The Cabinet Office has entered into a joint venture with the outsourcing firm Capita to develop the ‘Best Management Practice’ portfolio, which includes ITIL and Prince2.
For readers outside the UK the early announcements may benefit from some context.
The UK treasury is between a rock and a hard place financially so joint ventures that generate cash from government owned intellectual property, whilst allowing the government to hold (49%) of the coat tails of growth in the future is good publicity.
This explains why most announcements in the popular press or general IT press in the UK have focussed on the ‘cash generated for taxpayers’ angle rather than the implications for ITSM.
“The government expects to earn £500 million over ten years from the deal” Computerworld, 26th April.
Unsubstantiated rumours from SITS13 suggest that APM Group/TSO, Pearson and EXIN/Van Haren were the other companies bidding for the portfolio.
Forgetting where it all started?
I have been interested to see industry veterans and ITSM spokespeople alike bellyaching about the irrelevance of ITIL after the announcement. I find this short-sighted nonsense similar to those irate individuals who get frustrated behind learner drivers.
Is ITIL the ITSM gospel? No. But it is the starting point and development path for a huge amount of individuals in the industry who work in ITSM yet don’t necessarily associate themselves with the ITSM industry.
Is ITIL perfect? No. But everyone has to start somewhere and as a framework for unifying an industry and generally raising standards I would say, in the context of other IT disciplines over the last two decades, it is true success story.
So what does the future hold for ITIL under the stewardship of Capita?
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Capita – The Good
Capital Plc. is a FTSE 100 publicly listed company with 53,000 staff, which has shown good growth over the last five years despite a grim economic climate.
So it has exactly the right resources required to give the frameworks the attention they deserve. Equally, you could argue that Capita could easily write off the entire mess if it isn’t happy with it without batting an eyelid, but overall a well financed company on the up has to be better than a cash strapped government running the show.
A view echoed by Barclay Rae:
“We should view the investment opportunity as a possible means to further professionalise the approach and delivery of ITIL – moving away from the cottage industry to a proper business model. So hopefully this will mean a more professional and co-ordinated writing and editing approach for consistency, plus I hope e.g. we can see more clear business metrics and data that support the value derived from ITIL”
The UK government spun off the former defence research department (DERA) in 2001 in a similar fashion to form Qinetiq, which is now a FTSE 250 company, pocketing over £250m for the UK taxpayer on exit in 2008. So at first glance the model works if executed correctly.
Just before the announcement of the joint venture, Capita also acquired G2G3. This is a good sign according to Pink Elephant President David Ratcliffe:
“The timing of Capita’s acquisition of G2G3 – just days ahead of the announcement of the partnership with the Cabinet Office – looks to me like Capita may have their act together with a strategy for how to promote and deliver more valuable training in the ITSM field. I just hope I’ve read this correctly and am not setting myself up for a huge disappointment! (Fingers, toes and everything else crossable all crossed!)”
Mark R Sutherland of G2G3 is clearly pleased at the platform this provides his company:
“Capita’s strength, scale and global reach. As part of the Capita family, G2G3 now has access to resources that will help us strengthen and build upon our products and services and bring our latest innovations to life. We are clearly at a ‘tipping point’ with respect to our capabilities; the application of gaming dynamics and experiential learning across enterprise organizations is about to go mainstream – and we’ll be ready to make it happen.”
Mark also makes an interesting point regarding the ITSM industry as a whole:
“a chance to build a future for our industry which is based on community, collaboration and engagement.”
Stuart Rance with ‘Two speed ITIL’ and Stephen Mann with #Back2ITSM may perhaps now get some formal recognition. Is Capita listening? Let’s hope so.
Capita – The Bad.
So far so rosy?
Those outside the UK might not be familiar with the public image of Capita.
Capita does not have the strongest reputation. The satirical magazine Private Eye regular refers to ‘Crapita’ as an example of ‘failures and setbacks in the public sector’ and cynics will argue that Capita is an expert at winning tenders rather than delivering them (to be fair I hear this of all outsource companies).
Lost convicts, the CD with everyone’s inside leg measurements or accidently dropping the cat down the well – all archetypal Capita public bungles. Although you could argue that this goes with the territory of managing high profile public services (National census, criminal records, TV licensing, Major city call centre, health and safety executive etc.). As the saying goes: Where there’s muck there’s brass.
For an industry crying out for more collaboration and industry participation the last thing we need is a big faceless corporate. Especially, as Chris Evans points out, if they take an industry best practice framework and try to apply their own badge to it:
“When any large organisation is involved in something, they will exert a proportionate influence. Be it an alliance of countries/airlines/software companies, it is inevitable that they will want something out of the deal. My concern is that ITIL (specifically as it is my day job) which has always been ‘industry’ best practice, might slowly evolve into ‘CapITIL’ where the organisational thinking of the parent company controls the direction of the product. It is true that Capita as a services provider and outsourcer has a strong perspective on their market and that input will of course be welcome in future development but there is a risk that the model will lean towards their world and not the more holistic picture.”
Capita – The Ugly
Finally, it is worth considering the nature of Capita’s core business.
Capita is a Business Process Outsourcer. So Capita’s competitors might argue that a Burglar Alarm company just bought the Police Station (I’m sure there are more appropriate metaphors). The new joint venture will have a job on its hands to persuade the Accredited Training Organizations and others in the ITIL supply chain of the true vision and motives of the, yet to be named, joint venture company.
As Forrester Analyst Stephen Mann points out:
“Will other IT service providers still want to use something that “advertises” their competitors?”
As an eternal optimist I believe it’s a great move forward for the ITIL cult and ITSM industry as a whole. Exciting times.
For those with ITIL at the core of their day-to-day work – it might be worth considering the following over the next couple of months:
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” -Deepak Chopra.