It’s been a week since I attended a Future of ITIL* workshop run by AXELOS, the new “owners” of ITIL. I could have written a quick blog last Friday but thought it best to allow AXELOS time to publish its own communications first.

First some related articles and blogs



1. We often overlook the complexity of the ITIL ecosystem


While the number of attendees was limited, based on group-size manageability and other factors, one thing was quickly obvious – that there are a number of competing parties (and priorities) within the ITIL ecosystem that can easily be overlooked when looking at ITIL through your own personal lens. For example, this London workshop included ITIL authors, examiners, trainers, consultants, service providers, tool vendors, ex-Cabinet Office/OGC AXELOS employees, and new AXELOS employees.


What was interesting, if not amazing, was the high level of group agreement on both what needs to change and the ideas on how best to change. There were of course points made about lead times for change such as creating new training content or examinations but these are the practical realities that most of us miss when talking about the need to speed up the evolution of ITIL.


2. There is a need for greater transparency and collaboration


For some, “Castle ITIL” has been the phrase-of-choice when describing the ITIL of old. Things have definitely changed, and notwithstanding the fact that “you can't please all of the people all the time” (Abraham Lincoln), there are already healthy signs of transparency and collaboration with the IT service management (ITSM) community from AXELOS. The AXELOS Onion Model shown below is testament to its intended spirit of collaboration.



  • The center has the very stable ITIL core content.
  • The next layer has modular content such as role or industry-specific information.
  • And then further layers have more practical content such as templates, guides, and case studies.
  • The very outside layer is community owned (and community driven) with AXELOS and the ITSM community curating and promoting this.

However, one area that lacks transparency IMO, and in many ways does AXELOS a disservice, is that AXELOS is technically a startup – with limited people resource as it ramps up activities during 2013. It’s a separate legal entity to Capita and not party to its wealth of resources; so bear this in mind when considering all they have achieved in a relatively short timeframe.

3. What are the principles and values of ITIL?


It’s an odd one this – shouldn’t all of us who have made a living from ITIL for the last x years know what these are? When you stop to think about it, what should ITIL help people achieve? IMO there is the altruistic version and then the probable reality.


Ideally, and looking back at the origins of ITIL in UK Government IT, ITIL was/is intended to help organizations improve their IT operations or IT service delivery. But looking at how training in particular is sometimes “sold,” there is a danger that it has become something removed from seeking organizational benefit; with too much focus on personal certification and increased employability.


It’s probably wrong to have mentioned training explicitly – as with all providers of services there is the good, the bad, the ugly, and the indifferent. To balance things out a little, there are elements across the entire ITIL ecosystem still misselling ITIL as a silver bullet to either individual or organizational IT service delivery woes.


Thankfully the principles and values of ITIL were top of the AXELOS agenda during the workshop. The value of exams and certifications to employers as well as individuals was also a common theme. And a key phrase that epitomizes the workshop conversations is that ITIL needs to be “driven by business and customer needs.”


4. Global-best-practice needs to be both “global” and “best practice”


If you can overlook the continued debate over whether anything can really be “best practice” to everyone or every organization, i.e. it’s more likely to be “good practice,” there has long been an issue with ITIL’s global-ness, or lack of.


The fact that ITIL, until recently, was run by UK civil servants doesn’t help; but the translation of publications and exams, while traversing some language barriers, is insufficient to address different cultures, different interpretations and appropriateness of terminology, and different levels of (and needs for) ITSM maturity.


From a best practice perspective, there is a need to share more (global) examples of how organizations have leveraged ITIL for business benefit. Not just what the issues were and what was achieved with ITIL, but also what was done and where appropriate the perils and pitfalls others should avoid.


This is another item high on the AXELOS agenda and the conversations to date seem to be heading in the right direction (and again please refer to the layers of the Onion Model).


5. We finally need to act on what we continually say about the importance of softer skills in IT


Looking beyond the need to revisit the exam “levels” and structural complexity, which will happen in time, we need to look at a far more practical scope. The Capita acquisition of G2G3, “a human-centered technology company that combines creativity and innovation with technical know-how to create positive change for IT enterprises,” offers opportunities for different ways of learning. But for me the real gift would be to help with IT professional’s softer skills in addition to understanding ITSM.


ITIL books and training might teach people about the need for, and benefits of, delivering IT as a service plus the concept of the service lifecycle. They also provide awareness of the twenty-something ITIL-espoused ITSM processes. But how does ITIL help IT professionals with the softer skills they need to truly be effective in their roles? The quick answer IMO is that it doesn’t.


To truly deliver benefits at an organizational level ITIL needs to either deliver, or provide links into, content that can help with people’s learning and development in real-world ITIL utilization. Examples include people management, negotiation skills, and even performance reporting. The change of guard offers up the opportunity to consider how the people element of the “people, process, and technology” ITIL mantra can finally be delivered on.


In summary …


It was a very valuable couple of days. I think all attendees not only shared a lot, I’d like to think they also learned a lot. Personally I’m very positive about what AXELOS is doing and expect big things.


You can stay informed on what’s happening at AXELOS by following its communications on Twitter or Google+. If you have an opinion or ideas as to the future of ITIL, please email AXELOS


As always, your thoughts and feedback are encouraged.

* ITIL is a framework of ITSM best practices, formally known as the IT Infrastructure Library.