Capita gets ITIL – but will people finally 'get' ITIL?

Forrester’s Stephen Mann shares his observations on today's ITIL/Capita announcement.
Written by Forrester Research, Contributor

It's not often that I get to write about breaking news in the IT service management (ITSM) world but this definitely is here.

Wednesday evening at the Service Desk and IT Support Show, the main topic of discussion was about the rumor of Capita winning the "ITIL auction." 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 startedcommon adoption mistakeshow ITIL needs to change, to that "We need to talk about ITIL." James Finister's and Rob England's blogs (www.coreitsm.com and http://www.itskeptic.org/) are both great sources of opinions and advice.

One important item 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. 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 to help IT organizations deliver better IT services to internal or external customers. Rather, it is the proverbial cash cow which 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?

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