Sunrise promote the good word of ITIL in Japan
23 September 2005
It’s curious to think that the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), essentially a series of UK-produced books offering guidelines for managing IT service management processes, is the hottest topic in Japanese IT right now.
“Nikkei Computer, which is perhaps the leading IT magazine in Japan, has featured ITIL on the front cover for the last five months, says Darren Bagnall, Sales director for Sunrise Software.
From a starting point of nothing as recently as three years ago, best practice and process automation have become hot topics as the Japanese market realises that it can transform its internal processes by studying the words of the ITIL manuals and finding products and services to support it.
Much of the credit for the rapid growth goes to itSMF (IT Service Management Forum), a non-profit-making organisation dedicated to driving best practice globally. itSMF Japan was set up in 2003 and already has 221 member companies and its second annual conference is expected to welcome 800 people,.
There is a very good reason why ITIL is such a good fit in Japan. It is in the Japanese culture to manage things logically, neatly and effectively and so ITIL fits perfectly, says Bagnall. Despite the clear connection between ITIL, which is often referred to as documented common sense, and business traits of the Japanese people, before ITIL Japan had no overall IT service management standard to refer to. Therefore, once ITIL was introduced, the interest grew quickly. CEC is a well-established system integrator in Japan with over 80 customers which realised that it could support this growth. Chikashi Yada is a senior IT manager for CEC, and here he explains in some more detail the drivers involved.
The itSMF has quickly shown the Japanese market how effective ITIL is and I believe that most companies already understand its importance. The growth has been helped because Standards such as ISO9000 and BS7799 (for security) were already popular.
Yada adds his observations about where the interest was focused. At the moment, it is the IT departments of large enterprises who are showing most interest, along with those in finance, but we have enquiries from a wide range of companies.
With everything else in place, there was one major problem which CEC had to deal with. There were no products available that could support the ITIL processes everyone was getting excited about.
As the UK is the birthplace of ITIL, it made sense to look there and so CEC sent another company, AG Tech, to the itSMF exhibition in Brighton last year where they spoke to a number of vendors. The visitors were quickly impressed by Sunrise”s Sostenuto, citing its excellent interface, its web-based architecture which means that maintenance and installation is easier than with client / server, and the overall enthusiasm with which Sunrise greeted the idea.
We were the only vendor to move quickly – I was involved in the initial negotiations and myself and Neil Penny (Sunrise’s product marketing director) flew over to Japan to learn more about the companies involved and the Japanese market. The biggest decision for us was whether we would invest in the product to make it suitable for the Japanese market. Sostenuto is still a relatively new product and we hadn’t reached the stage where we had began to develop international capabilities.
To make the product ready for Japan has been expensive as it involves stripping the product down to its source code, but it was decided that the investment was worthwhile. This was in part helped by the public proclamation by CEC that it’s newly opened ITIL business unit would generate a significant 7 figure sum within three years.
The potential for doing even more business is great, especially considering that the Japanese approach to projects is markedly different from the UK, as Darren Bagnall explains. In terms of the difference with the UK market, the Japanese are more technologically developed than the UK, but in terms of IT services, they still work in a reactionary way. They are however tackling the issue in a much more unified manner than here. All of the CEC staff within the ITIL business unit have full ITIL training and they will be integrating Sostenuto ITSM into existing customer systems very early on it’s much more of a one-stop-shop approach compared to here where there are lots of niche specialists.
Chikashi Yada explained that the ambition exceeds even Bagnall’s description, involving areas of IT which are treated separately by most UK companies. We want to offer customers the ability to realise IT management improvement, not only by using ITIL and Sostenuto, but offering system management, training, consultancy and outsourcing services, says Yada.
It is this unified approach that is set to power the development of both ITIL and Sunrise into Japan. As Darren Bagnall notes, the Japanese culture is based on respect. And that Sunrise has shown respect for CEC and the potential of the Japanese IT service management market could help it for many years to come.