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What ITIL is not: A view point on the misrepresentation of ITIL

April 22, 2008

As with many trends, myths abound when it comes to ITIL. Because ITIL involves some approaches that are truly new to many enterprises, it is easy to misunderstand what ITIL is all about. There is also a lot of hype around the subject. This section will shed some light on the most frequently misunderstood areas.

#1: ITIL Is Not Something You Can Implement Out of the Book

The relationship between the content of the ITIL books and the operation of an IT department is not simply a direct one. In fact, there is a three-layer structure, as illustrated below. ITIL definitions and guidelines actually become the basis of specific processes that are developed in an enterprise.

Theory and practice

This distinction is important, because the middle layer — the design of processes based on ITIL — can be very costly and time-consuming. In fact, this middle layer is the biggest hurdle to implementing ITIL.

#2: ITIL Is Not a Standard

Vendor claims of “ITIL compliance” for everything from software to vendor processes give the impression that ITIL is a standard. However, this is not the case. ITIL is a set of best practices that can be used as the user sees fit. In the strictest sense of the term, there is no such thing as ITIL compliance.

However, there are now emerging standards based on ITIL principles. BS 150000 (BS stands for “British Standard”) was developed in the U.K., and is an auditable standard for ITIL processes. ISO has stepped into the ring with ISO20000, which will have an international scope.

#3: ITIL Is Not a Governance Framework

Getting IT under control with ITIL is an important step in meeting the requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley and other legislation. However, ITIL does not address governance in a comprehensive way and cannot be used on its own to ensure Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. However, ITIL maps well with COBIT, the de facto North American governance framework, which is discussed later in this document.

#4: ITIL Does Not Cover All Aspects of Today’s IT Environments

ITIL is based on a highly centralized IT model that existed in 1980. Since that time, we have seen revolutionary changes in IT, including the advent of desktop computing, networking, client/server computing, and the Internet. Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), which is described below, is an example of a body of knowledge that builds on ITIL to address these changes.

#5: ITIL Is Not an “All or Nothing” Proposition

The interactive nature of ITIL processes implies that the entire framework has to be in place for benefits to accrue. This is not the case. Many enterprises benefit from implementing only one or two ITIL processes. This is especially true for smaller enterprises.

#6: ITIL Is Not a Religion

Many CIOs may be looking for a magic bullet to end their IT chaos, but blindly following ITIL in hopes that everything will fix itself is doomed to failure.

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