Is ITIL Losing Momentum?

March, 2016

The ITIL framework for IT service management could be facing some headwinds as IT organizations shift focus from operational excellence to becoming more agile in deploying new technologies on a regular basis. Our research shows that IT organizations are continuing to embrace IT Infrastructure Library initiatives, but at a slower pace than previous years.

As shown in Figure 2 from our study, ITIL Adoption and Best Practices, the percentage of North American IT organizations fully or partially practicing ITIL remained almost unchanged in 2015, after rising slowly but steadily since 2011. Forty-six percent of organizations are currently using the ITIL framework, compared with 47% in 2014.

ITILFig 2 - Is ITIL Losing Momentum?

It is too early to determine whether ITIL adoption is flattening out or merely pausing, but this is the first time in a decade our survey has not shown a rise in adoption, however, slight. The research also shows that the number of organizations committing to full ITIL implementation is relatively small. This may well reflect that obstacles to adoption are real, costs are significant, and benefits are sometimes difficult to quantify.

Embracing an IT service management strategy to help a business achieve its strategic objectives is a much-debated but seldom-achieved goal. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is perhaps the most widely accepted framework for transforming the IT organization into an IT service management operation. ITIL essentially is a discipline for identifying, planning, and delivering IT services to a business. As part of this effort, ITIL imposes discipline on IT processes in return for what its advocates promise will be improved productivity and responsiveness.

The promise of ITIL is reduced costs, enhanced services, increased productivity, and higher customer satisfaction. When practiced correctly, ITIL also should have a dramatic and deep impact on an organization’s core business practices. This is all well and good, but how many enterprise organizations are truly ready to absorb such a complete, internal transformation? This is the core dilemma of ITIL and perhaps the explanation for why many businesses embrace the concept, but few put it fully into practice.

Another factor is that while ITIL is often embraced by IT service desk managers, application development operations are less willing to embrace IT service management disciplines. These days, DevOps methodology, an extension of Agile that champions continuous innovation and cross-departmental collaboration, is starting to take root as a framework for guiding development processes. To some, ITIL processes compete with DevOps methodology and its promise of creating more nimble and faster-moving organizations. DevOps is a method for enhancing cross-departmental collaboration between software developers and IT operations to support more frequent deployment of software changes. ITIL imposes discipline on the change process to avoid service disruptions. Some advocates are now suggesting IT organizations take a bimodal approach that can integrate IT operational disciplines with flexible system development strategies such as DevOps.

The full study examines adoption trends for ITIL by organization size and sector. It also provides insights on ITIL best practices, and makes the case for a balanced, gradual approach to implementing an ITIL initiative.

This Research Byte is based on our report on this subject, ITIL Adoption and Best Practices. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).