The Real Niel: ITIL versus MOF

Niel Nickolaisen, Contributor
Rating: -4.00- (out of 5)

/(Editor's note: CIO Niel Nickolaisen's popular column that ran in / CIO
Decisions Magazine /now appears monthly on and
distributed via e-newsletters. Nickolaisen's last published column on
the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
was one of his best, and he continues his ITIL reality report in his
online debut.)/

Niel Nickolaisen
Niel Nickolaisen

I love ITIL … I just don't use it anymore.

Please let me explain. I have spent much of my IT career in turnaround
assignments: Someone decides that IT needs to be "fixed" -- and I'm the
fixer. This is grueling work. I often need to repair the IT/business
relationship while improving methods and practices, all while keeping
the wheels moving. The net result of this is that I am a very
high-mileage IT practitioner.

In my first turnaround role, I looked for but could not find some type
of standard I could use as a set of ready-to-use best practices. I toyed
with the Capability Maturity Model, but it did not help me much with
processes, tools and methods. I explored CoBIT, but its focus was (and
is) too narrow. I needed something that would describe how I should
deliver IT products and services to my business customers, something
that covered the range from governance to implementation to maintenance
to enhancement.

In short, I needed something that gave me a shortcut for running a
reliable, credible IT organization.

As that assignment ended and the next IT turnaround started, a friend
told me about ITIL version 1. I did my own research and liked what I
found. ITIL, unlike other IT standards, was put together by IT
practitioners: people who had run an enterprise IT organization and knew
how to deliver high-quality information and technology products and
services. These practitioners had, in ITIL, assembled a set of best
practices I could use as my base line. I obtained the standard and
immersed myself in the wonders of ITIL.

*More on ITIL*
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Hot IT trends for 2008

During this second IT turnaround, ITIL was my primary source for process
and method information. When we realized we needed to improve our
production change process, we implemented the ITIL model for change
management. Rather than invent our own approach to service level
management, we adopted the ITIL model. ITIL and I did a mind-meld. I
viewed the world from the perspective of service management.

Then ITIL released version 2. Version 2 still had great stuff, but now
the inherent simplicity that attracted me to ITIL was being lost in
additional complexity. The standard started to bifurcate into exceptions
that I intentionally wanted to avoid. My ITIL honeymoon was over.

I still wanted to use a recognized standard that I could give my IT
staff members as a reference (at a minimum, so they didn't think that I
had invented what I claimed to be best practices). But now ITIL was
tending towards complexity.

I was explaining my predicament to a fellow CIO. He pulled me aside,
looked around to make sure no one was listening, and whispered, "Look at
MOF." I glanced over his shoulder, thinking he was making fun of someone
in the room. Seeing no one else, I asked, "Look at what?"

He answered: "The Microsoft Operations Framework
<>: MOF. I call it
ITIL-lite. Same idea of a set of best practices but without the
increasing complexity of ITIL. You can get a copy at the Microsoft Web

I thanked him but remained skeptical. It was hard for me to imagine
Microsoft being so altruistic as to put together a set of
practitioner-based best practices. A couple of days later, my curiosity
overcame my skepticism. I went to and typed
/Operations Framework/ in the search box.

*I was explaining my predicament to a fellow CIO. He pulled me aside,
looked around to make sure no one was listening, and whispered, 'Look at

What did I find? The standard I now use in place of ITIL. It has all of
the good attributes of ITIL but without the baggage. Here are some examples:

# MOF is free, whereas with ITIL I have to buy a set of books (in British
pounds, no less).
# MOF has retained the simplicity that first attracted me to ITIL, whereas
the glossary of terms in the recently released ITIL
Version 3 -- just the glossary -- is 58 pages long.
# Just like ITIL, I can reference MOF when I need to convince someone that
my practices are standards-based. For example, during our first year of
compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, our external auditors required
that our program-change processes be based on a known standard. I went
to the Microsoft Web site, downloaded the pages on change management (a
total of 26 pages), highlighted the sections that linked to our process
and delivered them to the auditors. Not only did it shut them up, but I
also figure it saved me quite a few hours of expensive auditor time
because they had to read only a few pages instead of an ITIL volume.

Please don't get the wrong impression. I still favor the idea behind
ITIL but find that, in practice, I need something that's more digestible
and can be more easily explained to my staff and outsiders. For now, MOF
gives me just that.

/Niel Nickolaisen is CIO and vice president of strategic planning at
Headwaters Inc. in South Jordan, Utah. Read Nickolaisen's past columns,
including his first ITIL column
how he negotiated a telephone bill
tips on good management through performance reviews
and more. Next up, he delivers his own model on how to simplify ERP
selection and implementation projects. Write to him at <>./

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