So Capita Gets ITIL But Will People Finally “Get” ITIL?

It’s not often that I get to write about breaking news in the IT service management (ITSM) world but this definitely is it (I think the last time was this).

Well I say “breaking news,” many of us were talking about the rumor of Capita winning the “ITIL auction” on Wednesday evening while together at the Service Desk and IT Support Show. The odd thing is that it was probably the only time we were talking about ITIL, the ITSM best practice framework, outside of the sessions over the two days (other than some vendors who were still spouting that their tools are “ITIL-compliant”). But that is a topic for a later date.

If you want the “scoop” on the Capita announcement then please look at:

But if you want opinion please read on … infact the best opinions might be in the comments section ;)

ITIL in 2013

Many of us have written about ITIL from how to get started, common adoption mistakes, how ITIL needs to change, to that “We need to talk about ITIL.” James Finister’s and Rob England’s blogs ( and are both great sources of opinions and advice.

One thing that I mention in the latter of my blogs (and often speak about to both enterprise and vendor clients) is that, despite what people think of it from an adopter-success-perspective, ITIL is by far the most successful (in terms of brand awareness and adoption) ITSM framework, methodology, or standard and that I couldn’t see it losing that position as more people opt-in than opt-out of the ITIL club.

However, I was rather short-sighted not to consider the potential for fallout dependent on who won the ITIL auction.

My first observations on the ITIL/Capita announcement

If we start with the news items I link to above, other than one of them being written by someone who is not close enough to ITSM to write about it, it is unfortunate that both lead with something akin to “£500m boost for (UK) taxpayers expected from innovative joint venture deal to own and trade on Best Management Practice professional standards” (which is taken from the latter).

Unfortunately, we jump straight to the value of ITIL in this one statement. Not that it is a wonderful “tool” to be used (maybe with other “tools”) to help IT organizations deliver better IT (or IT services) to internal or external customers. But rather that is the proverbial cash cow that is set to be franticly milked for the benefit of UK citizens (as it also helps those that pay no tax if you think about it). While I would like to like this on a personal (read “selfish”)-level, it has to possibly be the worst advertisement for ITIL ever released and one that could even start to adversely affect Capita’s ability to get a return on investment before they even start.

The real knock-on IMO is that it could and probably will hurt the ability for ITIL to evolve into the support mechanism the industry really needs – that is better not more content.

What it means (as my opinions begin to form)

This “arrangement” offers up a number of questions on a number of levels. Let’s start with the ITIL-support ecosystem:

  • Will those who have previously invested so much of their time into creating and enhancing ITIL (such as Stuart Rance of HP and David Cannon of HP, then BMC, and now Forrester) still volunteer their services to bring ITIL up to speed with modern IT service delivery needs?
  • Will ITIL now be written by Capita? Will the writers and key advocates be poached by Capita or will they “make-do”? It offers an interesting set of people dynamics.
  • Will other IT service providers still want to use something that “advertises” their competitors?
  • I’m not an analyst that follows Capita but I do see “client horror stories” in the press. Unfortunately mud sticks so how will ITIL’s already-suspect reputation be affected?

From an ITIL focus and content perspective:

  • Capita is close to the real challenges of those working in IT. It would be wrong for me not to link it to the fact that I believe that the future of ITSM and IT service delivery is in the hands of some, but definitely not all, ITSM software and service providers. They have the experiences but just as importantly the customer touch points to make a real difference.
  • This break of the cycle allows for a refocusing of vision and at a more practical level a reconsideration of what is needed. But will the commercial realities of ROI and payback-period overrule the need for change as we just see more intense selling of the same old stuff? I might be a cynic but I don’t see anything changing until the cash registers have been filled. Capita please prove me wrong and I will send you a photo of me eating humble pie.
  • Some also take an “it ain’t broke so why fix it” perspective with ITIL. Unfortunately, these comments are often drowned out by the sound of coins being counted (told you I am cynical).

From an “alternatives” perspective:

  • It’s great news and an opportunity for the creators of ISO 20000, COBIT, USMBOK, etc. (some mentioned here). Although it is wrong for me to call them alternatives, they are complementary options, many will see them as alternatives if ITIL loses face (read “reputation”).

From an enterprise perspective:

  • Will ITIL’s customers really care that it has changed hands? IMO – no.
  • Those that are overly obsessed with ITIL will continue to be so.
  • Those that can’t see that they missed a great opportunity to deliver better IT services to their customers will continue to do so.
  • And those that have used just enough ITIL to make a real difference will most likely continue to push forward using ITIL and other means … but most importantly they will use common sense and a lens that looks at the bigger “IT service consumption rather than IT creation” picture to help ensure they succeed.

I’m sure there are many more things that need to be considered (this as usual is a quick brain dump) and I encourage you to throw them in here.

Jack Nicholson wasn’t wrong when dressed as the Joker he pronounced that “This town needs an enema” but perhaps we ought to check the vital statistics of the patient first before administering treatment. But letting the patient continue with its symptoms untreated is perhaps the cruellest treatment of all?

Follow-up blog:


The Value of ITIL

The real impact of this news will I'm sure take some time to be understood. I have mixed feelings about it and I'll probably blog about it myself later today, but the central point for me is the concept of value.

If this helps business units and their customers get more value of IT then it is, in the words of "1066 and all that" a GOOD THING. If it doesn't it isn't. I don't care about the financial impact of the UK taxpayer, except in the same selfish way as Stephen, and I don't care what it does to the ghost of ITIL past , or the impact it has tool and training vendors - although I do have fears for them.

I also retain the right to be both cynical and skeptical about whether this is the right way forward until it is proven otherwise.

The real killer for me ...

... was that the lead text focused on saving the UK money. Not a great selling pitch for a nigh-on globally-accepted "tool" for helping struggling IT organization get better at meeting business needs. Seemed to miss the real point of Capita winning ITIL - that helping organizations get better at IT service delivery.

BUT maybe that isn't news and our enormous tax burden is? Certainly not news for 99% of the world IMO though.

Saving for UK PLC

Do Forrestor have any feel for current total UK public sector spending on ITIL books, training, consultancy, projects and tools?

Not personally ...

... I will enquire/inquire internally though.

Big Boys Rules

Stephen, in response to your off-line prompting I'll add in some further comments.

I operate in a very commercial environment. This deal means ITIL becomes an openly commercial offering and a proprietary solution. That, in itself, is neither a good or a bad thing.

What it does do is alter the model for how ITIL and peripheral offerings are developed, sold and perceived.

If UK Gov have put really strong governance in place around the deal then perhaps a lot of things will carry on as before and ITIL will remain, in spirit, a product of the wider ITSM community that the authors contribute to for the good of the ITSM community. And yes I know the authors get paid, but that is for their time rather than the value of their IP.

But in practice a very different model could also deliver value with Capita attracting capability in house to develop ITIL internally with a stronger overriding vision and a focus on those elements with commercial value. But in that case ITIL becomes just one more stall in the market place. Vendors like my own company, TCS, are big boys, and we know the rules of the market, including when to compete and when to co-operate. My fear is that not everyone impacted does.

At some point I would like to think through the "growth" in ITIL. More products labelled ITIL compliant, more sausages squeezed out of the training machine and more companies "implementing ITIL" isn't the same as ITIL customers being more successful . That, I'll state again, is my bottom line.

Is ITIL now simpler or more complex? Faster or slower? ...

... and does it matter?

I agree with Stuart Rance's tweet that we should assume that things will get better but, and it is a big but, so much depends on Capita and anyone else involved seeing the truth on ITIL adoption rather than some of the blinkered views we have seen from the "establishment" to date. It can work, it does work for many organizations BUT the failures or sub-optimal situations are somewhat overlooked. The speed of change is also important - and this isn't rushing into new fads but rather helping people deal with the issues of today while planning for future change.

The competitor situation is an interesting one that I'd like to think we can rise above as individuals but I totally agree that might not be the corporate position.

Final point - shamelessly stolen from a Chris Matchett tweet this morning - it will be interesting how a global service provider now positions the pros and cons of IT outsourcing in a body of best practice.

Wish List

What I believe we can seriously contribute as an ITSM community at this time is a shopping list of what ITIL, in the wider sense, should look like for real world success, and then leave Capita to develop it their own way.

And by real world I mean those people using it successfully in the real world, or pushing the boundaries into newish areas such as non-production, devops, agile and SIAM in actual engagements, not academic debates.

Lets see a real focus on those aspects of ITIL that are actually useful to specific audiences and can be shown to deliver benefit

Time to be a true customer of ITIL

The announcement and its unconscious focus was little surprise to me given the track record and the common financial thread wending its way through the winner's enclosure. I wish the winners and losers well in what I now hope will be a new world for all - an ITSM world where ITIL is a major contributor.

This is a win for the ITSM community as it properly positions ITIL as exactly what it has always been, an important element. Now perhaps we can be more inclusive in our collective ITSM thinking and promote the once heretic concept service management was something quite different, and from a surprising source.

My experience as a member of a major software company's acquisition team is that we might move through the four periods of the big 'A" (notice the silent words in ():

1) Nothing will change (stabilize, stop scaring stakeholders)
2) We welcome all ideas on how to improve (vacuum know-how, excite stakeholders)
3) Great new things coming (new revenue generating roadmap)
4) Transition (drain swamp of naysayers, tighten misuse of brand, raise bar, increase channels to market - digital and direct)

This is all good. I'm hugely optimistic about ITSM, more so today than yesterday.

I'm optimistic too ...

... It's a great opportunity for investment and change, I just need to be convinced the appetite is there.

The press release and coverage was all about how much money will be made rather than how we can better help IT organizations help customers (internal or external). Seemed wrong.

Inside out - outside in

As one of the many contributors to ITIL's evolution, I've had the benefit of a fairly broad vision, from the inside and outside of what is often called the ITIL machine.

I'm a strong advocate of being 'real' about what ITIL is and isn't. Over two decades, I've seen that the confusion about this very point still pervades.

I believe a reason for this is the lack of effective marketing from the inside, and the mis-marketing from the outside, Each with its own motivations, well intentioned or not.

For me there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what the joint venture will bring, but if it accomplishes some much needed consistent, clear and well targeted marketing about ITIL's positioning as a member of a broad, diverse and very good set of practices, frameworks, methods, etc., this would be a good thing.

In all my years as an ITSM professional, I've yet to encounter a single client for whom, ITIL's status as proprietary or not mattered an iota. For my clients, the importance is in what it can help them achieve, not who owned it.

Surely we all can pontificate that its commercialization has endless implications, but it has always been a commercial product, just like ISO, COBIT, TOGAF, and so on.

To some degree, the public sector ownership of ITIL to date, has held back the opportunity for its growth and momentum, simply by virtue of it being a government entity, and the inherent lack of a commercial mindset or mandate.

In many ways, that has encumbered the organizations like TSO and APMG who have had to operate and manage a commercial product in a non-commercial atmosphere. The acquisition could change that game and make it easier to grow the market.

What won't change is that it is simply, as it always has been, one product among a range of them, that can make companies better at managing IT.

Hopefully Capita will have less "political" encumbrances than others in the past have, and be able to help ITIL mature and grow in step with the industry.

I'm committed to being a part of that and thinking positive about the possibilities for ITIL in the future.


I thought all the evidence, especially if you go by training numbers and new markets, was that ITIL was still growing remarkably well.

So the question is what specifically can the new JV organisation do that APMG and TSO couldn't in order to deliver the returns being used to justify the deal.