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10 September 2010 | Aidan Lawes Blog
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Criticizing ITIL - Part 3
Aidan for the third week running follows up and responds to the comments on the misconceptions on how ITIL is positioned and promoted...

My original blog on this subject wasn’t intended to be a serial, nor just anti-APMG, but it seems to have taken on a life of its own.

Thanks again to all those who have commented either here or on the Linked-in site.

Apart from Juan defending APMG, the majority of comments seem to support my view that all is not well in the “state of ITIL”, and in the latest issue of servicedesk360.com Noel continues his views on its shortcomings.

I think Liz expresses most eloquently the dilemma that ATOs face in balancing a commercial proposition against a quality training event that actually equips people to do something different at the completion of it. I wanted to be reasonably precise in my numbers so I consulted my records and see that the number of courses that I have reviewed or audited is actually closer to 200 than the 100 I mentioned. There are probably nearly as many about which I am aware as a result of my involvement with EIs, but with which other panelists dealt. The fact is that the vast majority are not expanded events, but are squeezed into the shortest time that can be accommodated while meeting the minimum contact hours defined in APMG’s syllabus. Many of these ATOs openly express the same frustration that Liz describes.

Nearly 20 years ago, when ITIL was in its infancy and the only qualification was the Managers, [incidentally mine says “Certificate in IT Infrastructure Management – Service Management” with no mention of ITIL] we used to say that when job adverts started mentioning ITIL qualifications we would know it had arrived. Nowadays the whole concept has become debased, with customers routinely asking for “ITIL certification” of staff as part of their tendering process for services – without qualifying it in any way or demonstrating that they understand what it really means. I recently visited a major outsourcing company who train their staff internally to Foundation level, tailoring the event heavily to add their own “this is how we do things” flavour. They have largely discounted the whole Intermediate range as not adding value to their people in the roles they perform. They harvest the Foundation certificates because that enables them to tick the box, but for training that actually enhances their people’s capabilities they have their own bespoke events. They are far from an isolated instance.

I have repeatedly expressed my view that what is needed is a qualification scheme that is a) role-based, b) practical, c) service management based and d) tests knowledge and capability in other ways than multiple guess tests. I have shared these views with Richard Pharro of APMG and with EIs with whom I have a relationship. If this is being negative, then I don’t know what more to do to be positive! It wasn’t OGC that came up with the current scheme, but APMG acting in their role as Accreditor. As Trevor says, what we have is far removed from what was envisaged at the time the Refresh programme was started.

After all the years that I have spent in this arena, and the different roles (trainer, consultant, examiner, auditor, itSMF CEO) that I have had within it, I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the market and the players within it. I do understand the different drivers and commercial imperatives that different groups have and my original blog cast the blame far and wide. I don’t expect any group to address the shortcomings of another, except where their actions can have an impact on the other group’s perception or understanding of the subject.

As training courses are probably the first introduction to ITSM/ITIL that most people get, the messages that they receive are crucial in forming their perceptions and understanding of ITIL. In my opinion, the current scheme does not encourage the ATOs to deliver the messages appropriately. The over-prescriptive syllabi and ITIL-centric nature of the scheme almost force ATOs down the wrong path. I fear that so much of the negative criticism about ITIL stems from this source, and that if not tackled, it will lead to ITSM/ITIL being totally devalued.

In a previous blog I said that I would love to see more innovation in training events and Liz’s comment about a negative reaction from an EI is depressing and surprising. When reviewing a course, I think that the slides are almost the least important item, particularly for the ITIL portfolio. Almost every slide is either a diagram taken direct from the book, or a list of bullet points similarly derived from the core material. Just because there is a slide doesn’t mean that the topic will be covered adequately.

Indeed, identical slides appear in several courses [the overlap in some cases being 75%]. Each course has a different objective which means that what is said about the contents of the slide is far more important than the diagram/words that appear on it. What I personally want to see is a description of the course, session by session, that says what is to be covered and how,as intended by the course designer. The “how” need not involve any slides at all. There are a myriad of ways in which the subject could be handled without them.

When I was chairing the V2 Certification Board, I once challenged the OGC rep as to the legal right that they had to controlling the ITIL scheme. They quoted trademark and copyright issues. Actually, they’re irrelevant. As long as you acknowledge trademarks correctly, you don’t need any licence. And you only need a copyright licence if you are reproducing copyright material. You could just as easily furnish each delegate with a copy of a relevant book, and at a point during the course say “refer to diagram xx on page yy” and then spend 20 minutes discussing it. The real answer lies in it being recognised as the “Official” scheme. There is nothing to stop an organisation developing a qualification scheme for ITSM, where some of the courses/exams may be based on ITIL concepts, among others – after all that effectively is what universities offering Masters programmes are doing! The biggest hurdle is getting mass-market acceptance of the scheme’s relevance and value.

OGC has no remit, ability or credibility to manage such a scheme, and nor can they contract APMG or anyone else to do so. Would APMG have the credibility to do so? In my view, no – and that’s leaving aside the thorny issue of their contract with OGC! Could itSMF International? Probably not, as their relationship with OGC/APMG would likely preclude it and they may not have the capability anyway as they currently stand. I wish it were otherwise.

If we can’t get what I believe the industry really needs, then we must seek to get the best possible within the current constraints. To me, that means addressing all of the items that have been raised. Out with ITIL-centric and multiple guess; in with role-based and practical courses, linked with properly assessed and tested knowledge and competence.

PS. Juan wondered about my “common sense” item; I had in mind a specific situation regarding trainer accreditation [a subject I also blogged about]. I guess it can’t have been “a very bad idea”, since eventually APMG changed their rules to be more realistic! 

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!!


14th September 2010

Hi Aidan;

RE: In response to Criticizing ITIL – Part III

I think this is all well put and an excellent broad coverage. As an ATO I agree partially with your assessment of “our part” in the crime of letting down customers. I would like, for the record since you have branded all ATOs the same, offer some evidence of AmerIT Learning’s efforts, and those of some others, to resist the deep sucking whirlpool that ITIL accreditation has become.

1) Upon our launching in 2003 we were the very first and for a long time the only ATO to offer a 2½ day v2 Foundations class and price it accordingly. All other ATOs at the time were taking all they could get, selling and collecting for a 3 day class and providing an “open forum” the afternoon after the exam on day 3, attended by pretty much no one in the class. Within six months the Pink ATO offered a 2½ day v2 Foundations version and later dropped their 3 day entirely, and most all others quickly followed suit.

2) Again, from our earliest days, our curriculum was, and always has been, completely devoid of PowerPoint lecture http://www.ameritlearning.com/. We include, in the v2 days, a significant number of exercises that were group learning scenarios. These take more time but the learning sticks. In the very early v3 Foundation days when there was threat to test on virtually anything in the entire Life cycle series of books, many of our exercises had to be redacted to allow enough time to get into all that could possibly hit the student on the exam. We did not exactly capitulate, however. I found myself a strong advocate for the re-tooling of the Course syllabus (and more). We were, and remain, completely honest with prospects about the value of the courses and certification. I have clear evidence in several clients who reacted with the proper response to the message. For one client we do a FOUR day version of Foundations. They are totally committed to the learning experience to strengthen their IT business AND to preparing their students fully to pass the certification. They happen to be an institution of higher education. They have raving success stories of how life after ITIL has improved their operations AND, they boast a REAL 99% first time pass rate on v3 Foundations. We also have a client that we “talked out of” Foundations training for 82 into a set of 50 to get a one day introduction and 32 to get Foundations. The savings is to be invested in extremely practical Simulations workshops for all 82.

3) Supported by EXIN in establishment, we were part of a small group of US-based ATOs that banded together to put our myriad complaints to a formal effort, including solutions, to APMG. Quickly thereafter APMG created the (perhaps) well-intentioned ATO subgroup. Sadly, I find that organization to have been poorly organized, not very effective and it seems to be used as a shield against any real unified input last I bothered. That initial group of EXIN ATOs has launched a Trade Association for ATOs. It has been made a very open organization, attempting to cross EI boundaries and unite the ATOs in a self-governing fashion. Those involved commit to eschew some of the greedier, self-indulgent acts of many other ATOs, including (to some degree) offering self-paced learning for advanced classes for example. I personally wish the enforcement and governance had come from the top, rather than as you so correctly state being watered down by APMG while a complicit itSMF seems to look on with no voice.

Dick Szymanski - CEO


(ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.)


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