Privitisation of ITIL?

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Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

I feel a need to comment, somewhat tardily, on April’s innovative joint venture involving the UK Government and Capita, which will exploit the government’s Best Management Practice IP (basically, the PRINCE2® project management and ITIL® IT services standards) in the interests of the UK taxpayer. According to Inside Government CAB 044-13“it is expected to boost returns for taxpayers by £500 million over 10 years, and drive growth through exports projected to be worth £600 million over the period”. Which sounds good, except that the potential value of what Best Practice could deliver to UK plc might well exceed the millions you might get just from selling it. And, a web search on other Capita ventures isn’t entirely reassuring.

One reason I haven’t commented earlier is that I’ve been a bit distracted from ITIL recently and I’m really not sure what this will actually mean in practice. Perhaps ITIL will take off worldwide – or perhaps it will become to be seen as just another commercial “methodology” cash cow. Perhaps, as a writer, I’ll never mention ITIL again, in case some “brand management” lawyer comes after me for royalties in ITIL terms such as “Configuration Management”. Surely not, that term is in common use, but Capita has to make that £500 million somewhere… I feel a bit like Zhou Enlai when asked about the impact of the French Revolution: “it’s too early to tell” (although it appears that Zhou may have thought he was actually talking about the 1968 Paris riots).

The real issue, for me, is that I want everyone to use Best Management Practice. In the past, I’ve suggested that ITIL, in particular, should be given away free, so as to make it available to everyone in UK plc – but with this new commercial model, will ITIL training and expertise only be available, in practice, to big established firms that can afford it?

We are promised  commercial investment which will extend the global reach of PRINCE2 and ITIL and enable further development of both products. But isn’t it also possible that commercial development will concentrate on the cosmetics of training courses and similar cash generators (Paul Pindar, chief executive of Capita plc, talks about “digitising services and introducing experiential learning methods such as gaming and simulation”) at the expense of cutting-edge innovation in ITIL itself? I get the impression that quite a lot of the contributions to ITIL (I know people who contribute) are largely altruistic, from volunteeers – will there be the same incentive to contribute to a commmercial organisation?

I really do hope that this joint venture is good news for ITIL, specifically – because I think there is a lot about ITIL and managing business automation as service delivery that could be exploited, with common sense, well outside of the “traditional” ITIL community. I am just a little bit concerned that I won’t be able to explore any of that in future unless I become an accredited ITIL guru at great expense and pass my writing past a Capita censor. in case it damages the lucrative ITIL “brand”. I do hope I’m wrong, but I’m sure I won’t be the only analyst with concerns about this new venture (see Stephen Mann of Forrester, writing in ZDNet here, for example).

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