The British Transport Police (BTP) is responsible for ensuring a safe environment on the national overground railway network, and a number of other transit systems including the London Underground.

BTP at a glance

  • Employees: BTP has about 4,500 staff, split as 2,500 Police Officers and PCSOs and 2000 support staff.

  • Locations: 130 site across the whole of the UK, all connected with a closed, accredited to Restricted WAN.

  • Technology: BTP has 3,000 desktops and 600 laptops and support about 6,500 radio devices, 500 PDA/mobile printers systems (used to access Force Systems) and 500 BlackBerrys.
  • IT staff: 38 staff trained on ITIL.

With 3,000 desktops, 600 laptops, more than 4,500 staff and 6,500 radio devices spread over 130 locations in the UK, maintaining and supporting IT requires excellent programme management. Yet a few years ago, it wasn't unusual for support calls to be missed or forgotten by the IT helpdesk. Andrew Watson, CIO at BTP, said the IT support team took on an attitude associated with well-known Millwall football club chant: "No one likes us and we don't care".

But in 2004, BTP was re-classified as a non-departmental public body and came under the authority of the newly established British Transport Police Authority, rather than the rail industry. As part of this reshuffle, the new independent police authority also granted BTP a cash boost of £30 million over a three year capital funding settlement.

To help make best use of the extra cash BTP decided to invest in a programme to gain IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) accreditation. BTP’s objective was to become fully ITIL compliant, in order to modernise processes for dealing with incidents and problems, and improve control around its hardware and software assets.

BTP used its internal programme management, the Police National Intelligence Model (NIM), to achieve ITIL with almost no external support, according to Watson. This approach involves assessment tools to direct the tasks of staff. Watson detailed they key points of the ITIL project.

When did the ITIL accreditation process begin for British Transport Police?

We first started looking at ITIL in March 2005. I joined in September 2004, had to sort out the future budget process and reorganise the staff into a manageable structure, principally to deliver a complete technology infrastructure refresh. Then the focus could shift to instilling a service management culture through the adoption of ITIL principals.

Prior to ITIL, how would you describe the culture of doing things?

Helpdesk for those that didn’t have the phone number of a support engineer, a lot of corridor calls and a traditional first and second line approach. A lot of things were missed if support staff forgot the corridor request. There was a bit of a Millwall mentality – no one likes us and we don’t care!

What was the main driver to become ITIL compliant?

We need a method of delivering appropriate, proportionate and repeatable services that supports the core objectives of the force in policing the rail environment.

Why is ITIL important to BTP?

ITIL provides a model that all technology and support staff can relate to in terms of delivering and managing the expectations of the service that the force has defined as desirable for the budget it is prepared to give to technology.

Can you outline the Police National Intelligence model, and how this model helped BTP become ITIL compliant?

The basic principal is to be intelligence led, when you don’t need to be in response mode. Intelligence led means that all planned activity, when you are not dealing with incidents, is done for a reason that you can relate back to core organisational objectives. The basic steps are gather all intelligence, assess it, produce a prioritised tasking plan, task people to do the tasks, feedback from the tasks to re-inform the process.

What challenges did BTP need to overcome to become ITIL compliant?

No budget for external help. The budget we did have was to train everyone to at least foundation level. However I have never had any budget to do ITIL in the past, but I don’t see that as a problem, because ITIL is about mindset and attitude as much as compliance. If you can instil a service culture, staff will seek processes that help them and there isn’t very much work to do to the ITIL principals to make them fit your organisation. The key challenge, which is the CIO’s, is to robustly lead the implementation.

Can you provide some examples of how ITIL has improved business processes?

We now handle about 33% more calls to the service desk than the helpdesk did, but with the same number of staff. We have increased our first contact fix rate to about 66% from about 30% pre-ITIL, which means we are servicing people faster. We have removed non logged calls (corridor calls) to effectively zero. We now focus our problem management activity through a NIM approach ensuring that all activity has a desired outcome based on an assessment on graded and analysed intelligence.

How did you ensure employees took to ITIL?

Everyone was trained to foundation level. Starting with the senior management team we had a zero tolerance to not talking the talk and walking the walk – anyone could challenge anyone who, for example talked about the helpdesk instead of the Service Desk.

As a visual reminder we paid for everyone who passed any ITIL qualification to get a plaque and we have mounted them on a wall in Force Headquarters. We have a weekly performance meeting where we undertake a robust review of personal performance by portfolio.

What have been the changes in recent years?

We now talk the talk and walk the walk of Service management. Personal performance can now be objectively reviewed from an exceptions viewpoint without managers feeling threatened by reds and ambers, because they are so on top of their staff’s workloads as assigned tasks. The annual staff survey for many years has always had complaints about technology in the top three issues. The latest survey we weren’t in the top five reported complaints.

Is BTP looking at ITIL version 3, and why?

We are currently reviewing how version 3 will benefit BTP. Once this is complete we will look to evolve into any process changes in the same way that we adopted the current way.

What plans does BTP have for ITIL in the future?

Our plan is to just keep pushing towards better and better adoption and alignment of our practices to the ITIL model.

An in-depth feature on Andrew Watson, CIO of British Transport Police, will appear in the upcoming November issue of CIO magazine and can be read at