ITIL, Prince2, Capita and the Cabinet Office - in the dark

Lots of people are asking what the IT Skeptic makes of the recent announcement of a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Capita to exploit the Best Practice Library. They're asking why I haven't made any comment yet. Two reasons: (1) I was off-grid for 10 days and (2) we haven't been given any information useful enough to draw many conclusions. Clearly the behaviour I call "Castle ITIL" will continue: you will be informed when they are good and ready to announce by decree, and until then the castle gates remain firmly shut. But I have been able to glean a few things...

Other commentary:
Ivor Macfarlane, ITIL author
Martin Thompson, ITSM Review
Stephen Mann, analyst
Ken Gonzales, a product manager's view
...and Ken again on why it hardly matters (I think)
Core ITSM fairy story
Ian Aitchison, LANDesk
David Ratcliffe, Pink Elephant
Barclay Rae

The announcement happened on April 26th but two weeks later we are none the wiser as to what it really means. All we have is speculation.

Much of that speculation centres around the boast that Capita are going to "boost" returns by "£500 million over ten years". Many see this as indicating the ITIL community are going to be screwed for more money. The announcement refers to how the JV will

" develop the products and break into new international markets... including digitising services and introducing experiential learning methods such as gaming and simulation, and broaden both the products and the markets in which they are sold across the UK and worldwide."

so it is not necessarily the case that this is going to cost existing users any more. I recently wrote in my Skeptical Informer newsletter about the huge potential of China.

What else do we actually know?

  • ITIL and Prince2 have explicitly been sold. According to Capita the JV "will own the intellectual property (IP) of this portfolio of products". ITIL and Prince2 are now wholly owned by a private company. Draw your own conclusions as to the implications for them remaining "generally accepted practice". I certainly have my personal views about any future volunteered contribution of IP or services.
  • What I am not 100% explicitly clear on is who will own the trademark and copyrights. Certainly "own the intellectual property " strongly implies that the JV will, so kiss goodbye to any sort of objectivity around their enforcement, especially since...
  • The JV is a 51:49% split that gives Capita control, i.e. the Cabinet Office have abdicated ownership and will not have the governance capability that a controlling stake would have given them: they've sold it for a half share in the profits.
  • Cabinet Office has learned nothing about the importance to governance of separation of duties.
    The new company will accredit exam institutes and training organisations to run exams and courses. It will act as an exam institute itself for the Project and Programme Management portfolio, including PRINCE2® products.
  • The new company doesn't kick in until the current "concession contracts" (APMG and TSO) expire in December 2013 but...

    The JV will assume ownership and management of the current portfolio from 1 July 2013 and full operational delivery from 1 January 2014.

    so 2013 should be fun as APMG and TSO will work for the new JV displacing them, although presumably their contracts remain with Cabinet Office. What could possibly go wrong?

  • To put this in perspective, Capita make profits of over £400 million per annum, so even if the JV lived up to the hype, it would be about a tenth of the business.
  • There's no global reach (even less so than with APMG/TSO). According to their annual report, Capita operate in the UK and Europe, with outsourcing centres in India and South Africa, and their acquisition strategy targets "operations and customers principally in the UK and/or Europe". All of the major contracts are in the UK. So I dunno where all this "international" "worldwide" "new markets" is going to be driven from.
  • We now know that Her Majesty was pulling about ten million quid a year from the whole portfolio.

Everything else is speculation, and both the Cabinet Office and Capita appear happy to let that speculation run wild. Where is the soothing explanatory broadcast by Frances Scarff to the ITIL and Prince2 communities? The meet-the-customers webinar from Capita? Stony silence from the walls of Castle ITIL. All in all, looks like more of the same for the long-suffering users.

[From my comments below:
One more thought on Capita and ITIL: all this talk of a revolutionary change in the usage of ITIL as a result of this acquisition shows the usual confusion of how quickly technology can advance with how human culture changes. If you think the whole of IT and its 2 million certified ITIL practitioners (98% of whom don't know or care who owns it) are going to leap to a new framework in a small number of years, then you don't know people.]

BTW, here is my bit of speculation:
I ran up a spreadsheet to see how they projected the profits to get £500 million. I reckon they're forecasting an annual profit increase of nearly 50% year on year to meet that. I call that bullshit. Of course my spreadsheet could be bullshit but in the absence of any transparency who'd know?
[Update: see Aale's comment below for a much better analysis of how the numbers just don't add up]

...and a week later a bulletin has fluttered down from the castle wall.

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