The IT Assembly Line: ITIL Wrecked The Business

Okay, I’ll admit I’m being a bit provocative here but I essentially stand by my statement. We geeks and nerds are now shackled, muzzled and managed. The other thing I should explain is just what ITIL is, for those who may not know. ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library which originated in the UK. It is essentially a series of books describing best practices for Information Technology (IT). (There’s a lot more to it than that for more reading check out this Wiki page). What it means is the taming of the IT business, its domestication, if you will. Every part of IT becomes a process; tested, checked, signed off and scheduled. Gone are the days of, ‘I’ll just reboot this server and users will just have to understand’ (*Really* gone are the days of the Bastard Operator From Hell). I understand that this needed to happen for IT to move forward and take its place in the corporate world alongside age-old disciplines like engineering and accounting but gosh darn it they’ve taken all the fun out it!

For those of us who came into the business from the wild and woolly world of PCs it is, in a word, boring. We’ve gone from performing tasks from end-to-end to single, highly-defined, highly controlled, tasks and specialties. For example, in the past, I have unboxed servers and even done some assembly of components, installed the Operating System, set up the security and file systems, created backups, configured the networking, added external storage, etc. Each of these steps is now a specialty often performed by different people or even different departments, under change-managed conditions. in short one doesn’t touch a mouse or keyboard unless it is an approved, scheduled change.

The analogy I draw is that of the automobile business from the turn of the last century. Originally, trained craftsmen (machinists, sheet metal smiths, coach-builders, etc.) worked as a small team to build a single car from the ground up and create a beautifully crafted, and very expensive, automobile. Along comes Henry Ford and soon we have low-skilled workers, each performing a single operation, to build cars, cheaply, on an assembly line.

That’s where IT is going and indeed has already gone. The other effect ITIL has had is on the make-up of IT staff. In the recent past IT was comprised almost exclusively of technical or semi-technical people, including management. In other words your manager could probably do your job because they probably used to do something very like it. Now we have management types that are strictly BAs and staff who are in ‘process’ positions that, beyond email, know little about the underlying technology. It feels like an invasion, like the preppies taking over the chess club in high school. It was the last refuge of the nerd, a place where we could be ourselves and work alongside (and be managed by) like minded individuals.

So what’s a geek to do? Quit? Go work for a technical consulting firm? Rant about it in a blog? For the moment I have chosen the third option but down the road? Who knows maybe it’s time to find another career. I hear mobile platforms are pretty cutting edge…


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