ITIL or not ITIL, that’s the question

When engineering processes sometimes you can arrive to one decision without a clear solution. In this cases it is normal to listen: “ITIL recommends …”. Depending on the audience, the answer can be to follow the recommendation or that some stakeholder says: “I don’t trust ITIL. It is very beautiful at the paper, but it isn’t the best solution when applied”.

In this post I will review the general mood about ITIL, and some recommendation about applying it.

What is ITIL designed for?

To answer this question we must see the origin of ITIL. The ITIL roots are placed at the need of the British government of controlling the IT contracts of their providers. The British government is a very big organization with a lot of IT contracts, that lacked of a single language, methodology and control tools. The British goverment then created a set of recommendations and best practices that all IT contractors had to follow.

We can extract to main conclusions from the origin:

  • Big organization.
  • Great Britain.

The management of a little company is very different from a big company. So, to state that a best practice is applicable to all, is just to lie. Also, the culture and way of doing of the people is different at each country or region. So, to state that a best practice is applicable to all the word, is also lying.

 Considerations about the size of the company

Bigger your organization, the more you can trust ITIL recommendations. For littler organizations, you must think in simplifying the best practices. And for very little ones, you can start breaking some of them. For instance, there is a recommendation that forces you to have incident manager and problem manager roles separated in two different people. If your support department is composed by five people, the best election could be to combine both roles in the support manager.

Considerations about the culture

We can think in two kinds of culture: the company’s culture and your region. In the first case, it is the standard adaptation of ITIL best practices to your organization. I do not advise you to break the ITIL recommendations to fulfill your organization’s culture. This is a bad excuse to not to follow the best practices.

But your region’s culture is very important to consider. Some actions can be see as quality at some country and as annoying at another. And some best practices result in worst practices when applied in a different region. Let’s look at some examples.

ITIL recommends that the urgency of an Incident must be established by the user. But if you let the user to select it in Mediterranean countries, everybody will set critical urgency for any issue. Also, to call the user after the incident was closed can be seen as disturbing him.

Final though

As a general rule, follow ITIL recommendations if there is no counter reason. Also consider the source of the counter reason. Answer like “This is not the way we done in our company” aren’t acceptable. Customer restrictions, region, company size are accetable. But don’t lie yourselft to avoid ITIL best practices and ease your work.


Posted on by Jose Huerta in Best practices

About Jose Huerta

Jose is a project manager and service manager from Mallorca (Spain). The last years, he has been closely related to Remedy at almost all levels: deployment, customization, consulting, administration and service management. His work doesn't end with BMC products, but he's continually exploring other aspects of IT management, as the leader of development projects and IT services.

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