ITIL is Dead, Long Live ITIL

Many organisations we speak to that have made their first foray into using ITIL® dispel the IT service management (ITSM) framework as being a complete failure in transforming their IT Organisation (ITO). Prior to the release of ITIL v3, in many businesses with a propensity to invest in change and instigate innovation – at least before the economic downturn in the last 7 years – ITOs followed a culture of trying to implement existing best practice processes, rather than developing practices fit-for-purpose that genuinely met the individual demands of the businesses they serve. This approach does not result in relevant, proactive and reactive services that have a positive impact on the wider business. In direct contrast, Fox IT®’s view is that meeting business demand is good practice and the most effective way to achieve truly successful IT transformation that serves business requirements and both supports and enables innovative results and effective business decisions. The trick is to take applicable elements of any peer reviewed framework and build a fit-for-purpose model, which is robust but still agile enough to change with the fickle and dynamic nature of business.

IT provision is evolving. The first era, IT Craftsmanship (see figure 1) is based on commodity level provisioning, where IT isn’t engaged with its customers but delivers technology on demand. At this stage, when the ITO is relatively immature, IT strategy has been based on the advancement and management of the ITO itself, separate from the broader business objectives and the solutions required to achieve them. However, in order to remain relevant, the ITO needs to remember the reason for its very existence: to serve the needs of the business and their internal and external customers.

Therefore the second era of IT transformation, (IT Industrialisation in the diagram below) requires a much greater degree of communication and integration with the business to develop a higher level of understanding about its needs. The thinking behind the ITO strategy becomes radically different, focusing on solutions based on the provision of technology designed to achieve the business’ goals. This means that the ITO is now providing IT services that the business actually wants delivered, as opposed to what the ITO thinks they need, and these services are in full alignment with the business strategy and future vision.

Very few organisations – mostly those at the leading edge of technology investment – have embedded the principles of services delivery across the breadth of the IT ecosystem: Demand, Build and Run. Gartner (2014 CIO Agenda) sees this as a necessary step to ‘Digitalisation’ – a level of maturity where the ITO is a true operational partner to the business, engaging directly with the end customers and accountable for their role in the attainment of the business vision.

The Eras of enterprise IT

Figure 1. The Eras of Enterprise IT (Gartner: Taming the Digital Dragon: The CIO Agenda 2014)


In addition to the fact that the majority of ITOs remain immature and in the IT craftsmanship era, the Hype Cycle for IT Operations Management 2013 positioned ITIL in the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ (Gartner: Hype Cycle for IT Operations Management 2013) with a prediction that within the next 2 to 5 years it will reach the ‘Plateau of Productivity’. Whilst these phrases may not initially appear to infer a positive position, in fact the opposite is true, as the Plateau is the point at which there will be an important advancement in the way that businesses integrate ITIL in order to bring IT Services into alignment with business objectives. ITIL v3 (released in 2007) switched its focus from a prescriptive model of simply meeting the commitments within the parameters of a Service Level Agreement, to providing IT services that meet the expectations of the customer and add genuine value to the whole business. As ITOs mature and seek more effective ways to create solutions that fulfil business requirements, we will see a greater degree of stability in the adoption of new technologies and methodologies. In turn this stability will bring greater success in the transformation to IT Services, a reduction in risk and an increase in return on IT investment. This significant change in the appropriate adoption of ITIL will meet the key objective of defining and delivering a Service Portfolio to customers and building a governance and execution structure to successfully deliver them. So ITIL itself is not dead. It is the ITSM industry’s old approach to ITIL adoption and the ITOs previous focus on technology rather than results that need to be put to rest. Only then can we make way for the new approach of adapting ITIL to the needs of each individual business, resulting in an accountable ITO providing quality IT services that add measurable business value.

Fox IT recognises that significant investment has been made by ITOs desiring a move towards a service-based model of IT delivery, but many have stopped short of achieving the desired benefits. With the changing tide of mainstream IT organisations moving towards a service-based model, we’ll be working with our customers to leverage the investments they have already made to ensure our clients achieve a successful, cost effective IT Service transformation.