The penny dropped: itSMF "members" are in fact shareholders.

The penny dropped. Finally I understand the gap between the behaviour of itSMF at the International level (and sometimes at the Chapter level), and the expectations of its members. Even though we are called "members", we aren't. We are shareholders [update: "stakeholders" is a better word as shares are not transferrable].

Most professional organisations exist to serve the members or to at least control and certify the members. itSMF does not. We have discussed in the past how the constitutions of the Chapters and of International do not mention representing the voice of members. They seldom talk much about providing a service to members other than networking. Conferences, newsletters, local forums etc are actually more to do with promoting ITSM than they are to do with serving members.

I don't agree with Ian Clayton; itSMF is not the "ITIL User Group" either. itSMF only cares if you use ITIL in a statistical sense not an individual one. Apart from the almost accidental effect of local networking, itSMF has no interest in your personal relationship with ITIL.

Looking at another model, cooperative investment society "members" are actually customers. We aren't that either (except one step removed when we buy ITIL books, training or consulting from someone). We do not join itSMF so we can band together for some mutual benefit (other than book discounts, but itSMF is hardly the ITIL Book of the Month Club).

No, we are shareholders. itSMF exists to serve the industry. itSMF's customers are the owner (OGC), the primary vendors (TSO, APMG), the secondary vendors (EXIN, ISEB, Pink, Fox, HP, CA, IBM, BMC, Marval...), and perhaps the small local and independent consultants like me, though in practice we can be safely ignored.

We invest our annual subscription to be owners of a not-for-profit (no really) company that employs our funds and our volunteer labour to advance the industry from which we derive our income. Nothing wrong with that, once we understand it. itSMF is owned by the "members" but it does not exist to serve them, only to have a common interest with them in promoting ITSM in general and (right now) ITIL in particular.

So itSMF does not need to care about democratic representation of members beyond the letter of the law regarding its obligations to shareholders. itSMF doesn't need to care about vendor domination because vendors are the engines which grow the ITIL industry. Of course itSMF does not criticise its biggest customers even if they do not act in the interests of the end consumer. itSMF can be as deeply commercially entrenched in ITIL as it wishes because it is all part of making a buck from ITSM which is what itSMF is all about. No conflicts there for an organisation which exists to promote the industry.

itSMF doesn't even need to get on board the current fad for "shareholder value" since there are no transferable shares and hence no shareprice or dividend. We shareholders have no right to any return on our investment in membership other than to see ITSM grow as an industry.

All clear now?

See also this discussion of what itSMF need to do to change to be a member organisation.


Members are the center of an association's universe

Dear Skeptic,

Based on my knowledge and experience, all of which is here in the United States, I'm not sure I would use the word “Shareholder.” It gives the perception of an equity position which the members of nonprofit organizations do not, nor cannot have. A better choice to define members would be “Stakeholders,” since they're supposed to have a personal interest or involvement in the organization and its activities. Regardless of the position we take, both a shareholder and a stakeholder have expectations.

An association is generally defined as a group of individuals who voluntarily enter into an agreement to form a body to accomplish a purpose. Examples of this concept in the USA would be: The American Dental Association, Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders & Contractors, and The American Institute of Certified Accountants etc. A Users Group, sometimes incorporated as non-profits, is an organization that provides support and/or education for the users of certain computers, software, cars etc. For example, the OpenView Forum was a users group for HP Software, Apple Users Group, Adobe Users Group, HOG (Harley Owners Group) and Linux User Group etc. I do agree with Ian Clayton that the ITSMF is a “Users Group!" During a conversation with one of the Version 3 authors at the San Jose Launch, he emphatically said that we (his reference to a chapter) need to get back to being an ITIL group. He indicated that they had lost their key focus. Whether you don't agree, partially agree or completely agree, ITSMF is an ITIL users group. If you read "What is itSMF" on their web site, neither their mission nor vision is directed to members. Your own comment, “ITSMF exists to serve the industry,” supports the users group theory.

To answer the pertinent questions you've raised, “So itSMF does not need to care about democratic representation of members beyond the letter of the law regarding its obligations to shareholders, does itSMF need to care about vendor domination, is itSMF deeply commercially entrenched in ITIL as it wishes, and are there any conflicts there for an organisation which exists to promote the industry,” I have two words, imaginary puissance.

it is fair to say itSMF is the volunteer marketing arm of ITIL

You and I have differing understanding of a "user group". To me a user group is a grass-roots bunch of people who draw together based on their common usage of something, so that they can exchange infiormation with each other and speak with a common voice, often to the supplier of the thing.

Maybe I have not explained this concept well. itSMF members put money into itSMF but itSMF does not exist for the purpose of giving them something back directly, individually. itSMF exists to "promote service management". Hypothetically, if a butcher happened to think it was time IT adopted service management so paid his money to help see that happen, itSMF would take his money even though itSMF has nothing to offer him directly.

itSMF publicly states that this is its purpose for existence. Ian and I have both pointed this out in the past. And itSMF behaviour bears it out. members are not the customers of itSMF, just bystanders. Important: I'm not saying itSMF acts as if this is the case. I'm saying it IS the case.

Shareholders may not be the right word (as you say there is no equity stake) so i'm happy to go with stakeholders. the key point is that while we have a stake in itSMF's success, itSMF does not have a stake in ours individually. itSMF is solely interested in the success of the ITSM movement/industry as a whole. Right now ITSM = ITIL.

it is fair to say itSMF is the volunteer marketing arm of ITIL, but not the user group.

Once this is understood, then itSMF becomes a lot less disappointing and puzzling.

Well, we can agree to

Well, we can agree to disagree on what they are! However, the five questions that should be asked of the ITSMF are; 1. What is their Mission, 2. Who is their Customer, 3. What does the Customer consider value, 4. what have been the results and 5. what is their plan?

The current mission of itSMF International is to harness global resources to strengthen IT Service Management, support its growth into new markets, direct its expansion into new models and protect its integrity. What are the results they want to achieve? What are the specific and measurable objectives from this direction? Do they have a detailed plan with action steps to meet their objectives? This blog has uncovered an almost universal dissent on the mission and purpose and values of the ITSMF. Are they fulfilling a meaningful role?

The board needs to be evaluated as well and you need to get the board of directors to accept the reality that the board, too, needs to be assessed and that it needs goals and objectives which it measures or judges itself. The nominee's election statements really have not addressed any of these concerns.

A past president of the itSMFUSA continually told me it was all about perception. Perception is reality. If that's the case, the nominees for Chair have some perceptions that further raise questions of the direction of the ITSMF.

Destructive altruism. There was considerable expectation that the ITSMF would grow at an accelerated rate in the years immediately ahead. The size and certainty of that growth, to a considerable degree, depended upon informed, skilled and vigorous leadership capable of understanding industry problems, interpreting significant facets related to them, and influencing decisions based on those facts.

Perhaps the German philosopher, Goethe, said it best: "Before you can Do Something, you must first Be something."

Taiwanese saying

Seek "fair exchange" in any deal you enter and you can do it again.

Maybe Skeptic has a point.

Ps. might also be Russian... but definitely not Dutch

ITSM marketing

Do you see the ISM as part of the itSMF? If not, then I can see your point - but the ISM works to provide mentoring and professional recognition to individuals. These are, of course, also valuable to the industry, but isn't the primary customer the member of the itSMF?

Another exampe is the Benchmarking project. Isn't that directed at helping customers?

You mentioned earlier that the books sold by the itSMF did not make it the 'book of the month club'. I'm not sure that that is quite the aim. The books are developed, reviewed and endorsed by the itSMF with the proximate aim of providing valuable information to members. The ultimate aim may well be to keep the ITSM industry going, but isn't it a little cynical to say that it is the only aim?

My first question is relevant to all this, though. If you see the production of books, benchmarking initiatives and a professional institute as not part of the 'core' itSMF, then you won't see it as acting in members interests directly. If that is how you see it, then, maybe, work should be done to make these initiatives more visible as part of the itSMF and to work on more member-focused initiatives.

Unless, of course, you see it as a 'good thing' that the itSMF apparently doesn't concern itself with members - in which case it would make sense to spin off all the above....

It is possibly a litte bit of a circular argument. If you help end users, you help the industry, if you help the industry you help end users (one hopes), so, which ever perspective you have you can use the same evidence to support it.

The Institute of Service Management is NOT part of itSMF

The Institute of Service Management is NOT part of itSMF. it is a distinct organisation. If IoSM was part of itSMF we would have rolled it out worldwide using the existing infrastructure instead of a local project in the UK and a disputed one in the USA. IoSM *should* have been part of itSMF. Quoting IoSM as an itSMF success is both laughable and misleading.

Plenty of activity is directied at helping the industry which INDIRECTLY helps members. But the focus of iTSMF is to promote industry.

ISM is currently part of itSMF

Actually, currently, it's still a part of the UK Chapter as indeed we all were at one stage. That's not to say that it should not become independent, it's largely autonomous in its operation anyhow and itSMF UK and the ISM are I understand, and rightly so, working towards independence from each other - it's a bit like a mother helping to nurture its children.

The UK has given all Chapters the ability to operate with autonomy so why not ISM? In reality, some Chapters have become autonomous without so much as a "by-your-leave" but hey! That's the nature of unforgiving teenagers!

ISM's aim I would guess also is to become independent and a global player in recognising the professional competence of people working in ITSM. Why not?

Why not?

Why not?

Why doesn't this fit in itSMF's service portfolio?
Why replicate the administrative machinery of itSMF in every country?
Why confuse the market?
Why compete for membership dollars especially for we lone practitioners?
Why it itSMF so averse to doing something for the members?
Why doesn't the same thing happen in other sectors?
Why not meet the expectations of thousands of members who already think this is what they joined for?

Members! Members!!!?

I seem to remember you saying some time ago that itSMF was not a member organization. So why now the change of heart and seeming concern for them?

Tossing it off as a distinct startup

Yes that's what i meant. Right now itSMF is focused on somethign other than members. Opening up a "certification/professional/individual" division would have been a move in the right direction. Tossing it off as a distinct startup was not.

Can you describe what you

Can you describe what you believe a "certification/professional/individual” is or would be? What would be the focus of this “division?” What would be certified? What would be the value to the individual?

I mean exactly what most professional bodies do

I mean exactly what most professional bodies do: ISACA, any institute of accountants, engineers, surveyors or for that matter master painters.
Offer professional development programs, monitor individual's ongoing professional development, certify the individual to standard(s).
Censure rogue members.
Represent the views and interests of the profession as a united voice.

IoSM is a close relative of itSMF UK

Check out the IoSM FAQs at their website and much will be revealed. The facts as I read them:

1) IoSM was established and funded by itSMF UK to target the individual while the itSMF UK continues to target ORGANIZATIONAL members
2) The IoSM is a UK centric membership
3) The ambition is for it to become self-sufficient from itSMF UK funding as soon as possible
4) The mission of the itSMF UK and IoSM were at odds with the original intent of itSMF USA
5) The majority of itSMF USA members still feel they have joined an association focused on their individual needs
6) The itSMF organization DOES promote ITSM, and specifically ITIL in the industry
7) There is little if any initiative or intent perhaps to discuss anything else at the itSMF Board levels than ITIL
8) To all visible purposes itSMF operates as an ITIL User Group - if you believe otherwise point to something tangible
9) There is no equivalent setup in the US, or any other chapter it seems
10) The ICSM ( founded by Ken Hamilton and David Cannon with Sharon Taylor as President, and with Michael Cardinal as a Board member, seems to be positioned as the IoSM for the US market. To my knowledge this has gone largely unreported and remains unknown to most itSMF USA members

All of this is absolutely fine. It just begs a clearer explanation to the individual professional who may be contributing annual membership dues in the belief they are the focus.

Promoting towards what end

Overtime institutions(forums) forget (or choose to forget) their reasons for birth and what originally brought individuals and practioners together. They sometimes end up in promoting for the sake of promotion (ITIL V3 case in point).

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