Start your ITSM improvement journey now (with a little help from your friends at AXELOS)

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Yesterday, AXELOS launched a brand new competition aimed at helping IT professionals kick-start and/or revive their ITSM initiatives.

With the help of independent, industry experts, AXELOS will be providing entrants with a list of tasks, along with practical guidance on how to successfully complete them in order to start people out on their journey of ITSM improvement.

The purpose

AXELOS’s objective with this competition is to show how ITSM improvement initiatives can be agile, iterative, and business focused, and that CSI is an integral part of all processes and activities. There is no need for a huge 2-year-long project plan to kick things off – a few enthusiastic people with proper guidance can achieve a lot! The outcomes from this competition will serve as the basis for each participating organization to create their own prioritized list of improvements – a proper CSI register. The prizes that AXELOS has selected for the most impressive ITIL journeys will help to engage the whole organization at the next level, and to build the momentum.

The competition

The competition, otherwise known as the “ITIL Journey”, will be divided into three 2-week sprints, each of which will have a specific focus. In order to participate you will need to download the AXELOS foldable prism.

The sprint topics will be:

  • Sprint 1 – Listening and Engagement – May 12th – May 25th 2014
  • Sprint 2 – Quantifying and Reviewing – May 27th – June 8th 2014
  • Sprint 3 – Prioritizing and Planning – June 9th – June 22nd 2014

Each set of tasks for individual sprints focuses on the theme of the sprint and builds on the previous sprints. The tasks for each sprint will be revealed in the beginning of that sprint.

By the end of the competition, when all three sprints are completed, you will have a prioritized list of improvements that is based on actual data and business requirements, rather than just on hard-to-prove gut feeling. You will also have shown, by completing a few low hanging fruit improvement tasks, that the initiative does bring value – and this helps to build a momentum in your organization. All tasks from previous sprints will be available in an ordered ‘backlog’ – this way, you can include them in your sprints along the way.

The competition is not UK-only-based and you can take part from anywhere in the world. All you need to do to enter is submit a photo of your completed prism along with any documentation that you have created to AXELOS by 30th June 2014.

You don’t have to have been involved from the start to join in either. You can essentially even join in the third sprint, you will just complete less tasks. For maximum value to your organization and for the best chance to win the competition, we highly recommend that you start your ITIL Journey now (or at least as soon as possible).

The prize

The three best submissions will receive a voucher for a full-day in-house ITIL simulation game from one of the following Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs): G2G3, Gamingworks and Simagine.

In a nutshell

  • Find out how to engage with your customers and understand their needs
  • Review and evaluate your current processes and metrics
  • Identify quick wins to address first and get buy-in from stakeholders
  • Map your activities to value your customers expect
  • Make use of free-of-charge insights and guidance from industry experts
  • Win a full-day ITIL simulation for your organization

For more information about the ITIL Journey competition, including how to take part and submit please visit the website.

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BCS event review: An evening with Axelos

Greg
Gregory Bayliss-Hall

On the 12th September AXELOS (the new commercial joint venture between the UK Government and Capita) arranged an evening at the BCS offices in Covent Garden to discuss its plans for the future of ITIL, and the rest of the Best Practice Management portfolio, now that they’re the new custodians.

When I arrived, long before the presentation started, I couldn’t help notice a large crowd of people already there (I’m normally the first) – inside and outside the event rooms people where busy chatting, networking and enjoying the refreshments. The atmosphere was building – attendees were genuinely excited and concerned as to what AXELOS had planned.

AXELOS is a hot topic

It’s currently the hottest topic in the ITSM space – reflected when a week before the event the venue was fully booked. Luckily for us nobody was disappointed – BCS had the capacity to move the event to a larger room to accommodate a diverse audience that included ATO’s, consultants, penguins, ITSM tool vendors, sector analysts, and practitioners like myself to hear what Chris Barrett – Director and “opening batsman” for AXELOS had to say about the new joint venture.

AXELOS themselves are in their infancy and are still pulling together a management team and working towards full autonomy by 1st January 2014. The new joint venture will no longer be bound by government constraints, “the shackles are off”, which in my opinion can only be a good thing. Asked who keeps AXELOS on the straight and narrow – Chris replied “the community”.

The evening

Over the 90 minute session Chris walked through his slides giving the attendees an enthusiastic insight into the JV which was reciprocated by a lively audience who came armed with an arsenal of questions.

Quality, relevance and innovation were the themes running through the presentation and are clearly a strategic aim of the JV. The quality is there, but Chris is keen that AXELOS raise the bar, improving the framework and making it more relevant to specific groups such as practitioner’s and CIO’s.

This will come with ideas such as

  • Stronger links to its community and stakeholder groups with a more open and less isolated stance
  • Referencing areas that other frameworks do well that isn’t a key strength of ITIL and complimenting the ISO standards that ITIL helps to underpin
  • Different flavours of courses – refresher, advisory and tailor made training for an organisation could be offered as well as of off shelf learning
  • Internationally they’ll focus on areas that are more relevant to different regions, cultures translations and local nuances; these will be carefully thought through to grow the brand

Training

Training was a hot topic and as with any change people get anxious, some were hanging off each and every one of Chris’s words. He explained it isn’t about doing away with how things are done now – but exploring opportunities such as gamification and giving the end user more options.

The best training in my opinion still comes from having a trainer who has been there and has the experience (and scars) to convey the learning’s. Whether this is via slides, e-Learning or gamification doesn’t matter. It’s about how it feels and the choices that are the best for each individual.

It’s no secret that G2G3 was recently acquired by Capita (the bigger half of the JV) and naturally there will be some influence. Chris added that in his mind this adds to the quality and fuels the innovation, but stressed that it would not be mandatory, simply an added choice for ATO’s. Personally I can’t wait to try it!

Modulate ITIL?

An idea being bounced around is to modulate ITIL. Benefits of doing this would be not having to have a refresher every five years, keeping it progressively updated and relevant, improved interaction with MSP and Prince2 leading to the possibility of a common glossary, and learning the parts of ITIL that are relevant to you. For those in the audience that have been “doing” ITIL for a while, this approach has a sense of ITIL V2 about it.

The AXELOS plan and challenges

Short-term – Minimal disruption to the ecosystem

Medium-term – Continue relationship building with the various stakeholder groups and organisations such as The BCS, ITSMF UK and SDI

Long-term – Developing brand ITIL and ultimately achieving the goal of making ITIL a global framework truly recognised internationally, developing new Best Practice Management products and working with other frameworks.

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ITSM Penguin – a familiar face at AXELOS events

Final Thoughts

This is nothing short of an ambitious vision from AXELOS. Inevitably there will be difficult key decisions to be made and “not everybody will be pleased, but everybody will be listened to” – Aspects of ITIL and the Best Practice Management Portfolio need to be nurtured and invigorated and it’s reassuring to know that this is the direction AXELOS is taking.

Chris had a good innings and took a record breaking 49 questions from an empowered audience that evening and probably many more afterwards. I guess he may have come away from the BCS that night feeling like he scored his first century.

As always, if you have an opinion as to the future of ITIL, please respond to this blog or email AXELOS direct. You can also follow what’s happening by looking for their communications on Twitter or Google+

This article was contributed by Gregory Baylis-Hall, IT Service Management Analyst at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. Enthusiastically geeky about the Service Management schema – he enjoys working out how it all connects together. Follow him on Twitter.

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

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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.

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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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