Canadian firm slams complexity of ITIL certification

A Canadian firm internationally recognized for providing ITIL education says the most recent version of the best practice library is creating confusion among those who want to do a better job of managing technology.

Late last week Pink Elephant, a Toronto-based company that has been offering consulting and education around the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) for 20 years, said it was changing the names of nine certification courses to clear up who should enrol in each. These courses are part of the “intermediate” level of ITIL certification, and are divided into “capability” and “lifecycle” streams. Pink Elephant will now refer to these as “IT Manager” and “IT practitioner” courses, respectively.

ITIL grew out of efforts within the U.K. government to better handle IT procurement and consists of a set of books, each devoted to a different area of technology infrastructure management. Senior IT executives such as CIOs routinely seek ITIL certification, which is officially accredited by U.K.-based APM Group but provided by scores of partners around the world, to grow and validate their technology expertise.

Pink Elephant president David Ratcliffe said before the launch of ITIL Version 3 in spring of 2007, there were only a couple of choices for certification at the intermediate level.

“Now it’s just a lot tougher for us to explain to people what they should be thinking about,” he said. “At the intermediate level, there’s a really confusing mix of courses which are not very clear to the person who doesn’t live and breathe this every day.”

The “lifecycle” stream, for example, includes courses on service strategy, design, operation and continual service improvement. This is best aimed at IT managers, Ratcliffe explained. The “capability” stream, however, looks at more distinct areas such as operational support and analysis, service offerings and agreements, and release, control and validation. IT practitioners may want to pick and choose from these categories, he suggested.

“We’re trying to get people not to think of ITIL certification as always striving towards an end result of becoming an expert or three or four years, which is what it will take,” he said. “What are my needs to help my organization right now? That’s probably going to be from just one course plus, one deeper course.”

Sharon Taylor, chief examiner for the Version 3 qualification scheme, said Pink Elephant’s decision does not reflect that of other ITIL certification providers.

“We’ve not really received that same kind of feedback. Generally speaking, the consuming public tends to understand the scheme fairly well,” she said. “The choice of certifying to the new scheme compared to the one it’s about to replace is actually increasing.”

Taylor, a Canadian who was highly involved in developing ITIL Version 3, said the scheme released in 2007 was designed to support an entire refresh of the body of knowledge on which ITIL is based. The feedback from the community, she said, is that Version 2 only covered a small subset of what ITIL practices really are.

“We’re offering a way to measure competency in the procession, not just area of practice,” she said. “ITIL moved from being a process-based framework to a lifecycle-based framework.”

Although training budgets are often among the first things cut during an economic downturn, that may not apply to ITIL, said Dave Senf, an analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto.

“We’ve seen a spike in ITIL interest over the last couple of years,” he said. “(The growth of) virtualization is playing a role . . . (there’s been) less CMDB, though.”

Two weeks ago Ratcliffe said he met with the CEO from the APM Group during a Toronto visit to discuss Pink Elephant’s concerns.

“Pink Elephant used to have a huge amount of influence over the previous schemes to Version 3. Now it’s a lot more democratic,” he said. “I guess you could say that’s a good thing, but what’s happening is we’re getting mired in decisions are taking forever to get made. There are a lot of people who have a voice at the table now.”

When Version 3 was launched, for example, Ratcliffe said he hoped to see the opportunity to introduce additional, specialized or complementary courses. This could include ITIL best practices for someone focusing on CMDB, he added. So far, however, nothing has materialized.

“There are 20 different vendors all arguing about the pros and cons. We’ve almost lost interest in it,” he said. “We were hoping in a few months or, heavens, a year maybe, there’d be additions to the program.”

Taylor insisted that the APM Group and the ITIL Certification Management Board are continuously looking for improvements and new certifications, but right now the emphasis is measuring the success and adoption of the existing programs. This involves studying the volume of certification candidates and whether the exam performance.

“We’ve chosen consciously to make sure the existing scheme as it was launched is running at a stable performance measure across all of the modules before we start introducing any additional complexity to that,” she said, adding that a master’s level is already under development.

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