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 Feature
24 September 2010 | Aidan Lawes Blog
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Seconds Out - Round 5!
Aidan for the fifth week running follows up and responds to the comments on the misconceptions on how ITIL is positioned and promoted...

  Aidan Lawes

Juan's latest response makes some perfectly valid points, in particular that the market will ultimately decide. However, this is exactly one of the items that I was highlighting in my blogs – a significant number of people have said to me privately and in public forums that they are unhappy with the current qualification scheme.

I agree that this is anecdotal evidence, but that makes it no less valid. If you were a service provider and there was anecdotal evidence of something being not quite right, wouldn’t you be addressing it somehow? Maybe APMG have. Perhaps they have carried out some formal market research that demonstrates that all stakeholders – EIs, training providers, (potential) consumers and purchasers, line managers, examiners, auditors, etc - are unanimous in their view that the current scheme is absolutely what is required. If so, where is the report that loudly proclaims this message? I strongly suspect that there isn’t one, because the research has never been carried out. Similarly, I don’t believe that any significant investigation into customers’ requirements was performed before the scheme was devised. Whatever the imperfections of the ITIL core material, at least a major consultation activity was performed before the refresh programme was started in earnest. [I know that some would claim that much of the input gathered from this exercise was ignored at the development stage, but lots of the messages were listened to and did inform the development programme.]

To be fair to APMG, they do listen when the evidence starts to become overwhelming, witness the revisions to the Foundation and Foundation Bridge syllabi. However, I and others would suggest that some of the failings in the initial versions could and should have been identified long before they were even launched and would debate whether Foundation is correct in its current definition. One of the claimed benefits of the lifecycle approach promoted in V3 is that requirements are properly understood before any development occurs, thus increasing the likelihood of delivering something that the customer actually wants. There is a mass of empirical evidence from any number of sources showing that introducing something which isn’t fit for purpose and then having to rework it costs far more in the long run than getting it right in the first place. And that sidesteps the reputational damage that the provider and the service suffer in the meantime, and from which it can be hard to recover.

Even if what is launched is reasonable, another key facet of service delivery is that of continual improvement – it’s something we embedded as an integral part of ISO/IEC20000 and is of course fundamental to ITIL V3. So even if APMG are sure that what exists is what was needed at the time, shouldn’t they be asking whether it still fits the bill? One of the bedrocks of the original concept of “best practice” was that it would continually evolve – just as ITIL has done.

Juan says that he doesn’t have the answers, he merely wants to stimulate the debate and get people thinking. Well so do I. When I offered my observations and criticisms, Juan complained that I didn’t suggest any solutions and that any consultant acting that way would rightly be ignored. Of course, I wasn’t acting as a consultant and hadn’t been retained to provide alternative solutions. I was merely trying to stimulate debate. However, I did subsequently say what I believe the broad thrust of the qualifications should be.

Again, I know that this is totally unscientific, but I have had quite a few comments and personal feedback agreeing with many of the things I’ve said, which leads me to feel that I’m not talking total rubbish.

The market will ultimately decide, but my concern is that the decision might be to abandon ITIL and the qualifications entirely. If we continue to promote ITIL in the marketplace in the wrong way this is what I fear will happen. The dissenting voices will become louder and their arguments will be persuasive, since misunderstanding and hence misusing ITIL will lead to scenarios where not only will no benefit have been realized, but significant cost will have been incurred to no avail.

This is not down entirely to the qualification scheme, as my original piece made clear. But a questionable qualification scheme doesn’t help. As Juan says, for many people, there is no need to become deeply knowledgeable about service management processes and disciplines, and hence Foundation level is all they aspire to. The syllabus defines the knowledge level tested and the suggested minimum contact hours, but a) there is no requirement to attend any course, b) there are very few providers who go beyond the minimum and c) there are many providers who cram the minimum hours into the shortest possible elapsed time and d) there are many unaccredited courses being run (particularly in places like India and the Far East). Possessing the certificate has become the driver, not acquiring knowledge and capability.

I can only talk personally, but except in very particular circumstances, I would want somebody to come back from a 3 day training course that I was funding with an enhanced capability, not just with a vague understanding of some terms and concepts. The Foundation syllabus is quite specific in saying that it isn’t about enhancing capability. As I’ve said before, in my experience no cowboy trainer will do more than the minimum in the shortest possible time and even accredited trainers fall prey to market forces – it is a brave step to offer a 4 day or 5 day course when all your competitors are offering 3 day events and the visible representation of achievement is the same certificate.

My views on what is needed may well be wide of the mark, but I have seen nothing that indicates that the current scheme is driven from the demand side rather than the supply one. It smacks of old IT – this is what you need or can have. I do not have the skills or resources to devise a truly neutral, scientific questionnaire and reach a proportional representative sample of all stakeholder groups, but I wish I did, because I think that’s what is truly missing here. If anyone has the resources, I'm willing to participate ...... 

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!!

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30th September 2010

Hi Aidan,

“Possessing the certificate has become the driver, not acquiring knowledge and capability”. Possessing the certificate has always been the driver. Try offering any Service Management course without a certificate at the end. The phone will not ring.

Many managers equate “certificate” to “competency”. Often they have never read the books let alone studied the syllabus. Will their students return equipped with silver bullets? I think not. The best that can be managed in three days is to open people’s eyes, perhaps awaken further interest and provide guidance on how to identify the “best” answer. Even at intermediate level the subject matter cannot be covered in enormous detail.   

Provide people with capability, in how many areas, in how short a timeframe? Even at Hogwarts the kids had to attend school for seven years.    

Andy Wright
Principal Service Management Consultant
Sysop
Finalist ITSMF trainer of the year 2009 & 2010

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


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