Axelos Consulting Partner (ACP) Programme

Axelos recently announced their Axelos Consulting Partner (ACP) Programme to licence ... er I mean "formally recognize [sic]" consulting organisations practicing in all areas of Axelos "global best practice" including ITIL and PRINCE2. They're putting the squeeze on.

ImageOrganisations which consult can join the ACP for £950 per year, and then a certain proportion of their "practicing consultants" are expected to become Axelos Product Consultants, with undefined requirements and costs. That would be the Axelos Product Consultants Programme, the APC, not to be confused with the ACP.

Once the AXELOS Product Consultant Programme is made availd. able, any entity which wishes to be admitted as a member of this AXELOS Consulting Partner Programme will be required to ensure a percentage of consultants qualified in those AXELOS products used to provide advisory services are enrolled as an AXELOS Product Consultant. The AXELOS Product Consultant Programme is expected to be available later in 2015. The AXELOS Consulting Partner will have three months from the launch date of AXELOS Product Consultant Programme to enrol the necessary number of consultants as AXELOS Product Consultants

Various benefits are offered for joining, but more importantly one "benefit" is

an agreement that enables AXELOS Consulting Partners rights to use agreed AXELOS
Intellectual Property (certain trademarks and copyright) whilst providing consulting services to
their respective clients

I wrote a few months ago about the ITIL squeeze in 2015. It seems the squeeze is coming on, however gently. You want to "use" ITIL in your consulting? Sign up.

Intellectual property

The sticky issue is that word "use". Just how much control do Axelos have over the use of Global Best Practice content?

I'm no lawyer and I'm not offering legal advice here. You must consult with your legal professional before etc etc.

They say

AXELOS owns the intellectual property rights of the products which underpin the AXELOS Consulting Partner Programme. This includes guidance, qualification, syllabuses and scheme brochures. The AXELOS portfolio includes ITIL®, the world’s most widely-used IT service management framework and PRINCE2® - the common language of successful projects worldwide.

(emphasis mine)

Luckily I'm moving away from using ITIL as anything but a reference. I don't believe they can stop anyone talking about ITIL. They can't stop you mentioning it, or describing it.

    "On the other hand, ITIL suggests that you..."
    "This advice aligns with that given in ITIL especially..."

They can stop you using the trademark to purport that you are part of the product, but they cant stop you uttering the name - it's not Jehovah.

They can stop you copying content. In the USA the doctrine of fair use might just be applied to commercial use under special circumstances (i.e. if you scored strongly on other "balancing" criteria) but in general ITIL can be copied only with permission for commercial use. In other countries "fair dealing" is similar.

So you pretty much can't quote it at all for commercial use without permission. Other use is fuzzy, but academic work and parody are fairly safe. However there are some very grey areas - see this comment. I'm not profiting from this blog, nor is it part of any commercial offering, so I am probably OK in my quotes here as commentary. But that won't wash in any content you provide to your clients.

The really gnarly bit is copyright over the "essence of the work". ITIL talks about topics that have plenty of prior use and are widely used in other contexts and other works. Much of it was freely donated and developed by volunteer contributors. So any attempt to copyright say the names of ITIL "processes" could be met with a collective middle finger from us all. But what of an incident process flow? Any ITIL diagram is clearly protected, but the sequence of steps? I doubt the meaning or structure of ITIL content can be protected, only the literal text and graphics. But as I say i'm not a lawyer... We'll need a test case.


If you work alone or in a small company and offer services that explicitly name ITIL you have a problem. They say a "small" company is one with less than 50 consultants. Not sure what planet that is on: it seems a distinctly Capita view of the world to see 50 as "small". Companies of one employee like mine don't even appear in their frame of reference. Sadly that doesn't mean we also sneak under their radar: I've had unwelcome attention from TSO in the past. What it does mean is that a company of one consultant is going to be expected to meet the same costs, audits, and reporting requirements (biannual) as a company of 50. Riiiight.


To join the Product Consultant Programme, its a pretty safe bet you will need to be an ITIL Expert (or even the level above, whatever its called this year).

I don't have Expert certification. I only have Foundation. I find zero constraint in getting consulting work without Expert. Most clients are smart enough to engage on results and referrals not certifications.

I can see the importance of certifications when consulting firms do the old bait and switch, swapping out the presales show pony and sending in the Kids In Suits to do the actual work. Have to justify their huge hourly rate somehow.

Some see a requirement to be an ITIL Expert as perfectly reasonable, but perfectly reasonable in what context? To do an ITIL maturity assessment, yes. To consult on IT change process, no. Not if the client doesn't care.

So if I choose not to get Expert, I can't licence to quote ITIL. They need an option like COBIT's. Pay the fee, use the content. For $150 a year you can use COBIT content in your consulting practice.

I don't like the whole concept of "ITSM consultants".[updated: "ITIL consultants". It's rare to need such a narrow specialty in the real world. Even "ITSM consultants" is pretty narrow.] ITSM is just a tool. I don't want a hammer consultant, I want a building consultant. In the same way I am an IT consultant. I have to know about architecture, development, change, security, technology, culture, business, finance and governance as well as service.

If a client wants advice specifically on ITSM then yes I can see the need for them to be highly qualified but that strikes me as an overly specialised skillset for true consulting. If they want a contractor to come build and run their IT Change process, that's a different thing. Or to do an "ITIL roadmap" [I was a little sick in my mouth typing that]. In general a consultant is there to achieve an organisational outcome and all the ITSM theory in the world won't make that happen.

The Squeeze

Back in August 2013 I said

Axelos have to squeeze a lot of dollars out of this industry. I have a nasty feeling consultants are about to feel the pressure. I think consultants are the driving force of promoting and disseminating ITIL. There's no "quality issue" over ITIL consulting. There may well be quality issues over consultants in general but that is a different issue that won't be fixed by a bit of certification and accreditation.
© Copyright CanstockPhoto.comI don't believe there is any such thing as "ITIL consulting". There is only IT consulting. There are quality issues with IT consulting like any other consulting.
I'm all for accreditation of IT consultants in a country. that is why I have the NZ Institute of IT Professionals' accreditation as an IT Certified Professional.
I don't accept that a content-writer in the UK should sit in judgement over whether I am fit to consult in New Zealand on their written guidance. It is fine for them to offer knowledge certification, and for me to choose to take it as an additional assurance to my clients. For them to lock down the IP is restraint of trade and guild-building (and ultimately damaging to the uptake of the IP).
Axelos need to be careful that meddling doesn't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. I stopped talking about SFIA even though I want to. I can stop talking about ITIL. The world is rapidly maturing to the understanding that ITIL is not magic, it is just a tool. I barely do more than reference it as a formal authority these days anyway. I can talk about service management and governance with reference to COBIT, ISO20000, ISO38500, MOF (public domain), and a raft of other tools instead.

That's not to say this will do much harm to ITIL sales, I think. The clients want to hear aboit ITIL.
I'm successful in diverting many that come to me:

    "we want an ITIL assessment"
    "no you don't. You need an IT management/service [delete one] capability review"

But most consulting firms need ITIL in their catalogue to meet demand, so Axelos have them in something of a testicular clench.

P.S. I must say it is so nice to see people who can spell "programme". I can live with "program" for a sequence of computer instructions but there I draw the line. One writes a program; one manages a programme.

Syndicate content