ITIL Intellectual Property under the new Axelos regime

Axelos has published Intellectual Property (copyright and trademark) guidance for ITIL, PRINCE2 and the rest of the "Swirl suite". Unintelligible Property guidance, more like. Combine it with worrying signs that Axelos want to start shaking down the consulting industry for dollars and it doesn't look good for we consultants. For me, COBIT still wins, hands down.

Imagine you are a freelance consultant like me, offering independent advice.

COBIT licensing is beautifully clear and fair.

When content from COBIT 5 books is used in tools, guidance or other works for commercial (not internal) audit, advisory and consulting services, an annual license from ISACA is required unless the purchaser is an ISACA member.

Annual license fee US$120 per person. Done. Easier still, I'm an ISACA member already (and so should you be).
I can talk about it, use it, quote it with attribution. It becomes an essential consulting tool and I spread the COBIT word everywhere I go.

Compare that with SFIA Skills Framework for the Information Age, a product out of the British Computer Society.

Commercial use of SFIA is available to our Accredited Partners and Accredited Consultants. The accreditation process ensures that only those with proper understanding of SFIA can offer products or services that exploit SFIA...
For organisations or individuals using SFIA only as a resource for their own management or development, SFIA licences are free of charge. If you exploit SFIA commercially, to support the sale of your products or services to clients, you will need to pay a licence fee [£250 per annum]...
The Accredited Consultant Licence is for individual IT professionals working independently. To apply for accreditation just follow these steps.
Attend an official SFIA Training Course run by an accredited SFIA Training Provider (this may be done before or after you send your CV for assessment)
Complete the accredited consultant application form.
Ensure that your CV is up to date. This documentation must be submitted personally by the applicant.
Send the application form and your CV for evaluation to our Business Administrator
We will send you an invoice for the evaluation fee. You can pay by selecting the "Pay invoice" option on this web site, or see our payment details here: how to pay us
Note that the documentation must be sent by you personally, not by anyone else: not even by your employer.

Bureaucratically stupid. When a client asks me to develop a role description for them, as they do once every year or so, I can't use SFIA. So I don't. I tell my client to get SFIA and do it themselves. Or if they really want me to do it, I use the sensibly-licensed but substantially less developed European Capability Framework eCF instead. None of this is in the best interests of my client, me, or SFIA. Thick.

My reaction: Who the f*** do you think you are sitting in judgement over whether I'm fit to talk about your IP product? Click to tweet My clients are grown-ups: they decide for themselves whether engaging me is a good idea. They want me to use all the best practices that I see fit to draw on in order to develop a solution for them. You should be begging me to use SFIA, not creating monopolistic "lodges".

And then there's ITIL (another bunch of Brits who don't get it). I defy you to read this and come away confident you even know what the requirements are for a consultant. Software vendor or book writer? Yes. Consultant? Dunno.

Add to that this little gem from the recent "Future of ITIL" workshop (picked out by ITSM Portal):

Regulation of Consulting
• There is no control over consulting, and an area that should be considered further – a “light touch” approach could be considered, i.e. not overly prescriptive but effective in driving up quality
• There is potential for certification in this area as long as it links to sensible, appropriate intellectual property management (when consultants use IP brands).

and I got worried. Why do we need "control"? Maybe the world is right about ITIListas. The same document said

• These initiatives may have not been as successful as many expected, so we should look at some of the reasons why, for example affordability, accessibility.

Well gosh, maybe it is because there is no need for them and they offer no value except to major vendors and consulting firms who want to justify their stratospheric consulting rates.

So I emailed Axelos.

Dear Sir/Madam

I have read the advice at and I am confused as to how it might apply to ITSM consultants such as myself.

I am going to blog on my confusion but before I do, AXELOS might like to clear things up for me please. Can you address the following questions for me as it is unclear under exactly what circumstances a licence is required to use ITIL.

1) I assume that normal conditions of copyright fair use apply. Is that correct? In other words, quoting reasonable portions of text is permitted with attribution as it is for any copyright work.

2) major government agencies in New Zealand regularly require their suppliers to use "ITIL aligned" processes or similar wording. Would those suppliers need a license to claim they complied (e.g in a RFP response or a contract)? This is highly relevant to me as I am currently advising one such supplier on their ITSM practices.

3) A company in Europe (I think) sells an extensive set of ITIL BPM flowcharts. One of my clients has purchased the set, and they are now reproducing and modifying the flowcharts for their own use. Do they need a license to do so? I hope not: they are a hospital.

4) Another client has designed their internal processes closely drawn from the ITIL books. As a result they use all the same terminology, flow charts etc. Their work clearly contains the "essence" of ITIL as the term is used in copyright law. Do they need a license?

5) A number of consulting firms provide "ITIL assessments"? Do they require a license to do so? A copyright license or a trademark license or both?

6) I have never offered ITIL assessments myself, but if a company asked me to assess their alignment with ITIL, as an individual freelance consultant likely to make no more than GBP10,000 for the engagement, and unlikely to perform a similar exercise within a year or more, what license and accreditation would I require?

7) If I provide written guidance to a client on how to structure their ITSM processes, including process descriptions and designs, and if I use ITIL as my best practice frame of reference, do I need to go through the two-step licensing process? because I'm not sure my client is going to wait several months for me to get licensing for that advice.

Please provide clear guidance on how ITSM consultants may use ITIL in our practices, as all the guidance currently seems to apply to software vendors and content writers but one can't be sure. And there certainly isn't anything specifically for consultants.

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.

    From comments below:

    I 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. Click to tweet 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.

Watch this space...

More here: Set them free.

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