Competitive forces have entered the IT support landscape. Management needs to find creative ways to take unnecessary costs out of every process and every organization unit without compromising continuity and performance of the IT services. Management research insight has evolved spectacularly over the last decades. More and more companies are applying strong change throughout the organization in order to continue to maximize value towards customers at the lowest costs. Today's organizations look for ways to realize economies of scale and synergies, and to do more with less.
Some IT services are considered key assets for the business strategy. They come with strong innovation and fast go-to-market times.
Other commodity IT services are supporting the primary business processes in ways that are comparable to other organizations. These benefit from well-documented best practices that enable maximum results for minimum overhead and unnecessary costs. Finding a shortcut to ideas and approaches that have proven their value and that work, can help management reach their goals. For organizations that have reached a sufficient maturity level to keep services running in an effective way, focus shifts to increasing the efficiency. Today, ITIL is not generally perceived as the place to look for techniques on how to keep systems and services running in the most optimum way with, for instance, a 50% budget cut. It is associated to defending a particular view on delivering high quality rather than dealing with proven ways to cut costs to a minimum to achieve such quality.
Some traditional ITIL implementations have suffered from a perception of being very expensive and leading to a rigid organization model with lots of overhead. Some implementation projects have consumed consultancy and training budgets for months or years. Implementing heavy tools and team structures increases direct project and staffing costs. The creation of additional horizontal management functions adds layers of overhead in addition to the existing line management. Some improvements suggested or imposed by ITIL implementation teams have led to opposition from users and IT staff. Changes are sometimes perceived as a step towards heavy administrative overhead, loss of time and productivity and a shift away from the proven way to get things done in a particular context. This has led to potential perceptions that a rigid implementation of ITIL principles brings competitive disadvantage to the organization rather than a competitive advantage.
In short, implementing ITIL based practices comes with the challenge of proving these changes are indeed improvements compared to alternative approaches. Yet, the ITIL books are written as guidelines on how things "should" be done based on anonymous so-called "best practices". The entire concept of "best practices" is based on the idea that there are "good" ways of working that have proven their value across organizations. The specific organizations where such practices are known to have had measurable positive effects, are not referred to in the books. No real-life or verifiable cases are included in the books. Almost no references to scientific literature are included either. The reader is invited to make a personal judgment whether that what is written, indeed makes sense for a particular situation. That makes the very nature of these publications subject to perceptions of being an expression of a somewhat subjective statement from a well- balanced yet invisible group of authors.
Some statements are founded in a claim that working that way reduces costs or improves efficiency. Most of the processes and other approaches proposed by ITIL come with a high change and implementation cost, compared to the promise of earning back those investments from the supposed improvements that come from it. In that respect, implementing various structures is sold as a step towards improving operational efficiency in the end. But is this true? There are very little exhaustive studies, real-life evidence, case studies and/or examples of calculations available to the general public that can sustain each thesis. Additional proper references and openness to check the validity of various statements, could help the reader to assess or to validate which parts are backed in which way. Clearly, this is not an easy endeavor for any broad framework.
In addition, this makes it even more difficult to translate the various principles to the real-life work floor, as a failed implementation may be related to either a limitation in the implementation approach or an intrinsic limitation in framework being applied. Stronger scientific foundations would make ITIL even more scalable towards evolving with new insights that are becoming available and that have become available over the years since ITIL gained popularity on its early versions. The ultimate powerful framework for the future would come with a method for measuring and validating what works and what does not work, and a framework for sharing cases that support or contradict hypotheses on "best practices" for running IT support organizations.