When I attended my initial ITIL® trainings, (it was version 2 at that point) to some of the questions raised by the students (us), the trainer used to (often with a quirky smile) respond ‘It depends!’ – some, with follow-up explanations and others, without.

 I kept hearing the same phrase in answers from many other trainers, consultants, experts, authors and practitioners all along.  I felt some of them using that as a trump card to brush off difficult questions (and quite frankly made a mental note of the same tool for future use!). It is another thing that even the person(s) on the other end also started understanding the trick very soon.

On a serious note, ‘it depends’ is a genuine answer (or prelude to the answer) to many questions regarding ITIL® (or any frameworks similar). Examples:

  • Some “Evergreen” questions in LinkedIn groups and other forums such as: “is password reset an incident or service request”, “ Is Server reboot a change” etc etc…
  • “Which ITIL process should be implemented first? ” or “ which order the processes need to be implemented?”
  • “What categories should Incident tickets have” or “how many levels of priorities a ticket should have”?
  • “What details a Service catalogue should have”

And so on…

It depends…” is not THE answer to the above questions, but it is a good prelude (which sets the perspective right) to the answer, which SHOULD be followed up with a clear explanation on “what it depends on…” and more importantly “why…”. A right combination of these will make the answer the best.

The challenge is, because of the over-use of the phrase (often as a trick to brush aside difficult questions as I mentioned above), the person who asked the question makes an immediate mind-set that this person doesn’t know the answer, or unsure.

“It depends…” is a very useful portion of answering many of the training/consulting queries. How to make it a part of a genuine, complete answer without setting the other person off – is a larger factor of focus for the trainer/consultant.

I have been ridiculed many a time, the moment I use the phrase as a start of my answer. I often make it a half-funny reply to start with (with the quirky smile that I mentioned in the start) and then move into the more serious portions of the answer.  If you have the listener with you till then, it helps.

Now, how do I know which questions I should start with this pre-text and which one I should answer more definitely?

Well, it depends…