An Interview with Peter Hepworth, CEO at AXELOS

In the run up to the official go live of the joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Capita in January 2014, AXELOS CEO Peter Hepworth and team have been busy attending conferences and workshops gaining community feedback to help shape and guide the future of ITIL.

Ahead of itSMF Estonia on the 11th December I chatted to Peter about what AXELOS have planned for 2014 and how you can get involved.

Peter will be presenting at itSMF Estonia on the 11th of December
Peter is looking forward to presenting at itSMF Estonia in December

Your 12-month strategy roadmap has just been announced. Is there anything that you personally are particularly excited about?

Having a clear roadmap is a very exciting prospect.  It’s hugely important to us to progress ITIL in the right direction and so the debate and improvement ideas that have been put forward by the community have been listened to very carefully.

The good news is that what we’ve been hearing from the workshops has validated for us that we are on the right course.

When will the Axelos website be up and running?

Official go live is 1st January 2014 which is when the initial website will go live.  We will developing a full service portal during 2014.

How do you feel about ITIL Foundation being compared to the driving test: You don’t learn to drive to pass your test, you pass your test to learn to drive and then forget most of what your driving instructor taught you as soon as you leave the test centre?

The ongoing success of ITIL would suggest that many companies find a way to make the framework fit very well into their company and keep it relevant.  I hope that in the future more companies and practitioners will be willing to share their experiences with others so that the wider community can learn from these successes.

ITIL is big here in the UK but there have been comments by practitioners in other countries who seem bemused by all the fuss over something that barely reaches their radar ordinarily.  What, if any, plans do you have to increase the reach of ITIL?

I am attending conferences in the USA, Japan, Australia and Germany, and obviously Estonia in the next few weeks and we are currently translating ITIL into new languages.  As well as translating we are also concentrating on making the content more culturally relevant and localised however ITIL is already very strong in many territories.

The ITIL Foundation app was recently released on iTunes, are there any plans to extend the platforms it is available on?

Yes. At the moment we are in test and learn mode and then we will start thinking about extending to Android and Windows devices and other translations.  The feedback we have received so far has been very positive and we’d like to thank everyone that has been involved in testing.

What are you most looking forward to at itSMF Estonia?

As with the other conferences I have attended the bit I look forward to the most is the debate and improvement ideas that come direct from the community.

To find out more about the itSMF Estonia Conference visit its website.

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A vision for ITIL

examSince the UK Government transferred ITIL (and the rest of their best management practice portfolio) to AXELOS there have been lots of suggestions about what they should change. I’ve been involved in discussions about the future of ITIL with many people, face-to-face and in social media, and there is clearly a lot of passion as well as many creative ideas. This article is my contribution to the ongoing debate.

Three is the magic number

When I think about ITIL, I think of three distinct things, and it is really important to distinguish these, and to make sure we plan what is needed for each of them.

  1. A body of knowledge that can be used by IT organizations to help them create value for their customers. This body of knowledge is available in the form of five core publications, plus a number of complementary publications, but I think of knowledge as something that lives in people, that they can use to do something useful. In this sense, ITIL really is owned by the huge community of service management practitioners who use it to inform decisions about how they will plan, build and run IT services.
  2. A collection of training courses that people attend to develop their knowledge, understanding and competence. These courses are based on the ITIL publications, and often lead to certification, but they are distinct from both of those. The purpose of the training should be to help people develop knowledge, understanding and competence that they can use to help them improve how they manage IT services to create value for their organizations or customers.
  3. A set of exams that are used to certify that people satisfy the requirements of specific syllabuses. These exams are used to demonstrate that people have knowledge of ITIL when applying for jobs or tendering for contracting opportunities.

One mistake I have seen in many discussions is to confuse two of these things. If we don’t look at the requirements for each of them separately then we will never plan well, but if we plan them each independently that won’t work either!

Here is what I would like to see in each area.

Body of Knowledge

The body of knowledge has a number of problems which should be addressed in a future release.

  • It needs to adapt to a rapidly changing world. It doesn’t offer sufficient guidance in areas such as Supplier Integration and Management (SIAM), integration across the service lifecycle (ITIL service design has virtually nothing about application development for example), management of complex virtual and cloud environments, and many other areas. It would be great if ITIL could adopt ideas such as Rob England’s Standard+Case for example.
  • Even though the 2011 edition fixed many inconsistencies, there are still some contradictions between how terms are used in the different publications and how inputs, outputs and interfaces are defined.
  • The books are very long, and somewhat repetitive. It is a huge challenge for most people to actually read them!

The ITIL body of knowledge also has a number of great features which I would hate to lose. Probably the best feature of ITIL is that it is NOT a standard, it is a narrative. It tells stories and provides examples of how other organizations have done things that can be copied. Any future development of ITIL must retain this narrative approach.

I think we could resolve the issues with the ITIL body of knowledge by defining a service management architecture. This could be done at a fairly high level and would allow us to simultaneously define a lifecycle, and processes, and many other views and ways of thinking about service management.

The architecture could show how the bits fit together without providing excessive detail of how each part works. We could then charter authors to write narrative that fits within the architecture. This would retain the narrative approach that ITIL does so well but put it within a more formal structure which would improve consistency.

It would also allow for different narratives that could even contradict each other, that fit within the same architecture. For example there might be different descriptions of incident management for use in a complex multi-supplier environment and an in-house IT department.

I don’t think we should be in too much of a hurry to create a new version of ITIL, it’s more important to get this stuff right than to get it fast, but I would love to see AXELOS working towards this vision of a properly architected approach to IT service management, especially if they can adopt the ideas I have previously suggested in ITSM Knowledge Repository – proposal for ITIL owners to ensure that we get input from the widest possible community of ITSM practitioners.

Training Courses

I see many different problems with ITIL training courses:

  • In my opinion they are too focused on the exams rather than on helping people to develop knowledge, understanding and competence. There are some very good training providers, but price pressure in the market drives many of them towards lower cost, shorter, exam-focussed courses.
  • People often leave the courses with a complete misunderstanding of what ITIL is, and how it could be used to help create value for their customers.
  • Due to the above issues, many people think that ITIL is a rigid framework of bureaucratic processes, this leads to some very poor practices that don’t provide value to anyone.
  • Very large numbers of people attend ITIL Foundation, which is often simply an exercise in cramming facts. There is a lot of material to learn in a fairly short time, and only a very talented trainer can motivate people to really care about creating value for customers while communicating this amount of information in the time available.
  • Almost all of the courses focus on ITIL exam syllabuses. These may not be appropriate for everybody in the organization, and many people would be better off with more focused training that teaches them how the things they do contribute value and how they could improve their practices.

There are a number of things that could be done to improve ITIL training. I would like to see more training organizations provide courses that focus on how ITIL can be used to create value, rather than on fact-cramming. I love the ITSM simulations created by G2G3 (and other organizations), and I am very encouraged that Capita (the majority owner of AXELOS) now also own G2G3.

I think the main thing that is needed to improve ITIL training is to somehow separate it from the exam system. We could do with some really good marketing of non-examined training courses that help practitioners develop the knowledge, understanding and competence that they need to create value for their customers.

Exams

I don’t think the ITIL exams  should be changed in the short term. It will take a long time to create a new version of ITIL, especially if AXELOS follow the suggestions I have made above, and I think that making significant changes to the exam system before there is a new version of ITIL would create significant problems for the market. It would take more than a year to create a new exam system, and training organizations would then have to create new courses.

There would be confusion over the value of the retired exams; training organizations would incur a huge expense to create new courses for the same expected revenue; and if there is an expectation of a new version of ITIL in 3 to 5 years then the ITIL exam market may stall completely. These issues are amplified by the need to release exams and training courses in many languages to support the worldwide community.

In parallel with work to create a new version of ITIL, I think that AXELOS should work with all the stakeholders in the exam system to understand what is working well and what could be improved. The first step of this should be to identify the correct stakeholders. We talk to exam institutes and training organizations, but spend far too little time trying to understand the needs of the organizations that use ITIL. AXELOS should talk to a wide range of IT organizations, IT recruiters, outsourcers and other users of IT service management about what they want from an exam system.

In summary

I think we should be working towards releasing a new version of ITIL, based on a formal architecture, in 3 to 4 years, and I think we should create a new exam system at the same time. Meanwhile we should help create more value in the short term by creating more innovative training courses that are not solely focused on the exams.

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Axelos: Capita and ITIL joint venture lift lid on new brand

AXELOSThe new owners of ITIL and Prince2, a joint venture between the outsourcing firm Capita and the UK Cabinet Office, have today lifted the lid on their new brand – Axelos.

Being an uncultivated simpleton, I thought Axelos sounded like a nondescript logistics company or no-frills airline with a brand uncomfortably close to ITSM tool vendor ‘Axios’.

Luckily, we can refer to our resident ITSM philosophy buff Barclay Rae for a considerably more cultured opinion:

Axelos stems from the Greek-French philosopher Kostas Axelos, a philosopher who ‘United old and new with games and openness’.

Perhaps a sign that G2G3 was not an opportunistic purchase but part of a serious attempt by Capita to modernise the frameworks via game mechanics and simulation.

In other related news:

  • G2G3 have been acquired by Capita but are not part of the JV Axelos.
  • I’m curious to know how itSMF, who have historically positioned themselves as an ‘ITIL User Group‘, fit within the new venture. Today’s bulletin from itSMF UK shared no details.
  • G2G3 have appointed Ian Clayton and Kenneth Gonzalez to ‘Strengthen the Americas team

Top Banana

Axelos CEO Peter Hepworth
Axelos CEO Peter Hepworth

Axelos will be led by CEO Peter Hepworth.

Peter said:

‘Today is the first major milestone as we build towards becoming fully operational in January 2014. Over the next few months we will be in listening mode, working alongside product users, trainers and examiners to gather together their invaluable expertise. With thoughtful investment and innovative learning techniques, we are looking forward to developing this unique suite of management tools.”

The JV team should be congratulated for getting out there and engaging with the industry. Although I suspect practitioners and training organizations will soon grow impatient with ‘Listening’ and want to hear a lot more ‘Action’.

Watch this space:

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

GBU

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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