The “Capita” Label – A Red Herring Swimming in the Moat of Castle ITIL

Chris Barrett, Capita
Chris Barrett, Capita

Ever since the announcement of the Cabinet Office and Capita Group Joint Venture, the great, the good, and some of the rest have speculated here and there about the future of the Best Practices Portfolio.

Chris Barrett (currently a Transformation Director at Capita Consulting) is one of the first of the newly appointed management team for the new joint venture company, and spoke to us at the Knowledge 13 event, Las Vegas.

The Issue of Communications

The first question had to look at the communications, lack of and standard of (which is ironic given our collective jet-lagged state, at the time).

The first e-bulletin had just come out, and it is clear that the press office still needs some time to settle in to converting dry releases into something that gives the waiting ITSM public some further insight, without jargon.

At several times, he was keen to emphasis that Capita is actually more of a red herring/misnomer (which explains why a number of questions were pointed directly at Capita Group).

He said: “If there was one thing Capita was good at, it was fulfilling a remit – for example stripping out costs from a business.”

“But if people are thinking this is a land grab, they would be completely wrong.”

“We are not a corporation, we are a small joint venture.”

“The idea is to grow and invest in the community – this is about a duty of care, and custodianship.”

Whilst communications have been light and/or dry as toast, there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

There will be a twitter feed and a continuation of the e-bulletins, but resources to manage the media side of operations are yet to be appointed.

The Team To Be

In terms of the physical set up, the Chief Executive has been chosen, and the management team are being finalised.

TUPE discussions are continuing regarding members of the Cabinet Office and TSO, due to come across at the end of this year (UPDATED: See comment from Chris Barrett of the Capita JV below)

For many who have actively contributed to the best practices publications, the emphasis on being a non-corporate joint venture still allows them have that airtime – if they so choose.

“Can it be altruistic?” I asked Chris

“It can be, if it serves the community and if we cut them out, how stupid would that be.”

Here is where I think the balance of power shifts.

Let’s be honest – people who have actively contributed in the past do not really need the kudos of adding that involvement to a CV or resume any more.

But there are also many people coming up now, through the ranks, with strong practitioner knowledge, and with the support and encouragement of those previously involved.

There is also an opportunity for those who have, in the past, rebelled at the gates of the fortress – surely now is their time to help shape the best practices to what they believe it should be?

Or will they choose to ignore this emerging spirit of collaboration with the community, and continue to throw stones into the moat?

Linda King and Ros Satar
Linda King and Ros Satar

Pragmatism Over Theory

A number of questions came in through various social media feeds, for us to ask and interestingly a lot seemed to focus on how Capita does things now.

Capita favours the pragmatic approach – referring to principles where appropriate but not purely for the purpose of using them for use’s sake.

It therefore stands to reason that going forward, the emphasis continues to be on the pragmatic application of these established best practices, to demonstrate real-world benefit.

As with everything that took place before, a lot of consideration will need to be given to the release programs for new versions.

This, in turn, led to an interesting revelation that the Cabinet Office themselves do not see the Swirl brand as having traction outside the UK’s shores, despite the information email ID being swirlenquiries.

Spending Spree Or Visionaries?

Interestingly, the most recent acquisitions (Knowledge Pool and Blue Sky) were never part of the original plan, but the inclusion of G2G3 was part of the original bid.

Even if they had not been acquired, the plan would have been to involve them anyway, and they look to be all set now in terms of training and simulation approaches.


Chris was asked whether the joint venture were looking to create their own, newer community, for example in the mould of  Back to ITSM?

The plan is to have to have a portal approach and a formal home for people to land on.

Ideas being considered are a subscription-plan for more detailed material – this was seen as no different to paying money for training courses.

What is the Joint Venture NOT going to be

Chris confidently lined up his views:

  • “Not going to stagnate
  • Not going to be purely theoretical
  • Involving real practitioners and serving community members
  • Not going to be “Castle ITIL”

I wanted to be honest with Chris – those statements are pretty bold, but as someone still active both in consultancy and analysis on the ITSM side, this is good fighting talk.

Meet Them At The Gates

Whilst I can see a sense of continued cautiousness from those who have been discussing the future, the new joint venture are very much seeking and wanting continued dialogue.

The sense of community was a recurring theme, and as a member of this community, I think we owe it to the joint venture to try and meet them at the gates of our beloved “Castle ITIL”.

(With thanks to Adam Holtby, Linda King, and a special nod to Rob England’s suitably Skeptic “Castle ITIL ™” tag which the new company liked but equally are willing to meet, head on).

Updated: Capita folks interviewed live at Knowledge13

ITSM Weekly Podcast Episode 112 – The Capita Interview

via ServiceSphere

6 thoughts on “The “Capita” Label – A Red Herring Swimming in the Moat of Castle ITIL”

  1. I don’t think it is a question of “ignore this emerging spirit of collaboration”. OGC and TSO and APMG have made similar promises in the past.

    the “free ITIL portal” promised by OGC morphed into the obscenely priced TSO product which died the death it deserved.

    TSO happily used volunteer itSMF labour to launch ITIL V3 worldwide, then screwed them on book deals.

    How many people even know how to find the Swirl websites? Where’s the community on them?

    if the aloof Cabinet Office and the bumbling TSO and the ruthless Capita are going to spawn a collaborative, cuddly steward of ITIL then I’m all for it. Just forgive me for being a bit cynical at this stage until I see some evidence.

    1. Rob- Cynical? Turning over a new lea.. Nah 🙂

      Agreed this is going to take a very intentional and long term effort to correct past wrongs, the current stagnation, and move it all in the right direction. I always seem to err on being glass half full. They’re saying the right things (finally), and it’s certainly time for a change with a new voice/energy. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, mitigate risk personally on other fronts, and hope they start turning the ship (that is currently stuck out floating at sea). It can only get better right? 🙂

    2. Definitely forgiven Rob… But give us time to develop the plans with the right people’s input and then deliver them. Rome. Supertanker. Etc.

      In the meantime links like those above give us extra corporate memory to work with. They go into the lessons learnt log… And when we need more detail or flavour, we’ll ask. So we’re listening, we’re reading but we’ll also bring a level of rigour to this process. You’d expect nothing less.

      Keep it coming.


  2. Chris, I hope you have a large log for lesson learnt – and please don’t go too much on jargon – corporate memory indeed – we are just practitioners who need access to good practice advice – and not just from expensive books and exorbitant training courses. Please remember ITIL may be the lead product but its market is ITSM and the community deserves more for less. Please delight us.

  3. One point of clarity required here…

    “TUPE discussions are continuing regarding members of the Cabinet Office and TSO, due to come across at the end of this year.”

    Is potentially misleading. The APMG and TSO contracts will continue until the end of 2013. Discussions are continuing with both parties to find the best way of working and serving all Best Management Practice communities going forward. The applicability (or not) of TUPE will form part of those discussions.

    Cabinet Office Best Management Practice staff will, I hope, join the new JV company in July.


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