrated – approach to service management across enterprises because of that. I am driven to optimism in this (not my natural state you understand so it is noteworthy) by the fact that, alongside this blog, I am involved just in this same month in a webinar and an article for IBM’s SMIA series on the idea that IT is now spreading its ideas – and delivering its technology and specifically its evolved software solutions – to the broader enterprise needs.
I wonder what we will be saying in another 20 years looking back – maybe ITIL will survive another 20 years, maybe not, but I am certain service management will progress and improve.
 And the top two names I would put here are Pete Skinner and John Stewart – perhaps our least sung heroes, especially the late Mr Skinner – but pivotal all the same.
 I don’t plan to, and hope no-one else is tempted – there are far more constructive things for intelligent service management practitioners to progress knowledge about.
 And if you are interested (sad?) enough to be reading this then you should be part of that group if you aren’t already.