Why Free ITIL?

Further to my recent post on Free ITIL, several people are still asking "Why?", so let me elaborate a little on why it should happen and why you should support the idea.

The online world is used to free content. In many minds, this has come to mean free as in free beer not free as in free speech, i.e. gratis not libre. This is unfortunate but not part of the discussion today. Here we are talking about free libre content. It is how the 21st Century world will work.

Web 2.0 is all about online community, pull not push, the creation of content through collaboration not declaration. If you don't develop that community around you, it will form somewhere else.

Any body of work that does not accept these two axioms will be weakened in its growth and diminished in its reputation. ITIL is in danger of being left behind or rejected by a backlash against its rapacious commercialisation and its aggressive assertion of copyright and trademark.

Right now in the OGC world of ITIL, Prince2 et al:

  • accredited trainers are being constrained from producing supplementary products for training courses such as study notes or summaries of the core content
  • PhD students are being beat up for publishing theses about ITIL
  • Universities are prevented from including training about ITIL in their courses
  • Consultants cannot offer "ITIL consulting" without a licence
  • Consultants are nervous about using ITIL material when producing deliverables for clients
  • In theory, practitioners cannot freely copy and distribute their own processes based on ITIL within their organisation without a licence.
  • Practitioners are facing a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to gain access to an exclusive club.

If ITIL were released under the UK's Open Government Licence, all practitioners would be able to freely use the material but would have to attribute its source i.e. they need to make it clear that their own material is based on ITIL. They would NOT be free to publish it as "Super ITIL" or even "ITIL Beginner Course" because the trademark is still controlled by OGC. But they could publish "Fred's ITSM Framework" or "Beginner's ITSM training". The buyer gets to choose whether to buy the original ITIL books or the alternative framework, and they get to choose whether to get accredited official training or no-name-brand training. This choice will be made based on the buying organisation's taste for standards and certifications. So most major companies will continue to feed the coffers of OGC. But smaller companies and those in cash-strapped nations will fill with materials which still refer to ITIL as the mother-lode, expanding awareness of ITIL (if that's possible) and retaining its prestige as the ultimate definition of ITSM. Consultants who currently hesitate to refer to or use ITIL when producing advice and deliverables for clients will make greater use of it, further expanding its range. And tertiary eduction can include ITIL, producing armies of new converts. That's the benefit to the producer.

The benefit to the consumer is increased competition. Several years ago, Van Haren introduced an online version of ITIL that cost about fifty quid a year. It disappeared. Guess why. With Free ITIL costs will fall. And service will improve. Right now the ITIL consumer is treated like dirt. New releases of the books come out approximately every whenever the publisher feels like it, with no notification of a new release and little or no explanation of what has changed. Books appear on Amazon.com long after release. Online web content is rubbish. Community building efforts are token. Customer help is tragic.

The third benefit is to ITIL. If ITIL materials are re-used and recombined in new and creative ways, this can only advance ITSM knowledge and ideas. If OGC's purpose is to find better ways for all departments of the UK government to improve IT quality and reduce costs then they should view this as a good thing. If OGC are about administering a closed proprietary monopoly in order to maximise revenue to their own department, then they'll be less in favour.

As well as the benefits, the other reason for releasing ITIL is an appeal to natural justice. ITIL is asserting copyright over materials that came from many external contributors and supposedly encapsulates generally accepted principles. When most of those people contributed it was on the understanding that they were contributing to a public domain resource. The only reason ITIL is so widely known today is due to the efforts of an army of volunteers from itSMF, from consulting firms like Pink Elephant, and from a number of vendors like HP, none of whom stand to profit directly from sales of ITIL. Sure none of us are working for charity. We all stand to profit from growth of ITIL the Movement. But many act for idealistic reasons of wanting to improve the professionalism and quality of IT along with forging a career or business. OGC, TSO and APMG have ridden a wave of free contribution, review, marketing and promotion that most publishers only dream of. Perhaps it is time to show some gratitude to the community who did that.

One justification touted by OGC to continue to rake in the cash is to fund future development of ITIL. There are many other ways future versions could be funded: contributions from the business-development arms of multiple world governments; sponsorship deals; advertising in the books and websites. Besides, free libre ITIL does not mean free gratis ITIL. An OGL-licensed ITIL will still continue to bring in a healthy cash-flow from those organisations who do want to licence the use of the ITIL trademarked brand; from accredited training; from certified products; from official books. The five core books would continue to be copyright OGC: you can publish books the same as them but plenty of people will still go to the source to buy the "real official" books so long as they are priced competitively. And OGC have done very nicely already from ITIL V3: royalties from hundreds of thousands (millions?) of books; and licence fees from many companies using the trademark and vendors certifying their products.

Please don't hand me some drivel about it being unfair to TSO. TSO hold copyright on much (all?) of the "Complementary Official" ITIL content, NOT the British Crown (ITIL LIte, ITIL V3 Planning to Implement Service Management...). They get to slap an "OGC Official Product" logo on the cover, publish without the same QA review as anyone else, or even the same approval to use the branding, but if OGC terminated TSO's contract tomorrow, these books are property of TSO not OGC. So don't give me any crap about TSO being hard done by if ITIL is set free.

Likewise APMG. They'd be harder hit by a proliferation of "ITSM training" but no more than normal entrepreneural commercial risk dictates. No company has a guaranteed hold forever on a monopolistic position. If APMG's product is of adequate quality and repute, a sufficient proportion of customers will continue to opt for officially accredited ITIL training and certification.

So let's have ITIL given back to the community who supports it, in order to ensure the future growth of the ITIL Movement. Free ITIL!

If you support this idea, send your views to the UK Government here by joining our petition.

P.S. Being acutely aware of when my rants put me in a hypocritical position, such as when I shed anonymity, as of today all content on most of my websites is released under the Creative Commons licence (see the bottom of this and every page).


ITIL - Fair Tax

Warning - rant on.

Why free ITIL? What next? This all reads like a socialist pitch. Yes it was likely developed by government staff using tax dollars, but then roads were built that way and there is still a road tax. I have said for years ITIL is a tax on IT and is there because the industry didn't bother to pose an alternate.

OGC built something based upon existing information. They created a unique set of books that added value and polarized parts of the IT industry. Its a valuable contribution to applying service management principles to the challenges of running an IT organization as a service provider.

If you have become snookered because all you know is ITIL... your value is waving an ITIL certificate around - you don't know how to differentiate yourself in an ITIL dominated world - write an ITIL book.

Why not just let OGC own it and have an honest conversation about its strengths and weaknesses based upon an industry understanding of what is needed out of an ITSM blueprint? Free ITIL by letting it sink or swim in a level playing field.

We are all victims of allowing ITIL to become THE 'de facto standard'. We let the itSMF push and push it. We let conference tracks be dominated by it. Then we discover that when the economic hammer comes down - its short on actual results. Vendors and evangelists abandon it.. the customer is left with the boat anchor of a project.

Serves us right. Now ruddy well grow up and act like a professional and work as a unit, as an industry to define what we need and then either buy, borrow, or build it. Include ITIL. Include other frameworks, study and comment on MOF, IBM-PRM-IT, e-SCM, AisL, BisL, and may I add USMBOK. There are other great elements out there in the business and customer experience universes. Where is this thurst in our industry - deafening silence goes here..... chirrup chirrup...

Where oh where is the event where we can have an open and honest discussion about what we need and what works - without some evangelist or vendor getting out of their comfort zone and pram.

Rant off.

Stuck with ITIL

It will not be a level playing field for a long time, if ever. Get real. A million people are not going to walk away from their certifications. Tens of thousands of CIOs, analysts and consultants are not going to back-pedal on their decisions and recommendations. The momentum of ITIL is massive. It just might crumble away like snow when rained on by something new like Cloud. Or it might not. But none of us as individuals are going to have that effect. itSMF's job is to reflect member requirements as much as to influence them so it is not going to U-turn overnight either.

I think the Pink conference offers a non-partisan environment for considering all the options, but even there most of the attendees aren't interested in the angels-on-pins debates that we ITSM philosophers have. They see the pragmatic reality of ITIL and just want to get on with the job.

ITIL needs to change. it needs to respond to the demands of the environment such as Agile and Cloud. it will change much more quickly if ITSM experts are free to synthsise it with other knowledge to propose new variants, and those variants compete, and their content is free to be reabsorbed back into ITIL. I don't think any of those variants would ever topple ITIL - it has the brand (MOF hasn't managed it yet). But they would thrive in niches and they would grow ITIL.

In fact setting ITIL free would have the opposite effect to toppling ITIL - it would further expand ITIL's adoption. There would be more consulting, more training, more books, more competition... If that expanding ITIL is also a more adaptive responsive ITIL then I see that as a good thing.

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