began to gain such popularity that the UK and the Netherlands each created their own ITIL certification program.

By the year 2000, the CCTA had been replaced by the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC), a new version of ITIL was nearing completion, and virtually everyone in western business and government were rapidly implementing ITIL. Everyone, that is, except the United States.

Coming to America

While the rest of the world began to term ITIL the de facto standard for IT service management, most people in the United States had never even heard of it. In general, American IT was still the golden goose that could do no wrong, despite oftentimes failing to produce any measurable results.

Rob Roy is an ITIL consultant and one of only a handful of Americans certified an ITIL "master." Until very recently, he said, companies and the government were extremely reluctant to force IT to produce.

"The IT department saved the world with Y2K," Roy said. "They did such a good job, people thought the whole thing was smoke and mirrors. Then in 2001, we had an economic downturn and business was looking for places to cut. For years IT had been the fat cow. Well, people started asking, 'What have you produced? What is a cost-benefit analysis?' IT couldn't answer -- so they started to get cut. So IT had to find ways of doing with less but producing more -- the same thing every other department has had to worry about."

Doing more with less -- the age-old paradox that is foisted upon business and government in times of famine. ITIL offers IT organizations a way to manage that paradox. In fact, ITIL can help IT departments do substantially more than most would believe, which is why, over the last three or four years, ITIL has started to catch on in the United States. However, the United States has a long way to go to catch up.

"I've been working with ITIL for about six years, which is about five and a half years longer than most folks," said Roy. "I took my foundation class in Quebec, and I was the only American in the class."

Roy said he thinks some good old-fashioned American pride played a part in ITIL's slow acceptance in the United States.

"I think it has taken so long to catch on here because we didn't invent it. It's been going full-guns in England for 10 years as in the Netherlands. Most of Europe, too. We're about the last holdout."

Others have provided more analytical reasons as to why ITIL and America are really just now meeting one another. Ken Hamilton, past president of itSMF USA and director of IT Service Management Global Education at HP, said that cultural differences might be to blame.

"Europe tends to be a qualitative environment," he explained. "Process improvement in terms of the quality of service delivered, these sorts of metrics were more popular in Europe -- whereas in the United States, cost savings, return on investment, hard-dollar savings were the primary drivers. In the United States, we needed to have large, visible organizations go through at least one iteration of a life cycle of ITIL process deployment to show it could be done successfully and there were quantitative returns on investments."

A number of companies, such as HP, IBM, Procter & Gamble and DHL are investing heavily in ITIL. At the same time, a number of government agencies are beginning their own ITIL experiments. From Oklahoma City at the local level to Virginia and Wisconsin at the state level, American government is finally starting to notice this surprisingly simple solution.

Reinventing the Wheel

Along with a timely conflux of

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.