James Governor's Monkchips

ITIL needs to lower its prices: On standards and barriers to entry

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What is it with “open” standards with significant barriers to entry? Barriers to participation work against broad adoption of standards and technology.
So what about IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a high level model for enabling IT management and operations functions to act as services used by lines-of-business? ITIL is kind of like a set of conversation patterns for operational management functions.
To me it self-evidently absurd that Cote, who wants to write about ITIL and share his knowledge, is stymied from reading the whole library by a dollar-driven barrier to entry. If Cote is dorky enough to want to read the whole library, that’s his lookout. But isn’t the fact ITIL comes in a bunch of big books a barrier enough, without introducing fees over a hundred bucks for one of them? Who ever reads a bunch of documentation-style writing these days anyway? We want small chunks of relevant content.
So that is two barriers to partipation right off the bat- cost and wordlength.
The reason this issue is far from academic at the moment is because of the current mismatch between systems management softare vendors selling to ITIL, and the market understanding of what it actually is. Training and people are essential for ITIL success. ITIL provides a useful foundation for business IT alignment discussions but it is not not a “how to” guide. There are no shortcuts. It is a not a set of prescriptive guidelines.
Note to enterprise buyers- if a software company making a sales call tells you their product is ITIL-certified then cross them off the short-list. Products can not be certified ITIL compliant. People can be ITIL-certified, products can’t. Any decent software vendor will know that and tell you so.
Note to vendors and analyst relations people looking to brief RedMonk on offerings that will help with ITIL compliance. Don’t tell us your product is ITIL compliant in a briefing. Its just embarrassing for everyone if we have to have to push back and say it can’t be.
I appreciate some authors want to be paid for their work. Some may not though. One would think that being the author of one of the ITIL books would be a nice consulting calling card…
The fact that ITIL is owned by UK Office of Government Commerce could be part of the problem. What is the OGC?
OGC is an independent office of the Treasury and works with public sector organisations to help them improve their efficiency, gain better value for money from their commercial activities and deliver improved success from programmes and projects.

Is So why is the OGC charging public and private sector organisations for content.

Surely ITIL has outgrown the OGC. It outgrew the public sector, and the UK long ago. Bearing in mind that the UK’s public sector IT delivery track record is so incredibly poor, wouldnt it make sense to offer a set of UK Government-backed guidelines explicitly designed to improve IT delivery free?

Its surely high time we created an independent ITIL standards body, which makes core content freely available, and allow commercial models to be built on top of that foundation.


update: I just read this:

As British Standard 15000 on IT Service Management, which is aligned to ITIL, is being adopted as an international standard, ISO/IEC 20000, future maintenance and development will be by an international working group. OGC and itSMFI will work with this and other standards bodies to maintain alignment between ISO/IEC 20000 and ITIL as both further develop, including vocabulary, functions and processes.


  1. ITIL – debunking the myth.

    Someone, somewhere should let everyone in on the ITIL ‘secret’. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about ITIL as though it is some kind of secret society that only the ‘cool’ people are in.

    Organisations (be they vendors, analysts or end-users) bandy around the term just to sound cool and to sound better than others. It’s like that secret ‘thing’ kids used to talk about in the playground that you felt left out if you didn’t know what they were talking about. It is doing more damage than good currently due to the spread of FUD. It seems there is a reputation that people only get certified in things so that their CV looks better whether it’s for internal or external personal gain, and certification also scares away a lot of people that would benefit the most from the knowledge.

    So I’ll let you all in on the secret – all ITIL essentially is is a ‘common language’. It is a definition of terms and processes so that everyone in the IT industry is saying the same thing and ultimately understands each other better. Once business people are educated in this too then it will be of value. ITIL has almost been necessitated due to the corruption of language and terms perpetrated by the industry, mainly by marketing people…

    Basically it should get to the point that when the business guy talks about ‘change management’ to his IT people, they understand what he means, and then when he goes to vendors asking for ‘change management’ they know what he wants and everyone is happy.

    So lets debunk the myth, let out the secret and come up with some kind of rapid education program for the industry. Someone could make a lot of money doing a 1 or 1/2 day course on ‘the language of ITIL’.

    We are educating all of our technical folks initially, then hopefully ultimately our sales folks so that they understand what people are talking about. That is the first and most important step and one that everyone should be taking. There’s no arrogance about it, no ‘joining a secret society’, no certification – just raising awareness to prevent confusion.

    Simple really…

  2. thanks joe. right on. you know the secret handshake, though, right?

  3. People do look at me funny when I present with one trouser leg rolled up…

  4. Thanks Joe! I’ve just started reading about ITIL after having been in IT for close to 20 years. I was faced with the document volume barrier and your myth clarification helps put this whole thing into perspective.

  5. James,
    spot on. The pricing of ITIL documentation and the complexity of its content has been the precise reason for ITSMF in the Netherlands to develop a cheap and easy-to-read introduction to ITIL, covering the basics you need for a ‘foundation level understanding’. It won’t cost you more than 38 euros (46 USD) to get access to ITIL core content. If you’re a member of ITSMF it would even cost less.
    The Dutch ITSMF was also the organisation that developed the ITIL foundations training with global examiner EXIN in 1993, for the same reason: we believed that ITIL contained very useful ideas, but it should be downsized to a less complex level. Some 300.000 peope have now taken the exam that comes with it.
    Of course I’m biased because I am the chief editor of this book – but if you look at it, I think you’ll see I’m right.
    I know the idea of making ITIL documentation available for free has been suggested several times to the team that is managing it, but it is useless: currently OGC is offering her concession on ITIL for sale for the next 5-10 years. OGC will contract these rights in return for royalty payments (to be determined through this competition: it seems that the highest bidder can have the cake). I wrote a news message on it, for who’d like to know more on this topic: “ITIL and Prince2 rights to the highest bidder?”, see http://en.itsmportal.net/news.php?id=2039.
    Best regards,
    Jan van Bon
    Chief editor ITSM LIBRARY for ITSMF-NL
    Web: http://en.itsmportal.net/books.php?id=35

  6. I don’t know which country Joe is from, but I am from UK and ITIL is not a secret over here – it has been around for over 20 years. For reasons I don’t quite understand it has only recently started catching on in US, but now it is spreading like mad, because it helps IT run better business services at reduced cost.
    There is a great little pocket book from itSMF (www.itsmf.com) called “An Introductory Overview of ITIL”. Only costs a few Euros / Pounds / Dollars and gives you the basics. There are also loads of companies round the world who do ITIL training ranging from intro courses to fully fledged Master Certification. James is spot on, the people get certified not the products, because at the end of the day ITIL is about people and process – people working in a common way with a common language – the products can be “verified” (e.g. by Pink Elephant) that they conform to all of this. However, I must admit I haven’t checked recently whether any of these courses are aimed at non-techy management who need to understand the benefits and the reasoning, as opposed to becoming CMDB experts. I’ll point my ITIL-expert colleagues at this to comment.
    Personal view is that ITIL doesn’t belong in OGC any more – it should be out in the free market driven by customers.

  7. Several statements in this article need commenting upon.

    1. The cost of the ITIL documentation (discounted if you buy the CD and license it for your organisation), is there to help fund ITIL’s protection and development (currently under v3 updating and being paid for by the OGC with funds raised!!). Or would we prefer to have it static since inception 20 years ago and not move with the industry? How much would you pay for 20 years worth of Best Practice experience which has been tried and tested?

    2. Foundation training is available as a basic level, with some vedors running Executive seminars (often for free) to show the value of ITIL. BMC Software has a Airport Simulation day which does just that.

    3. ITSMF is a professional worldwide organistion which anyone can join who is interested in learning more of Service Management, ITIL and from their Peer group. ITSMF is managing the ITIL v3 update of behalf of the OGC (something other governments should have)

    4. Would we really want an IT Service Management best practices accepted for over 20 years owned and mantained by a group unprotected by a government? The OGC acts as the insurance policy for it’s future protection.

    5. ITIL never outgrew the Public sector, yes it was created within it, but with the aid of Private sector companies for there benefit too.

    6. ITIL is so widely accepted that it’s now an ISO standard, proof of it’s value and importance. IT’s referred to and elements built into COBIT created by ISACA (they had to find a starting point/source somewhere). Or Microsoft whi reviewed ITIL and from it created MOF. ITIL is of great value to large and small organisation at differing levels.

    7. Correct that the OGC will not approve any product/application to be ITIL aligned, and vendors should be honest about this. We are. However a scheme does exist through a consultancy firm Pink Elephant. The scheme, Pink Verify, will assess products and verify against ITIL and post it on their site as approved. This is often what Vendors and owners of the products refer to. Consultancies offering advise on ITIL to clients, should be aware of this.

    Ken Turbitt
    Global Best Practices Director
    BMC Software

  8. Hi James,

    The great ‘barriers to entry’ argument only really applies when you think through what exactly you are trying to enter.

    As we know ITIL, as a set of best practices has been evolving for over 15 years and as each ‘version’ of ITIL is released more and more quality intellectual ‘know how’ (I won’t use the word property) is being injected in.

    So much so that with the advent of Version Three – 10 Worldwide experts have been paid for by the OGC to physically create the new core texts.

    There are some really hard hitters in this list and I understand that there will be some excellent new concepts integrated into the next version.

    I personally believe that the OGC (owners of ITIL core copyright and trademarks) and the itSMF (stewards of ITIL and grand overseers) actually do recognise the marketplace demand for free information and they have pledged to make more information freely available in conjunction with the forthcoming version three launch.

    Sharon Taylor, chief architect for Version Three, recently presented an excellent webcast where she said just that.

    I’ve summarised all of Sharon’s key points in a nice slide deck which you can access (for free ;> ) at the URL listed here.

    I think the days of trying to get all of ITIL for free are long gone. However, I am pleased that more free information, including executive packs, are on there way!

    Wishing You Great Service.

  9. Further to my post above:-

    Here is a link to the ITIL Version Three Author Profiles:-


    …and the ITIL V3 Perspectives Slide deck:-


  10. thanks everyone.

    clarifications are great.

    I happen to have a view of open source and open standards that is different to yours, Ken, but still relevant.

    RedMonk itself, for example, has made intellectual property freely available in shape our compliance oriented architecture.

    Some of your assumptions are open to question.

    why on earth does a standard *need* government protection? plenty of useful standards are not managed by public sector organisations.

    your claim that ITIL could not evolve without associated license fees ignores the experience of Linux and other open source technologies.

    surely a standard could successfully evolve independent of the UK government? i can point to a number of models that are rapidly changing with no associated fees.

    So thanks again everyone.

    I happen to think ITIL could be stronger if more independent, and more widely adopted if barriers to entry were lowered.

    I should perhaps also point out BMC is a client, Ken, and I have long said its a firm that people considering ITIL should work with.

  11. Carrying on from Robin’s comments regarding “entry”. Surely this is the crical point?

    If you are a lagre organisation, then you will probably want to send a number of people on planned and structured training andconcequently accept the higher costs that will bring?

    Whereas, if you are a smaller company (less than 50 people say), surely you adjust your objectives and training accordingly? Research on the Internet (there is a wealth of data on ITIL out there for free as others have mentioned), magazine articles, etc to build up your ITIL-plan.

    The key question perhaps should be “what are the objectives for utilising the ITIL model?” Once you (as an organisation) determine that, the extent of ITIL training and research can be determined more appropriately.

    I hope this helps

    Best regards


  12. I guess all text books for college should be free also ?? After all math is not what one would call proprietary. I value my red and blue book greatly. It is one the best investments I have made.. If keeping it closed per se is what it takes to keep the books honest, then so be it. I refer back to the books all the time. The value in the books for me is to determine what the (ITIL) framework is and what is an adaptation / interpretation.
    As a trainer I spend hours looking for resources on the Internet and there are many good resources out there. In the end I still end back at the red and blue books.

    The real cost of ITIL is NOT starting a Customer Service Improvement Program. Showing the cost of not having a CSIP to management will make the investment of the red and blue book trivial.

    I tell ITIL


  13. Thanks Ozzie. Very useful feedback.

    Should all text books be free? No – but some of them probably should. textbooks incur costs that electronic distribution don’t, in distribution teaching and so on. i believe the creation of open source teaching materials is a growing area.

    To your point – math should of course be free. if we had to pay a royalty to Pythagorus or Newton every time we used trigonometry or calculus the world would be a rather expensive place. were these thinkers specifically paid for their “texts” in their lifetime?

  14. I ma not so sure as I was not around at the time but many of the artists of the time were “sponsored” ..
    I would guess that many of the great thinkers were sponsored too..
    So its one of the same I guess..
    I have the think that the book cost of ITIL is more towards the dev costs rather than a profit center per se..
    Keep up the the good stuff


  15. ah yes – the sugar daddy/system of patronage model for content creation.

    could we amortise the dev costs more effectively across a broader community? i think its possible.

  16. On “debunking the ITIL Myth”…

    Words have power. There is an old Dilbert cartoon where an interviewer is exhorting the company’s core value of “Employee Empowerment.” Upon reflection, the interviewee wonders aloud why a such a phrase would be invented unless there is a problem. In other words, the existence of the mantra is a clue that the company does not really have “Employee Empowerment.”

    Yes, ITIL is about language. A compelling assertion since there is indeed a language problem – and words have power. But if that were all that was needed, then a good service management dictionary should suffice.

    ITIL does have a secret. One more powerful than language. It is the reason why organizations resist change. It has to do with the non-linear attributes of organizations. It is about a qualitative focus on the big picture. But it is difficult to debate the answer when the question is poorly understood.

    Whether by intention or accident, ITIL-v2 gave a framework that incorporated open-loop and closed-loop thinking. It solved the problem not just by good design, but by feedback. The same principle that pairs an air-conditioner with a thermostat.

    Moreover, those feedback mechanisms are the inter-connectedness between the processes.

    Not very clear? I agree. That’s why it is easy to overlook or trivialize. As linear thinkers, we typically miss the point when presented with non-linear mental models.

    I suspect it will be more pronounced in the new version.

    Ready for the secret handshake?

  17. Briefing – 20060328 – CA Service Management

    RedMonk Take: Who: Janice Thomas (AR), Arlen Beylerian (director product management), Robert Sterbens (director product marketing). Duration: 1 hour What: CA Service Management r11 Key Takeaways: CA has established a nice, clean message around what it…

  18. In reference to the comments about ITIL product certification you are absolutely correct…however we have created a structured assessment program that enables clients to evaluate how well a specific product set aligns with the processes, activities and tasks expressed in ITIL in the context of an actual implementation. Our goal was to provide enterprises with an analysis tool that will help them base their buy/upgrade decisions on fact vs the last salesman to come in and buy them a cheeseburger.

  19. If you are looking for ITIL info, books, CDs, toolkits or courses the number 1 place to visit is http://www.itgovernance.co.uk/page.itil So if you want your ITIL info pay the site a visit. It is well worth a visit!!

  20. It is true that the ITIL books are difficult reference books and are quite expensive. If you intend to become an ITIL Service Manager or an ITIL consultant then they are a must read.

    For everyone else though, what is needed is a condensed easy-to-read introduction to ITIL that provides the important information in context to the needs of most people. If this is what you are looking for then try “IT Service Management Foundations: ITIL Study Guide” at http://www.GulfStreamPress.com/foundations/.

    You will be very happy with writing style and the appropriate depth and bredth of content.

  21. i actually planned to do the certification.Now, i believe i need to be more cautious on whether or not to give a try.I wish somebody suggest me on the merits & demerits of the program and the demand it has in the market place.

  22. is my mail ID..

  23. ITIL is a value added product produced by the OGC. As a consequence it is fully entitled to generate revenue in order to recuperate its development costs. All mentions of OGC Registered trademarks should be acknowledged.

  24. While trying to get my head around this ITIL Phenomenon i came across a site with a nice description of it

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