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Marval through the years - A personal account from Greg Pritchett, Chairman

1989 was a landmark year for Marval, there were also some key events around the world

  • George H. Bush succeeds Ronald Reagan as President of the USA
  • The first of 24 Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites is placed into orbit
  • Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announce that they have achieved cold fusion at the University of Utah
  • A 1,000 ft diameter Near-Earth asteroid misses the Earth by only 400,000 miles
  • Nintendo begins selling the Game Boy
  • Solidarity wins elections in Poland
  • The Berlin wall comes down
  • Nicolae Ceausescu deposed in Romania
  • Japanese emperor Hirohito dies
  • Pro-democracy rallies take place in Tiananmen Square, Beijing
  • Exxon Valdez tanker runs aground spilling 11 million gallons of oil
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Die Hard were in the cinema
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking was published
  • Ride On Time by Black Box was top of the UK singles chart for 6 weeks

The Marval Story
The story of Marval actually starts in 1986 with the meeting of myself (pictured left) and Don Page in Eindhoven, Holland. We were both working at Philips Research (worldwide centre of excellence and innovation) – home of the CD, DAT and Video Disc to name but a few. Philips wanted to be a global leader in VLSI memory chip design, dominated at that time by US and Japanese companies like Texas Instruments, Motorola, NEC and Hitachi. To this end, Philips began the recruitment of the best designers, testers and product engineers from all over the world to achieve this goal with no expense spared. Chips were being designed on the latest and best CAD/CAM software (Mentor Graphics) running on the latest UNIX workstations from US company Apollo (later bought by HP). The chip functionality/performance would be simulated prior to manufacture on VAX Minicomputers such as the DEC VAX 11/785 costing around £250K each. In those days a 500MB storage hard drive was the size of a small filing cabinet and cost around £25K (in old money that is).

Don was an expert of VAX systems and myself an expert on Apollo Workstations and servers gained from our jobs in the UK (Philips had no expertise in these technologies at the time).

We were brought in by Philips to train local administrators on the systems and help put together scalable processes to support the systems themselves and their users. With money being no object, it was the best learning and CV development environment anyone could ever wish for !

In the time we worked there (around 2 years) the number of designers went from 10 to 450! Multiply the hardware/SW/networking, support needs of this environment and you can begin to understand the complexity of the management task. We established a paper based helpdesk and ran some rudimentary processes (which we would now identify as incident and service request management).
Don and I then moved to the UK (Southampton) to head up a corporate strategy team, taking what we learnt from research and putting it into production across Philips Semiconductors production plants across the world (main facilities in US, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and the UK) – we did a lot of travelling!

Whilst working together on the challenges of delivering both systems and end user support, Don and I began the hunt for a good process workflow tool to assist in running the now distributed helpdesks within Philips Semiconductors. At that time no commercial software existed that ticked the boxes, and so, in a pub in Newbury (don’t ask why) UK, the idea for Marval was born, out of need for standardisation, increased consistency in service delivery and continual service improvement. We believed then (and still do) that people are an organisation’s greatest asset – and great service is provided by great people, following great process and supported by great technology. 
Whilst still working in Philips, Don and I pooled all our life savings and took out secured loans against our homes to create Marval. It really was an “all or nothing” leap of faith (and in 1993 it really was nearly nothing, but that’s another story). We were essentially hard-working techies with great ambition, who saw an opportunity and went for it whole heartedly.

After two years development, in 1991, the first commercial version of Marval product (called Pursuit) was launched running on VAX VMS and written in Fortran! 1992 was tough year but a couple of major sales kept us afloat. (One of our first clients was the UK’s Channel 4 TV)
1993 was the pivotal year when Don and I could very easily have lost everything, money and houses (and of course pressures at home were starting to take their toll too). Our dogged belief kept us going, and in 1993 we closed 3 largish deals that turned the corner for us. 

However, Helpdesk software was now growing in momentum globally, and from there being no products in the market when we started, by 1993 there were a few suppliers. We either needed to grow quickly and become larger than them or go niche.

We’d heard a lot about Private Equity and Venture Capital and the dilution of control that comes with it (which we did not want to give up), so at the time we had to find a niche we could work in at the same resourcing levels.

In the late 1980s the UK government had a department called the Central Communications and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) that helped develop best practices primarily for use in the public sector. They are probably better known for establishing another best practice called PRINCE (a project management methodology). The CCTA had also created the best practice framework called ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library). By soliciting the experiences of private sector companies such as IBM, CA, Ultracomp and Marval they had a greater understanding of what does and doesn’t work in supporting IT infrastructure and components.

As an organisation we loved the idea of looking beyond incident and service request management (which Pursuit did) at the other processes IT departments would need to deliver such as problem management, SLM, configuration, knowledge management etc and so our relationship with the CCTA began, culminating in Don being invited onto the authoring team. The CCTA were impressed with our practical knowledge of the subject matter and wanted us to contribute as practitioners rather than an academics.

Embracing ITIL became our new niche (and in all honesty our saviour). Even though there were many helpdesk tools arriving in the market, there weren’t any that supported ITIL like we would (and probably still do). From ITIL v1 through to ITIL 4 we have ensured our product fully aligns to the best practice framework.

As well as re-engineering our software tool to support ITIL, we also embarked on a technology refresh between 1993 and 1995 to ensure our software was ‘technology agnostic’ allowing our products to be run on multiple hardware platforms and operating systems and cater and adapt to the constant change the IT industry. Pursuit originally ran on VAX VMS on character cell terminals and the industry was moving from centralised server computing to decentralised desktop computing and PCs were becoming the norm. 

Open Pursuit, Open Trakit, Open Contact and Open Stock became our new product offering covering the main ITIL processes. Open Pursuit was designed to run on Windows, Mac, UNIX and VAX VMS and had a client server architecture. 
1995 saw the launch of our Marval’s first international reseller in Holland (we now have representation in The Nordics, North America, Australia, Africa, The Baltics, Scandinavia and Brazil). The UK along with Holland were probably the most ITIL mature countries in the world at the time and we saw rapid customer growth in these regions in a short time.

A Continually Evolving Solution
A complete re-architecture of our solution into a fully WEB product began in 2005. Codenamed MSM Reloaded, the product was launched as MSM v11 when it entered the market in 2007.

WEB and client server product developments co-existed with client/server V8 product which was official retired in 2016.
So what’s the real story here? Well, Marval is a company formed by people who are practitioners in Service Management and so this experience is baked into everything we do in the product and how we deliver our services to provide solutions. We are major supporters and contributors to the service management industry, being one of the longest serving members of the itSMF and SDI industry bodies and promoters of service management standards and best practice around the globe. In fact, Don Page was the second person to be awarded the itSMF lifetime achievement award and received a doctorate from Northampton University for the development of the first master’s degree in IT service management.

Marval have been involved in each iteration of ITIL since it’s development in the late eighties. Marval are also co-authors of BS15000 and ISO/IEC 20000 standards, a boast that is unparalleled amongst our competitors.

Similarly, Marval was the first ITSM company to achieve the recognised ITSM standards BS15000 and ISO/IEC 20000. It is still the only ITSM solution supplier to have and maintain these certifications since 2005 – we really practice what we preach!

Marval customers worldwide have an unprecedented record in attaining prestigious industry awards, recognition for service improvements helped by adoption better processes and Marval’s service management software.   

Marval has been helping customers delivering service excellence since 1989 and if you speak to people who know about ITSM they will tell you Marval understands what it takes to be a world class service team. 

Here’s to the next 30 years!

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