The truth about ITIL's history - PART II

PART II of the interview on ITIL's history, with John Stewart, and Brian Johnson participating.
Click here for PART I.

Oleg: We’ve heard from Jan van Bon and Brian Johnson a story of ITIL (or GITIMM) creation. Is it true that it was your and Peter Skinner’s idea to create some kind of method to establish best practice processes in IT management?

John: Yes it was Pete's idea and mine. I should probably say that we were aiming to pull together known good practices rather than develop everything from scratch.
CCTA's job was to facilitate the achievement of efficiency and effectiveness in government IT. Individual government departments were responsible for buying and running their own IT; our job was to help. Pete was responsible for supplier management and operational IT infrastructure, so his job was to help with those aspects. Based on the reasoning I explained in the previous answer and taking into account the state of the marketplace, we came to the view that we should set a standardized government framework for what Pete termed IT Infrastructure Management. We couldn't do every Government Department's IT service management for them but we could set out 'what good looks like' to help them do it themselves without reinventing the wheel.

Our first attempt at presenting our ideas to the CCTA Board for their approval to go ahead didn't go to plan: on the October day in question, 26 years ago, my first daughter decided to be born 2 weeks early, so I couldn't go and we had to reschedule. When we did get the chance to present to the Board, not everyone was immediately in favor, but we did get the go-ahead and so here we are today!

When Roy Dibble took over as my boss, he was in agreement with people who didn't like the name 'Government IT Infrastructure Methodology', GITIMM, because it wasn't a 'methodology' and besides, reference to Government would probably put off potential users outside government and outside the UK. It was a set of written codes of practice – a Library – so it should be called IT Infrastructure Library, ITIL.

A set of books won't change the world, however good the advice they contain. You have to find a way of spreading take-up. We decided to develop a training and qualifications scheme to provide a basis for institutionalizing ITIL principles in the IT provider community. The private sector companies offering training and other services based on ITIL would promote it outside UK government. We were lucky to attract the attention of Dutch companies, starting with Pink Elephant, and they did a great deal to spread the word outside the UK. We fostered the creation of a user group, which subsequently became itSMF, to engage the user community that we wanted to act as our 'critical friend'.

Brian: The role of Pink Elephant in the Netherlands was very important for us; they arranged for John and me to appear on Dutch TV—we could not even comprehend how the Dutch guys even got anyone interested in that.

Oleg: Is it true that the original purpose for such a method was to drive down costs and spending on IT in UK Government?

John: Some astonishing stories have circulated over the years about our rationale for developing ITIL. The truth is that we conceived the product in furtherance of CCTA's role of catalyzing value-for-money from the government's expenditure on its IT. You can look at this in a number of ways: to help Departments avoid the need to develop their own approach to IT service management, which is wasteful; to put out a framework representing a common language, thus helping with personnel training and mobility; to improve the quality of IT service management; and more widely to spread good IT service management practice both inside and outside UK government, which would in turn help strengthen ITIL and further benefit government departments as a result. It wasn't so much a matter of driving down IT costs as helping not to waste the money that the government did spend on its IT.

That's an important point because what really matters to organizations that use IT, which is more or less all of them, is that IT supports their business effectively, with as few failures and faults as possible, and at a fair price.

GO TO PART III OF THE INTERVIEW

THIS INTERVIEW IS BROUGHT TO YOU THROUGH ITSM PORTAL, IN CLOSE COOPERATION WITH ROMAN JOURAVLEV, OLEG SKRYNNIK, AND STEPAN HRULEV, OF  CLEVERICS.

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