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Thoughts on ITIL

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Interesting, skeptical take on ITIL, by a person (Noel Bruton) with some apparent long term presence in the industry.

He claims that there are four schools of thought with respect to configuration management:

  • Those who haven’t finished their config “programme”
  • Those who are confusing it with asset management
  • Those who are deliberately misrepresenting asset management as configuration management
  • Those who think it is hopelessly complex

A fifth implicit school of thought he mentions is “those of us who were interested had sussed completely by December 31st 1999 at the latest or face possible operational surprises the following day,” implying that config is just not that big a deal.

I beg to differ. I am aware of a lot of organizations that got through Y2K without figuring out configuration management; in some cases they did crash inventories but that is not configuration management. I am not aware of any organizations or consultancies who have configuration management in the ITIL sense completely operationalized, except perhaps some telecommunications providers. I lay the blame for this to a large extent at the feet of the ITIL v2 authors of the Configuration Management chapter, who in that chapter presented a uselessly high level and abstract set of activities and objectives. Consultants and vendors trying to make sense of that mess have had quite limited success to date, judging by the available industry literature and case studies I’ve seen – quite a large number now, after five years of trying to make sense of the problem.

I also would propose a more useful set of categories re: configuration management viewpoints:

  • Those who are focused on element configuration management (provisioning, parameters, drift control)
  • Those who are focused on enterprise configuration management (inventories and dependencies)
  • Those who are focused on software configuration management

Most people get that software config is its own beast, but the distinction between enterprise and element config continues to generate confusion, and no-one is really talking about it.

Asset and enterprise configuration management do have much in common; enterprise config is a logical maturation of asset management, as ITIL v2 does indicate. If your asset management group has a list of servers, tying them to a list of applications (thus introducing logical CIs and dependencies) is a highly appropriate next step.

Also, more from ITSM Watch on APMG, EXIN, & ISEB politics, for those that care. While I often find Jan’s writing interesting, I think he is getting a bit ahead of himself, or perhaps confused, with his curious statement that “ITIL-V3 emphasizes the lifecycle approach and loses the process approach.” Something may be being lost in the translation, but my understanding is that the lifecycle approach is something like an IT value chain, which is hardly a “loss” of process – it is a much needed clarification of the unfortunate grab bag of “stuff” that ITIL v2 claims are processes. (Again, how many Capacities did you do today? Can’t count? Then Capacity Management is NOT a process. See Alec Sharpe, Geary Rummler, and all the rest.)

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Charles Betz is a Senior Enterprise Architect, and chief architect for IT
Service Management strategy for a US-based Fortune 50 enterprise. He is author of the forthcoming Architecture and Patterns for IT Service
Management, Resource Planning, and Governance: Making Shoes for the Cobbler’s Children (Morgan Kaufman/Elsevier, 2006, ISBN 0123705932). He is the sole author of the popular www.erp4it.com weblog.

Thoughts on ITIL
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About Charles Betz
Charles Betz is a Senior Enterprise Architect, and chief architect for IT Service Management strategy for a US-based Fortune 50 enterprise. He is author of the forthcoming Architecture and Patterns for IT Service Management, Resource Planning, and Governance: Making Shoes for the Cobbler's Children (Morgan Kaufman/Elsevier, 2006, ISBN 0123705932). He is the sole author of the popular www.erp4it.com weblog. WebProNews Writer
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