Responding to Criticisms of ITIL

Nothing as significant as ITIL exists without criticism. It shouldn’t. Some of that criticism is well-intentioned and constructive in nature while some of it is inaccurate and simply contrarian for the sake of being contrarian.

The ITIL article in Wikipedia (as of March 18, 2012) lists the following criticisms:

  • The books are not affordable for non-commercial users
  • The books are not on-line
  • Implementation and credentialing requires specific training
  • Debate over ITIL falling under BSM or ITSM frameworks
  • The ITIL details are not aligned with the other frameworks like ITSM

While Wikipedia might be at best a questionable source that doesn’t police itself well in all cases (for example, see Talk: Haymarket Affair, Messer-Kruse controversy), it is relevant in that someone making a decision about whether not to pursue ITIL might first check Wikipedia.

My point-by-point thoughts on the Wikipedia criticisms of ITIL:

Point 1: The books are not affordable for non-commercial users

I checked the price as I wrote this, and on Amazon, the ITIL Lifecycle Suite 2011 Edition sells for $446.01. The chief concern should not be price as much as it should be return on investment. If the return is greater than the initial investment, then the investment is affordable. This criticism would be better worded if it included something about “compared to other choices” and “perception”.

Point 2: The books are not on-line

According to www.best-management-practice.com, online subscriptions of all ITIL books can be purchased from The Cabinet Office.

Point 3: Implementation and credentialing requires specific training

While true, this is neither unique nor specific to ITIL. Many things we do in IT organizations require specific training.

Point 4: Debate over ITIL falling under BSM or ITSM frameworks

I struggle to understand why this matters. Criticism like this is trivial and falls squarely in the camp of “theorist nonsense” and has little practical meaning to an IT organization that is trying to improve quality and cost-effectiveness. A good takeaway here is that there is overlap between various frameworks.

Point 5: The ITIL details are not aligned with the other frameworks like ITSM

ITIL is the de facto approach to IT service management (ITSM), which makes it difficult to see how there is a lack of alignment between the general idea of ITSM and the specific details given by ITIL.

These criticisms of ITIL given on the Wikipedia page are at best weak and are not the type of information that a decision-maker in an organization really needs to make an effective decision about anything related to ITIL. There is a Wikipedia Talk topic on the criticisms given. The first line in that section is very telling; it says:

“Criticisms…and [sic] meant to stimulate areas of thought and research!! Prove that they are wrong 1st before deleting”

This statement is a logical fallacy, known as “the burden of proof fallacy.” It’s when someone shifts the burden of proof, which is always on the person making the extraordinary claim, to those who disagree with them. The burden of proof is always on the person making the claim. While it appears that contributors have tried to update this section of the Wikipedia article on ITIL, Wikipedia fails here because  of misguided editing and a misunderstanding of burden of evidence.

While I disagree with much of the criticism listed on Wikipedia about ITIL as discussed in this post, I do believe that there are valid criticisms of ITIL. I’ll explore some of those criticisms in upcoming posts to this blog.

Related Posts
How ITIL Differentiates Problems and Incidents
ITIL Courseware Improvements
What Do You Do After You Become an ITIL Expert

Related Courses
ITIL Foundation
Itil: Managing Across the Lifecycle
ITIL Lifecycle Expert Program

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