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The Axelos Consulting Partner Programme

My continuing thoughts…

In early May I wrote a blog about the Axelos Consulting Partner Programme (ACP) from the view of small agencies (1-3 people) after digesting their announcement and reading comments from the ITSM community (blogs, Facebook Back2ITSM page, etc.). Axelos were interested in our concerns and so invited us for a further discussion at SITS London in June.

Axelos have released a blog covering the discussion from the meeting, There were a few points that I wanted to add that I think are important for the community of consultants to be aware of.

The meeting at SITS was attended by: Lauren Hicks (AXELOS Transformation Manager), Kaimar Karu (AXELOS Head of ITSM), Kevin Holland, Kevin Ferris, Suresh GP, Daniel Breston, Lou Hunnebeck, Ian Connelly and Tobias Nyberg.

Let me start with what I have always maintained and said: I am in favour of the intent but feel that from a small consulting agency viewpoint it is untenable in it’s current format. Secondly I join them in urging the community to comment. As you can see, Axelos are listening and responding to our comments but silence will negate any further improvements. Ways to join the discussion can be found at the end.

Axelos main concerns and opportunities response:

  • Community Feedback:
    • I agree that Axelos is trying to capture our concerns via social media or upcoming, globally arranged focus groups.
  • Can the current ACP programme work better for small consultancies?
    • The original programme could become a tiered model based on to be defined criteria. This is a win from our comments. What suggestions do you have for changes?
  • Can the programme be made less bureaucratic?
    • An operational concern was raised over the requirement to provide the details of 10 clients, but Axelos has changed this to a minimum of one client so another win from our comments.
  • Why does AXELOS require ACPs to submit biannual reports? 
    • Axelos has agreed to a simplified, annual report at renewal time. Another win!
  • Can fears over client information handling be allayed?
    • Axelos understandably wants to know about how their material is being used so they can improve as required.
    • Axelos has now suggested that consulting partners create case studies which can be anonymised or, based on partner and client agreement, shared with the rest of the ITSM community.
    • The case study could be a method to assess the capability of a partner to sure continuation in the ACP, similar to the requirement of obtaining CPD points in other frameworks.
    • At SITS, Axelos mentioned that Axelos markets to many organisations and they do not want to comprise a consulting partner, so by knowing client data, Axelos could inform or work with a partner on marketing or strategy of product use.
  • Why does AXELOS require that 10% of ACP’s qualified consultants must join the AXELOS Product Consultant at a currently unknown cost?
    • The Axelos believes that if we commit to having our staff formally involved then this shows our commitment to ensuring they are trained and knowledgeable of Axelos products.
    • Axelos will work with partners to assess the impact of this requirement which means allocating a certain training and time budget for a defined percentage of staff.
    • I wonder how Axelos will deal with a world-wide community of small consulting partners all asking them for advice.
    • I think this is yet another agency telling us how to run our business.
    • Until the Product Consultant aspect is announced, no further comment is possible.
    • Again, I stress that Axelos is looking for comments.

Benefits: What exactly does an ACP get for their annual fee?

  • Intellectual Property
    • Axelos, rightfully, feels that their IP is a precious commodity and if you want to use it, then you should be charged for that privilege. This is normal practice by framework providers or even consultants.
    • My point has been, and we mentioned this at SITS, that the core material will not change (no ITIL®v4 for example) so £950 of which some part is IP is excessive compared to simply applying Axelos licensing. Look at Axelos Use of IP page, then judge and comment.
  • Maturity Models
    • Axelos is creating a model for consulting partner use only. This model will have to be maintained and updated so use could be fee based.
    • Until we know more about the approach, how it will compare to the plethora of models already on the market and cost; no further comment can be made.
  • ACP status
    • Axelos states that “ACP status is a differentiator in the market place and will help show that the consultancy has met the quality criteria and is willing to continue with on-going improvement and learning.”
    • Do you feel the ACP is a differentiator? Do you think that your customers will know (or care) about you being in the ACP or not?
  • Online Certified Partner Search
    • Axelos has a tool to search for training, and soon to be added, consulting partners by area and other criteria.
    • Currently the tool does not have a facility to rate a partner based on reviews like book or hotel sites for example. We did discuss at SITS that this would be a valuable enhancement but this is missing from the Axelos statement. I hope they do add this feature but what do you think? Again, how to comment suggestions are at the end.
  • Benchmarking reports
    • Axelos will create data for partner use. Sample thoughts on their reports or how they compare to other freely available baselines is unclear.
  • Co-funded marketing
    • Remember that this is their heading so I am confused by how Axelos goes from co-funded marketing (or what that means) to informing us that they can help us speak at certain events.
    • Note if you are a member of any number of ITSM community groups, this privilege already exists and is mainly free.
  • Templates for co-branded promotional materials
    • Axelos states that “as part of the Partner Portal’s Market Intelligence section there are many templates that can be used – from agency PR briefs through to marketing plan templates. We will work to make these relevant to consultancies.”
    • This sounds like these are available so let us see examples before we sign up please Axelos.
  • Access to sales and product master class webinars
    • Axelos states “Axelos will create and tailor webinars to help partners create ways of selling Axelos products. These webinars are tailored towards our partners to give them a better insight into our products and how best to use our products with their clients. These webinars are only available to partners.”
    • On the ABOUT AXELOS page is this statement: We also believe our vision statement unites and inspires us in a common, coherent, strategic direction, showcasing us as a company that is always looking forward for the next thing in best practice, new products with real relevance to all – whatever the company, whatever the geography.
    • So the vision states they are looking to get the best into a region or industry, which is what we expect, but I am wondering if the ACP will differentiate how they fairly help distribute that knowledge.
  • Direct access to AXELOS Global Partner Programme support
    • Partners can utilize the GPP support for queries relating to AXELOS products through the email address.
    • Is this another differentiator on quality of response that the community needs to be aware of?

Other comments from SITS not mentioned by Axelos

  • We began the discussion with a question: is there anyone here that would join the programme as it stands today? The response was no.
  • We felt that the bar of entry into the programme should be ITIL Expert. We asked that Axelos work collaborate on the creation of a viable joining and staying in the ACP formula.

I still see this programme in these terms: cost of ACP +Potential cost of Product + potential cost of Maturity model. I still see Axelos asking for us to join but not providing enough tangible material to show what is in it for me. Do you buy things on a promise of future expectation? Is this good running a business best practice? Axelos want us to agree to their terms of entry and continuance. Where are the terms of expectations from us to them on their behaviour, IP, tool or marketing? What happens if Axelos stops this programme?

The future of the best known practice in managing technology based services depends on your voice. Axelos has listened; if you want to make this a partner programme that addresses our issues, please comment.

ITIL® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited

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