Archive for the ‘MOF’ Category

Saving ITIL – how to protect the reputation of Best Practice frameworks

October 12, 2010

Since the news came out that the Office of Government Commerce stated in a report by the Office of Public Sector Information they had ‘no policy remit’ to produce and develop the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) methodology, various articles and blogs have been written declaring the ‘death of ITIL’, or at least of the discipline as we know it.

This has been interpreted by some as an intention to drop official support due to lack of interest, since ITIL is admittedly not one of the OGC’s core responsibilities. Critics believe the move will make ITIL an even more lucrative money machine for vendors and service providers which may end in self-sabotage. Most opponents have focused their editorials on the consequences of this move on the Best Practice framework’s quality and credibility, or have taken this as an occasion to declare that ITIL is already overrated and over-praised.

Those who welcome the change, instead, believe it would be a good thing for ITIL to be free, open and available to all. However, there seems to be little analysis of what the choice made by the OGC might mean, the pros and cons of a liberated Best Practice framework and, ultimately, hardly any propositions on how to save the framework’s reputation.

Taking into account such pros and cons, it is difficult to have a clear opinion on thesituation. There can definitely be some benefits in liberating a framework – for instance, it creates an opportunity for professionals to provide recommendations and contribute with ideas and innovations which derive from their personal experience. They are able to interact more comprehensively with the discipline, allowing it to grow, improve and change with the market and the various business environments it operates in.

But labels like ‘ITIL’ – which have become brand names – are often used as a sales tool to sell books, memos and software, and by making it even more commercial the risk is that the discipline will lose its authority. Let’s take Neuro-Linguistic Programming as an example. As there is no regulation, people are free to say that they are NLP practitioners although they are only recognised within their own training company, and their methodology may be different from practitioners who come from another company. There is no official recognition of what is good and bad practice in NLP, therefore it may not be felt as a discipline one can rely on alone.

So if any consultancy, training company, book author and software vendor was able to say that their product or service is ‘ITIL aligned’, although it complies with their version of ITIL which might be different from another one, then it would be impossible to have some measurable quality standards that can be used to evaluate and choose. If you take away standardisation and consistency, if there isn’t a strong and consistent identity or an independent body that can set standards, the framework will practically cease to exist.

To reassure readers, the ambiguous OPSI report does not state that the OGC has no interest in ITIL and, in fact, it still owns copyright on the product. The information on the report might mean that the body will outsource development but will still have the last word on content and the power to approve a product or service. If this is the case, then the situation might prove ideal for the reasons stated above, balancing the pros and cons in a safer scenario.

But this is not the main problem with Best Practice frameworks, it seems. An example of one that is not supported by an official body but is still popular and widely used is the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF). Although it is free and available to everybody, it doesn’t appear to be very different from ITIL in its recognition, methodology and principles. Nevertheless, it appears to have the same issues that consultants see in ITIL as it is – there is a lot of emphasis on gap-fill documents and selling books rather than in delivering a thorough understanding of the processes and aims. Unless the professional who downloads the templates and fills the gaps understands the content and context of what they are doing, it has little value and probably little effectiveness. It is apparent, then, that freeing the discipline doesn’t solve the issues behind Best Practice frameworks, nor does keeping control over it.

Perhaps the problem is not about ITIL being endorsed by an official body or not, but rather how to enhance the reputation and effectiveness of Best Practice frameworks. Disciplines such as ITIL and MOF need to find a way to overcome their credibility issues, cease to be mere money machines and become what they are supposed to be – guidelines for carrying out operations in the best possible way to reach efficiencies and cost savings. Only if Service Management professionals start believing in the ‘wider aims’ and practicing the discipline with a thorough understanding of what is being done, will it be possible for such frameworks to regain trust and, ultimately, to really deliver results.

Samantha-Jane Scales, Service Management consultant

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Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2010: a credible challenger in the Service Management software market?

February 17, 2010

After 3 years in beta, Microsoft is expected to launch System Center Service Manager (SCSM) sometime this year. Long-time Microsoft watchers will know that the company often “drip feeds” new markets with product information before products are ready as a way of generating interest.  This has the added benefit, from Microsoft’s perspective, of creating uncertainty and potentially delaying buying decisions for competing products.  But a 3-year beta is unusual even for Microsoft, and is largely explained by the company deciding that the product needed a ground-up rewrite after feedback from early tests to improve performance and integration.

Although an official release date has not been published, organisations are already starting to reflect upon the consequences of Microsoft entering a sector which is currently served by relatively small-sized, niche software companies.  Whilst BMC Remedy and HP Service Manager compete for very large installations, there isn’t really a stand-out market leader in the general Service Management software market, but rather a small group of vendors offering specific, focused products.

Microsoft expects, and frankly needs to compete across the breadth of any market it enters. And here, Microsoft’s standard approach is at odds with what most buyers have come to expect.  Microsoft’s competitors in the Service Management software market most commonly use a sales model where they sell directly to the customer and provide related services such as installation, configuration assistance, customisation and training as well as the software. Microsoft has never used this model.  Instead, it invests heavily in product marketing but sells through its partner network – which in the UK amounts to tens of thousands of IT service companies and resellers of all shapes and sizes, which in turn get their product from a distributor.

In choosing new Service Management software, companies frequently go through a tender process to ensure that they choose the most suitable product at the best price.  But here, Microsoft is at an immediate disadvantage.  A customer who wants to include Microsoft’s product in its tender will have to find a suitable partner to deal with, and may find there are multiple Microsoft partners who want to compete for the sale. And whereas niche vendors can genuinely offer an end-to-end solution including after-sale support which plugs directly into the software vendor, anyone considering Microsoft’s offering will be wary of the fact that they will potentially have multiple layers of support to deal with if they want answers or fixes to problems.

Of course, Microsoft can afford to compete on price as they do in other markets.  But the software cost in changing Service Management products is only one part of the overall cost of transition.  And whilst Microsoft is likely to tout its close integration with other System Center products as a key selling point, it has the major disadvantage in the UK market in that the product does not align with the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), but rather the Microsoft Operational Framework (MOF).  This in itself would be enough to see the product discounted in many tender processes. In a blog entry, a Microsoft employee points to ITIL licensing costs as the main reasons for the lack of ITIL alignment, which is rather curious for a company of Microsoft’s resources.

All things considered, can Microsoft convince potential customers that the multi-tier sales and service model is better, and will it win the market by selling cheaper? It is hard to believe the Service Management savvies will be easily convinced – Service Management software is a big investment not only cost-wise but especially because it is the heart of the support process, which it orchestrates. In such a peculiar market, where quality, reliability and ease of adoption are more important than price, Microsoft will have to work hard to win any form of trust, let alone take control of the market.

Adrian Polley


Adrian Polley, CEO