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Capita and ITIL: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

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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.

Screenshot_02_05_2013_22_11

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.

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Martin Thompson

Martin is owner and founder of the The ITAM Review, The ITSM Review and Tools Advisor Martin is also founder and Chair, Campaign for Clear Licensing. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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5 Responses to " Capita and ITIL: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly "

  1. David Ratcliffe says:

    Good analysis – very thoughtful.

  2. Great post Martin.

    The biggest fear I have, and I mentioned this on ITSMWP, is credentialing. ITIL’s success has not come from it’s brilliance as a framework, but it’s ecosystem of industry credibility. The training and certification and vendor tools evaluation are what have driven the commercial success of ITIL. When someone tells me they are ITIL foundation certified, I can have a more mature and direct conversation using terms like CI, RFC, SLA, RCA. When a vendor says their tool is “Pink Certified for x ITIL processes” we know that it at least has some vetted capability.

    No one can argue that ITIL certification has become commoditized. While I’m happy to see so many job postings show ITIL as a requirement, it infuriates me at all the self-study, pop-up training shops that can easily get you certified. It shouldn’t be easy.

    So as you noted in the post, Capita has built it’s success on government. FUMU, Peter principals, those who can’t do – teach, those who can’t do and can’t teach – work for government, jokes aside. Government is not the new economy or ecosystem. Credentials are only valid based on their comparative baseline and benchmark.

    Today for ITIL certifications this is very low. As you also noted in your post, the conflict of interest is very high. As Mark Kawaski also noted on the ITSMWP podcast, “Where is Capita” where and who is there voice in the ITSM community. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping tabs on ITSM players, at least in the US. I had never heard of them till the twitter storm blew up… still trying to figure out which twitter account to follow.

    Credability and credentials… those are my concerns. Let’s get that fixed and turn this into a positive opportunity.

    Oh, and let’s also open up the framework into a wiki that allows sub-branching for vertical best practices (sorry had to throw that in there.)

  3. AS says:

    Interesting to note the other Capita aquisitions in recent weeks: KnowledgePool, Blue Sky.

  4. John Groom says:

    I like the Good,Bad and Ugly labels (and the film wasn’t bad either). I wonder which label will fit best when Capita (wearing its Joint Venture hat) decides what to do with its newly acquired ITIL Copright? E.G. will licensing by others be easier/more difficult than it is currently under Crown ownership?

  5. KV says:

    What is the future for the ITIL ecosystem in your opinion? What Capita will change for ATOs in the near future?