ITIL 3 is good, but may not scale for kiwi users

Many organisations still aren't making full use of version 2's best practices framework yet, says consultant

Enthusiasm for ITIL’s recently released version 3 could be counter-productive, says consultant Rob England.

For starters, there is nothing really wrong with version 2 of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), he says. And many organisations still aren’t making full use of version 2’s best practices framework yet. The advantage of version 3 is that it has rounded out this framework considerably. It is the car body around the engine, or Windows to version 2’s MS-DOS, England says. However, there is a steep hill to climb in moving up from version 2 to version 3, he warns.

England made his comments while addressing the NZ Computer Society last month. He tried to provide a realistic view of this major update to the ITIL framework which has aroused such worldwide interest among ICT professionals.

ITIL has ensured ICT people from different backgrounds have a common language which they can use to describe the entities involved in managing information and providing information-based services to business. It is particularly valuable to those who operate the services the programs support, and to the auditors checking their integrity, says England. But a certain “cultism” surrounds ITIL, so care needs to be taken to keep expectations down to realistic levels.

England cautions against aiming for best practice. “Best practice is usually overkill, [just] do enough to reach a reasonable standard of merit,” he told the audience. Best practice also has unavoidable connotations of identical practice. The danger is organisations could end up looking similar when it comes to their mode of operation and this may not square well with competitiveness and agility.

Going from ITIL v2 to v3 is a massive change and one to which the overworked phrase “paradigm shift” can be truly applied, says England. Its five books, which are supplemented with web-based materials, bring back a lot of the detail that was kept out of version 2 to make it manageable.

The ITIL framework itself guides the lifecycle of an ICT-based service from concept to practical implementation, and beyond to the handling of incidents that arise during day-to-day operations. But there is no “meta-lifecycle” that tells an organisation how to implement ITIL itself, says England. With the extra complexity of version 3, the need for this becomes more pressing.

No certification procedure is available yet to qualify consultants in v3. England says he also doubts its ability to scale down to the needs of the small organisations that account for most of NZ industry.

“If you want to get into ITIL v3, you’ll be a real pioneer,” he says. “I hope contracts won’t come out [any time soon] with a requirement that it’s used.” England runs a blog called “The IT Skeptic” (, where he discusses ITIL v3 in more detail and answers critics.

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