Big Shifts in ITSM Land

Last week, the UK Government sold its controlling stake in ITIL to Capita.

Why is that significant?

ITIL is the library of documents that IT organizations around the world refer to for the framework of recommended processes and activities to help an IT department operate in a “customer” and “service” centric fashion. It’s the set of books that you refer to in order to do IT Service Management. It is not definitive, it is not perfect, and no organization ever implements everything that is described. But we take what we need from it to make IT better.

It’s a big body of work, and it supports a massive global community of consultants, analysts, trainers, documenters, auditors, and vendors. Everyone likes to criticize it, but it’s the only good established and proven set of guidelines that we’ve got.

Strangely—and I’m speaking as a Brit—ITIL was authored originally from UK Government initiatives, and has to this point been perceived as ‘owned’ by the UK Government. It started in Public Sector and is bourne from process, procedure, and methodical working.  It’s a big slow dog with a whole ecosystem on its back. But it is referenced and followed worldwide. In Feburary 2013 alone, over 20,000 individuals set ITIL foundation exams worldwide.

Now Capita is a private company. They provide BPM and Support Service solutions to large corporations. They employ 52,000 people in the UK, Europe, South Africa and India. They are the type of organization that helps combine multiple local government operations into one, offer managed service solutions including outsourcing, and build big-scale integrated professional services solutions for massive business. They bid for government tenders to make big changes. At times I’m sure their name has been connected one with embarrassing IT/government project failure or another. I’m not certain, I’ve not checked but they are the type of business you’d hear mentioned in the computer press on that sort of story.

So why was it sold? To save government money and allow them to focus some resources elsewhere. Times are tough. It is undoubtedly a viable earner, and cost Capita £10M upfront with a further £9.4M for each of the next three years.

Does this matter. Will the sale affect you? Should you care?

Yes, you should.

ITIL processes to a small or large extent are increasingly online. Datacenters, cloud services, smartphone app, utilities billing system, broadband, media, and manufacturing enterprise and countless government services are online. They affect our lives all day every day. The organizations that provide your IT life increasingly use ITIL concepts. ITIL helps them improve their business and their products and services. Take ITIL away and of course the world keeps turning, but invest and enhance ITIL and everything benefits.

Who wins? I can’t be sure, but this is how I hope it pans out:

  • Capita. It’s their game to win now. If they execute with direction and focus like a private enterprise business should, they have the potential to push and grow the uptake of ITIL significantly. Success is greater growth, improvement, uptake. Like anything that comes out of public sector into the private one, there is often money to be made.
  • The ecosystem. Again, as long as Capita invest and promote ITIL more than has been done previously, it’s all good for those that do business based on the ongoing interest and uptake of ITIL.
  • The IT department and the ITIL practitioner. Suddenly ITIL becomes a more efficiently promoted and enhanced money-making engine, and all the money ultimately comes from their individual IT budgets.
  • The End User. They should benefit because hopefully more organizations will improve their IT service delivery so ultimately they become more productive.
  • The consumer and Joe Public. Let ITIL wither away and yes of course the world keeps turning, but invest and enhance ITIL and everything and everyone benefits.

Wow. That sounds really that good. But let’s take another more pessimistic look.

  • Capita get sit wrong. They turn an almost-open set of standards into locked down, expensive and hard to access. The UK government didn’t really do much, it relied on other bodies—and many of the businesses in the ecosystem—to push the success of ITIL. Capita see reduced incomes and end of life the whole project.
  • The ecosystem has enough. It gets hard to make profit and they look for new dogs. New frameworks and best practices arise all the time. A big shift could turn the whole ITSM industry into turmoil.
  • The IT Department. They just spent the last three years implementing ITIL Incident and Problem and Change Management processes. Now ITIL does ‘dark’ and everyone is talking about the next big thing. Clearly that silver bullet didn’t work.
  • The EndUser. “Huh? IT? you mean those guys on ‘the help desk’ and the ‘geeks’? We don’t use them anymore”.
  • At home. The world keeps turning. But just maybe it’s not quite as reliable and efficient and well managed and ultimately innovative as it could have been in the example above.

There are some reassuring signs, however that things are going in a positive direction. Capita has also purchased PRINCE2 from the UK Government. That’s another set of widely used guidelines and principles around Project Management. And they acquired the rather cool, innovative boutique ITIL simulation training specialists at G2G3. These guys know their stuff and think commercial, but for ITIL success.

The sale of ITIL may seem unimportant and very far away. I’m sure it’s not made the news in Dallas or Singapore. It’s not made much news in the UK. But just maybe we should keep our eyes on this story. It could affect everyone’s future.

Capita. The eyes of the ITSM world are on you. What are you going to do now?