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Next Practices in Business Service Management



ITIL Lite: Vital ITIL
by Malcolm Fry


When did it become a matter of shame and humiliation not to fully implement ITIL?

I meet many people in the course of a year and have noticed that when you ask the question “How are you progressing with your ITIL implementation?” that the response is often a shameful admission that “we may not be able to implement the whole of ITIL v3”. Since when was implementing the whole of ITIL a mandatory requirement? What happened to ITIL being a framework and not a methodology? Why not implement a Lite version of ITIL that meets your immediate needs and objectives? There are many organisations that for different reasons cannot or will not be implementing ITIL v3 in its entirety and therefore are taking a Lite approach. ITIL Lite could be described as:

‘ITIL Lite is an approach to implementing key components of ITIL v3 to ensure a sound basis for IT Service Management either as a starting point for full implementation or as a deliverable for those not wishing to fully implement ITILv3’

The objectives of ITIL Lite as described in this article are to provide an approach to selecting the most appropriate ITIL v3 components for ITIL Lite and then preparing a project to implement those components.

One of the most significant claims of earlier versions of ITIL was that they were a ‘framework’ and not a ‘methodology’. For many people this was a major factor for them selecting ITIL. When teaching ITIL v2 it was common for instructors to have a slide stating that ITIL was ‘A framework and not a methodology’. How often were we told that you didn’t have to implement all of the ITIL components or that each component was a guide and not a set of stringent rules? So what is the difference between a framework and a methodology? If in doubt refer to the dictionary which has always been a reliable maxim so here are dictionary definitions of framework and methodology

Methodology - A body of practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline or engage in an inquiry; a set of working methods.

Framework – a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality.

Source; The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Let us look at these definitions to help us decide whether ITIL v3 is a framework or a methodology. The words in the methodology definition are ‘procedures, rules and discipline’. These words do not leave much room for flexibility as they are very much associated with a given set of activities that must be performed in a precise and prescribed manner. Many of us in IT are able to remember Computer Operations procedures that had to followed to the letter. In essence a methodology is a set of inflexible instructions that must be followed to the letter.

On the other hand, referencing a framework is a completely different approach illustrated by the words ‘assumptions, concepts, values and a way of viewing reality’. These are words that advise and guide you towards a solution rather than provide a path that has to be followed. Framework allows you the option of choice and flexibility.

So what is ITIL v3? Is it a methodology or is it a framework?


Maybe we should first look at the history of ITIL by looking at a quote from the Service Delivery book as captured in ITIL Refreshed (or v2 as it is also known):

1.1.2 Best practice framework

The IT Infrastructure Library documents industry best practice guidance. It has proved its value from the very beginning. Initially, OGC collected information on how various organisations addressed Service Management, analysed this and filtered those issues that would prove useful to OGC and to its Customers in UK central government. Other organisations found that the guidance was generally applicable and markets outside of government were very soon created by the service industry.

Being a framework, ITIL describes the contours of organising Service Management. The models show the goals, general activities, inputs and outputs of the various processes, which can be incorporated within IT organisations. ITIL does not cast in stone every action required on a day-to-day basis because that is something which differs from organisation to organisation. Instead it focuses on best practice that can be utilised in different ways according to need.

Thanks to this framework of proven best practice, the IT Infrastructure Library can be used within organisations with existing methods and activities in Service Management. Using ITIL doesn't imply a completely new way of thinking and acting. It provides a framework in which to place existing methods and activities in a structured context, providing a strategic context that improves tactical decision-making and has an aligning influence on the tasks of Service Management. By emphasising the relationships between the processes, any lack of communication and co-operation between various IT functions can be eliminated or minimised.

ITIL provides a proven method for planning common processes, roles and activities with appropriate reference to each other and how the communication lines should exist between them.

The quote is a long but it does make the point that one of the guiding principles for ITIL has been a framework approach. The concept of a framework approach is not lauded so highly in ITIL v3 but a quick look at the components of v3 show that a framework approach is the best policy:


As you can see there are 30 Functions and Processes contained in the ITIL v3 publications and these do not include other components such as: ‘Requirements Engineering’, ‘Data & Information Management’ and ‘Operational Activities in other Lifecycle Phases’. This is a very impressive line-up but in reality many of the players will not get a game. If you remember our dictionary quote included the word ‘procedures, rules and discipline.’ If we applied those words to all of these processes and functions then we would need a lot more than five books. In fact, if the books contained detailed procedures some of the processes would need a book of their own.

What about flexibility? Every IT organisation has a different structure and a different set of deliverables and therefore need to tailor their Service Management resources accordingly, which is why they need guidance and not a methodology. In ITIL terms you need to select the ITIL v3 components that work for you and then tailor them accordingly, which is a mantra that inspired the first two iterations of ITIL.

So why are there so many people seeing ITIL v3 more as a methodology than as a framework? This is a hard question to nail down but part of the reason is that the word framework isn’t in the v3 glossary nor is it referred to in any depth in any of the ITIL v3 core books. Also many of the exponents of v3 have not been exposed in any depth to v2 and therefore do not have the original concepts of ITIL ingrained in their comprehension of ITIL.

In summary, ITIL should be a flexible guide that helps us to build a Service Management facility that is ‘fit for purpose’ and not a rigid set of instructions. This is why ITIL v3 should be seen as a FRAMEWORK and not a methodology. As a framework we should not have to include all of the ITIL v3 components. The key to delivering a Service Management facility that is ‘fit for purpose’ is to select the correct components and installing them with careful planning ...and not feeling compelled to install ever single component in ITIL v3 exactly as they described in the books. Lose the shame and start being proud that you are using a great best practice to provide the best possible service that you can provide for your customers, i.e. ‘Fit for Purpose.’

































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