It's official - ITIL is a commercial product

It is clear from reading a recent complaint report from the British Government agency OPSI (the Office of Public Sector Information,
part of the National Archives) that OGC and Van Haren Publishing aren't best mates any more. VHP allege a number of non-competitive practices, most of which OGC managed to duck as being outside the scope of OPSI's remit. Read the report yourself for the detail, but I take some interesting points from it:

1) OGC practices will be subject to much closer scrutiny under an "Information Fair Trader Scheme verification" later in 2010 (paragraph 78)

2) The sudden republication of the Introduction to the ITIL Service Lifecycle book with the word "Official" dropped from the title (the only change in the book) may stem from OPSI's disapproval of the word, although its use on that book is apparently OK

3) PRINCE2 is part of OGC's "public task" and therefore subject to the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, whereas ITIL is not. Why? Because apparently

There is no specific legislation setting out discrete functions for OGC... absence of a clear statutory role and framework

...and so OGC's scope of its "public task" is inferred from OGC's own vaguely stated aims, which happen to specifically refer to project management but not specifically to ITSM. Reading the aims (see the appendix to the report) I personally would see them as being equally as applicable to OGC's ITIL body of work as to PRINCE2, but apparently not. So OGC are free to squeeze ITIL for every buck they can.

Yes folks

[OGC] stated unambiguously that it had no policy remit in the area of IT service management. While this begs the question as to why it sponsors the publication of proprietary IT service management guides, we consider that ITIL cannot be construed as being within OGC's public task and it falls it falls outside the scope of the Regulations and this complaints procedure.

There it is in black and white: OGC are uncontrolled by the British Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations in what they do with ITIL, which is "proprietary". Which, as the report says, "begs the question" as to why they do it. OGC's goals make it clear why they do it: improving ITSM is as important as improving project management or any of the other domains in which OGC produce IP. But through a sleight-of-hand of the wording of their aims, and a failure of the government to define those aims, they weasel out of any control over ITIL.

Since OGC has recently been rolled into the new Efficiency and Reform Group within the Cabinet Office with a new boss (more of that soon) it will be fun to watch whether OGC adopts a less mercenary attitude to a body of knowledge which has benefited from extensive volunteer contribution and support over the years, and was once explicitly in the public domain, but is now held in the dungeons of Castle ITIL for the enrichment of the agency and its for-profit commercial partners. Roll on COBIT5.



If I look at the construct of USMBOK, it is quite different to ITIL. One of the blogs I found says: "The Universal Service Management Book of Knowledge is being touted as a more comprehensive alternative to ITIL." ItITIL is still the 600-pound gorilla, but it is less lonely, for a number of reasons. ITIL has become a commercialised monopoly and it most definitely NOT open any more.

These led to the creation of an expectation is that USMBOK is indeed a replacement lens to the ITIL lens, but still looking at the same service management challenges with a much clearer view.

Indeed, if I look at USMBOK, I said it may be a good alternative to ITIL. I was searching for work of others in mapping ITIL vs. USMBOK. I did not find any. However, i noticed that there is not a clear 1-to-1 match-up with Transition Mgt in ITIL.

I sent a query to Service Management 101 - Support :: and asked them where Transition Mgt is in USMBOK. Firslty, they seem to be confused as to what I mean by Transition Management. Their response is as follows: "Edwin - I am still confused - my apologies. Do you need help to transition FROM ITIL to using the USMBOK? If that is so, then do not try. The USMBOK can be used to make ITIL even more valuable by acting as the wider view - the universal view of what service management is. Or, are you asking where the service transition topic of ITIL is found in the USMBOK? If this is what you are asking, 'service transition' may span the entire service lifecycle, from opportunity to retirement, depending on the governance policies set for any specific service. In general, it spans 'Develop/Build', as it owns teh controlled tst environment, through to retirement.

To this, I responded as follows: "I will find it quite confusing if I continue with ITIL, then adopt USMBOK to enhance ITIL. It may create work as well."



Edwin, I think you are being very boxed in your thinking. USMBOK starts from first principles, not from an attempt to be an extension to ITIL. It doesn't even deal with the same topic. ITIL covers ITSM. USMBOK covers SM. USMBOK tries to not be IT-specific and generally succeeds.

I think I'm inclined to agree with Ian that Change is uncomfortable wedged between Build and Deploy. Change is involved at all phases. If one views Change merely as the gate-keeper approver of release into production then that is a very limited and production-centric view.

When you use ITIL and you get to the edge of the map, you can either fall off or look somewhere else for further guidance. if you understand enough of ITSM then you will be able to synthesise multiple frameworks together.

I agree that ITIL is the 600lb gorilla and so USMBOK will always be in the shadow (or up its...). That is a historical misfortune. But see it for what it is, not through an ITIL lens, and its pretty amazing.

Boxed in my thinking? I think I am just a skeptic.

One of the blogs I found in the IT skeptic forum says: "The Universal Service Management Book of Knowledge is being touted as a more comprehensive alternative to ITIL. ITIL is still the 600-pound gorilla, but it is less lonely, for a number of reasons. ITIL has become a commercialised monopoly and it most definitely NOT open any more.

This very statement led me to look at USMBOK and I had an impression that USMBOK is indeed a replacement lens to the ITIL lens, but still looking at the same service management challenges with a much clearer view.

As I have stated to SM101, bringing in USMBOK in an IT environment where ITIL has or beginning to set in (mind you, I am limiting my comments within an IT perspective), will confuse people, partculalry in this day and age of multi-sourcing partnerships, where ITIL is once of the selection criteria for the outsourcing partnership.

I am wondering if the authors of ITIL see how ITIL and USMBOK work together. It would be an education for me.

Thanks a million.

I have no been an IT Sceptic until this educational encounter.

USMBOK supplement

"if the authors of ITIL see how ITIL and USMBOK work together"? Over their dead bodies, I'd imagine.

I think you meant "if the authors of USMBOK see how ITIL and USMBOK work together" :) Ian? You out there? How could USMBOK supplement a site already entrenched in ITIL?

The Truth Gets Told...


Great find!

I'm glad to see that truth about this is finally getting brought to the surface. Hopefully, this complaint will help resolve the issue and correct the issue.

But, there are two other points to note here from your comments.

1. **Unless a work is labeled as being in the public domain, it is owned by someone**

This is true (in most cases) whether or not a copyright statement is applied to the document. Just because one doesn't do it, doesn't mean you've waived your rights.

Now, whether they enforce their rights of ownership, charge money for use or access or to what end they promote the content is really irrelevant. It's owned. You just can't rip off what you want and use it however you feel like. It's either licensed or under fair use doctrine.

2. The grass isn't guaranteed to be greener

I happen to be a COBIT fan/advocate as well. COBIT is not nirvana, nor is it public domain. What it does have that ITIL does not is actual, working governance around how the framework evolves.

Only time will tell what influence the "ITIL crowd" has on its evolution.


some competition

Hi Ken

I agree we should not deify COBIT5 as the world did ITIL. I am sure COBIT too will be flawed, and I look forward to the same ugly behaviours breaking out once it gains commercial momentum. More material for the blog!

However, some competition in the frameworks world will be welcome. (Sorry but USMBOK has not succeeded in rattling OGC's cage)


Cage Rattling and such...

A few points:

  • I would like to see COBIT adoption increase. I think it's a good thing. I sincerely hope that its future doesn't give you more material to blog on.
  • Competition in the frameworks world? It will always be there and it's a good thing. We learn much more from examining things from different perspectives than we do from trying to develop a grand unified theory of anything. I have a lot of room to use lots of different frameworks and the guidance they provide. At the same time, I value having the USMBOK as my lens for holding all of it in context and determining what is/isn't applicable for a given customer situation... my customers do too!
  • "Sorry but USMBOK has not succeeded in rattling OGC's cage".
    • I don't seem to recall that being the authors intention. In fact, he's been quite adamant about helping to protect an investment in ITIL.
    • Nothing rattles the OGC cage. The "refresh" is merely a dog scratching at fleas.


In my early IT process days, I came across the USMBOK and it travels with me on my consultations. I find it a great supplement to OGC books and in many cases easier to understand presented concepts. It's nice to stay in 1 or 2 chapters to understand a concept/process and not have to traverse several books as the process crosses 'life cycles' Mr. Clayton has his approach to service management and is far an away not in competition with OGC. I wish my clients would be less hung on ITIL and more on service management and the other good reference/source material for effective service management. I'm getting ready to do my COBIT 5 to see what I can include in my process materials.

Couldn't agree more... Let's open up the gates of knowledge

Skep, Ken,
I think this is really great information to share with the publc.
Thanks so much for sharing it.

It has long been a point of contention with me, especially when I used to get letters from the OGC saying "we have no record of your licenses... blah blah blah", when I had in fact allocated material use through an approved 3rd party. A ridiculous waste of time, resources and bureaucracy. We need to open up the frameworks and practices so that input and validation can become more transparent. The regulation of ITIL has clearly failed with Version 3, and unless this becomes an open source platform, it will not innovate.




I fail to see how an "ITIL is proprietary" argument works in favor of USMBOK which, as far as I can tell, is a proprietary document written and copyrighted by one person and is not in the public domain. Sticking a .org on your website qualifies you for nothing.

Please note I am not criticizing the contents of USMBOK. I have watched a presentation by the author and he clearly understands the theory and practice of provisioning services. I am only saying that USMBOK is not the required model. And notwithstanding the contributions of the author to the industry, USMBOK will not supplant ITIL.

Something will supplant ITIL, probably COBIT, because, although imperfect, it at least represents more steps forward and no (or fewer) steps backwards.

ISACA governance

USMBOK does not target the same space as ITIL: it applies to any service management context, IT or not. IT folk need an IT-specific description (a) because our world is so complex and (b) because we like details. Nevertheless, USMBOK shows clearly what ITIL should have looked like if it had been prepared in a systematic and rigorous manner with a consistent vision. And I do refer to USMBOK when doing ITSM work.

An IT-specific version of USMBOK would be an interesting entrant in the domain, but if COBIT5 is good enough then the weight of ISACA behind it will make its success a forgone conclusion, so long as the excellent ISACA governance Ken refers to prevents (or at least minimises) the kind of commercial bullshit that OGC/TSO/APMG/itSMF are indulging in. Note: I'm not 100% confident of that: some of the past commercial arrangements around ISACA might not have borne close scrutiny, nor have I had a close look at current ISACA finances. But as interest in COBIT grows, I will :)

The USMBOK is not comparible or in competition with ITIL

Greg, with respect - as the author of the USMBOK I have never hidden the fact its proprietary or authored by one person. My intentions have been stated loud and clear for years - to craft a pragmatic set of concepts and methods that are universally applicable across all service industry sectors - and generally IT agnostic. It draws more upon proven non-IT practices and leverages product marketing skills to target the management of the customer experience. The USMBOK is not presented as a required model. Nor do I care about "rattling OGC's cage" - they are not my target customer.

I have no, nor had any, intention to supplant ITIL - and I thank you for this chance to try and dispel this all too common and inaccurate portrayal of the USMBOK, which I believe is deliberately floated by some individuals (not calling you out here) as a fear factor to protect ITIL. Anyway, the U/SMBOK predates ITIL V3. The service provision lifecycle, but one element of the system is details, was used by me as one ingredient of what then was my 'secret recipe' for service management success at client sites such as Caterpillar, American Express, and AT&T as far back as @2000.

For too many years ITIL has been inaccurately portrayed by many who should have known better as the equivalent of 'shareware', or a 'standard'. It is neither. There is no difference between the ITIL, COBIT, USMBOK with respect to they are proprietary materials regardless of how they were developed, managed, or sold.

Many might recall quite detailed 'bodies of knowledge' in use prior to the 1988 birth of ITIL. I was part of some dating back to my start in IT circa 1974. As an example, the data center policies and procedures I had to use while at EDS circa 1985-1989 were vastly superior, spanning 15 three ring binder volumes and consisting of detailed operational policies and procedures to build an IT organization and data center operation from.

The USMBOK has an altogether different mandate and is designed to help professionals design and sustain a customer centric, outside-in thinking service management system. The USMBOK represents my personal opinion on what service management is, and how it should be approached.

Consequently, there are clear differences given the different goals. As someone who has been a victim of one of my presentations, you"ll know the USMBOK respects the service transaction engine concept, and has nine supporting/enabling lifecycles that act like clock flywheels, engaging as necessary and dependent upon the specific service request scenario. ITIL pins similar concepts (albeit much fewer) as processes in lifecycle stages.

The singular input to the USMBOK service management system is the service request. There are four types of maintenence (change). The USMBOK discusses key non-IT and customer centric concepts such as 'moments of truth', 'service request pathways', 'customer lifecycle', 'stakeholder scenarios', 'service plans', 'customer experience', 'value and expectation equations', 'business planning framework', 'performance management framework', and so on... all very, very different indeed. It also has a distinct role-based, peer level approach to the skills needed within a service provider organization.

Personally, I prefer the USMBOK is not positioned as an ITIL competitor - that is not its purpose, and frankly it rather devalues the contribution the USMBOK is regarded as making to service management at large. And this is the primary reason I have declined to publish an ITIL/USMBOK comparison chart... perhaps I'll have to rethink that...

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