Should you do ITIL certification training with ITIL version 3 looming? An IT Skeptic Special Report

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There have been recent allegations on the IT Skeptic blog that ITIL training providers are not letting prospective customers know about ITIL version 3 looming, and the implications for certification. Whilst there must be an element of caveat emptor in all this, it does raise some questions about what is the ethically correct position for vendors to take and who oversees that, and what advice should be given to prospective purchasers of certification training. The IT Skeptic will advise you: read on.

In a recent comment here, Ian Clayton of ITSMI said “Why do we still see ITIL Foundation class numbers rocket in the US when the certification scheme is likely to change? Folks who ring us are unaware ITIL is changing and no-one is telling them whilst they call with a request for training. Why are vendors NOT explaining this? Is it the money? Where are course provider ethics in all this?”

A fair question. Have any other readers had this experience or had direct reports of it?

To me, the questions it raises are:

  • What are the implications of V3 for certification? Is there anything vendors need to be telling prospective customers? And are they?
  • Who polices this? Is there any governance mechanism for certification providers?
  • If so, what guidance are they giving to providers?

So, let us see what we can find out.

The implications of ITIL V3 for certification

According to OGC

Existing ITIL qualifications will not be invalidated by the changes to ITIL because the core principles will not change. The Examination Institutes will ensure that training course content, exams and guidance remain in step with the development of the Library. Therefore any course or certification undertaken during this transition period will remain relevant and will be recognised by any new structure... As far as the Examination Institutes are concerned any current qualifications will remain relevant. However it seems likely that course providers will offer 'refresh courses' or 'bridging days' to provide any new or updated knowledge… partaking of these will be a matter for the individual.

The same statement is repeated by EXIN

No existing qualifications will be invalidated by the changes, because the core principles are not changing.

The British Computer Society (who run ISEB) are a little less crisp about endorsing existing qualifications

V2 Qualifications will continue until at least December 2007, with transition plans being put in place as soon as the V3 books are available

So nothing much changes as far as qualifications are concerned then? Well not quite.

For a start there will be changes to qualifications. OGC says

Any qualification changes will be clearly explained when announced. The majority of ITIL examinations taken are at the Foundation level, and it is this material that will change the least

So all qualifications may change somewhat, and the advanced ones are expected to change more than the Foundation.

It is interesting to note that an earlier OGC statement included the phrase “Any qualification changes will be enhancements” but this seems to have been dropped. I conclude that OGC could not guarantee that all changes would be limited to just “enhancement”.

Pink Elephant also state that there will be changes:

[Pink Elephant is represented on] the international panel that will work towards creating new qualifications to support the next set of certification exams based on ITIL v3 … The panel’s main objective is to ensure the updated Foundation, Practitioner and Management level exams truly reflect the needs of IT Service Management practitioners in countries across the globe.

Also, there will be more official resources to support studying for qualifications. According to OGC

Third and fourth tranches [that is, phases of work that will follow the publication of the new five core ITIL books, which are the “second tranche” of work] address specific support for the qualification scheme by introducing study aids for the Foundation and other examinations

All these statements are in the future tense. The qualifications will change but nobody knows how (or nobody is saying just yet).

Certainly the changes to ITIL in the Refresh are extensive. As “dool” said on this blog “There is one thing for sure that no one has called out. V3 turned out to be far more than a refresh.”

As many of you will know, according to OGC:

The second tranche is the new set of core books, following a lifecycle model from design to retirement through 5 books. Working titles are:
- Service Strategies
- Service Design
- Service Introduction
- Service Operation
- Continuous Service Improvement
… The core, which we hope will be slimmer than it is now, should consist of the real core concepts and generic best practices, which don't change rapidly … we won't be throwing much existing content away, just remapping to a new, more business-oriented framework.

It certainly sounds to the IT Skeptic as if there is enough change looming in ITIL qualifications as a result of the ITIL Refresh that prospective purchasers of ITIL training and certification ought to be aware of it.

Now as I said above, caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. People have to take some responsibility for their own decisions and have an obligation to make themself aware of what is going on in the market. The ITIL Refresh is hardly a secret (well, the existence of it is not a secret even if much of the process and content is). All the material quoted here is on the internet.

On the other hand, I think most reasonable people would say that there is an ethical obligation on the vendors to at least point out ITIL V3, even if they let people do their own research.

Now the claim has been made that this is not happening in all cases. I have heard that at least one major vendor of certification training did not even mention V3 to one or more prospects, let alone spell out the implications.

See, the problem here is of course sales people. They are measured by the dollars they deliver, and so are the management who govern them. They are hardly going to lose their 2007 bonus just because V3 is coming and their market takes a ‘wait and see’ position.

Policing the training providers

So whose role is it to independently oversee the industry and try to prevent collective V3 amnesia amongst ITIL training provider sales people?

Is it OGC?

Or the ITIL Certification Management Board (ICMB), which comprised OGC, itSMFI, EXIN and ISEB before the CAR tender awarded certification to APMG. Does this body still exist? Well your guess is as good as mine. Neither OGC nor itSMF International nor itSMF UK nor itSMF USA have updated their information in this area. Their websites indicate that it still exists and oversees ISEB and EXIN who in turn used to accredit training providers. No mention of APMG nor the changed playing field since CAR.

Or perhaps something that came out of the “Agreement reached between APMG, BCS-ISEB & EXIN for the benefit of the ITSM community”? Well, so far there is no information we can find about what the agreement actually is. Read the announcement. One of the finest examples of vendor bullshit doubletalk you could ever hope to find. It does a magnificent job of saying exactly nothing.

Or APMG’s ITIL V3 Exam board? No: their role is only to “develop a set of qualifications to support ITIL v3”

Or APMG’s Chief Examiner for ITIL v2 examinations? No: his role is only “setting consistent examination questions which conform to the stringent standards adhered to by APMG”

Or the itSMF Qualifications & Certification committee?

Or the UK Accreditation Service who certify APMG as “impartial”?

I believe it falls to APMG as part of their new role of accreditation. They would most likely argue that this is one of the issues they want to address by getting tighter control over the training industry, as they are moving to do amidst much protest.

But right now the whole area seems to be a dog’s breakfast, left in complete disarray by OGC and ICMB.

Advice for people seeking certification

Of the five main players in this question of what certification providers should be saying to prospects – OGC, ICMB, EXIN, BCS-ISEB and APMG – what advice are they giving?

ICMB has gone to ground.

OGC and APMG are saying nothing that we can find in the public domain.

ISEB’s code of practice requires training providers to agree that they will “Specify in our advertising and promotional material the prior knowledge that students require”.

And what advice are the players giving to the poor confused or ignorant marketplace? If you look at the OGC FAQ, the answer is neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’: no advice is being provided.

The IT Skeptic concludes that ITIL V3 is a significant change to the structure and content of ITIL. There is clear evidence that qualifications will change as a result. The content taught will change. The structure of the practitioner certificates may well change extensively to reflect the new ITIL book structure and new roles introduced.
While all parties involved are making disingenuous statements that existing qualifications will still be recognised, nobody is saying whether they will be superseded, and it is almost certain they will be updated.

If you are considering buying ITIL certification training at this time, you need to weigh up how urgently you need the IP versus how long you want it to stay current. Since the “second tranche” – the books – is due in June, one would presume that the qualifications structure will follow later. According to ASEB “V2 Qualifications will continue until at least December 2007, with transition plans being put in place as soon as the V3 books are available”.

I suggest that in almost all cases, prospective purchasers will need training before V3 training is available, so you need to purchase ITIL V2 training and certification. You will almost certainly need further training when V3 training is available to stay current and retain the value of the certification you have purchased. So negotiate with your training vendor for a package deal which includes both V2 training now and V3 training later. And if at all possible, defer training until V3 is available.

Which is the advice the governing bodies and vendors should be giving to the public, but it seems they are not.


Caveat Emptor - is a sucky banner to hide behind...

Welll - a few weeks a have passed since I posed this question - should ITIL Training companies in the US have more ethical backbone in explaining the ITIL certification scheme WILL CHANGE and sooner than we all think, and that prospective customers need to be made aware of that as part of the sales shakedown. We are still receiving an embarrassingly large number of shocked calls from (new) customers who are turning to us after NOT hearing the full story from others.

It is a shameful practice to hide behind a caveat emptor response (buyer beware) - what if your local car salesman adopted that approach - what you don't know (now) won't hurt you (or me in the sale). So who polices the training companies - the exam institutes? How is it policed - where is teh complaints commitee - how do unsuspecting US clients (the hugely vulnerable victims in this due to their complete lack of involvement in the ITIL process) protect themselves. Is it ok to take bashing the USA to this level.....

So what's Latin for 'seller watchout' - payback is a bitch..... We still have Service Manager classes being loaded up at $7,500-10,000 a pop! Sorry when I said we it was the Royal we - ITSMI has discontinued that class... is that ethical....


Tales from the dark side: service manager training search

I spent my Christmas break contacting every training organization in the U.S. that offered ITIL Service Manager training. All but one remained silent on the current issues of ITIL training and certification. All but one never even mentioned the refresh. All but one quoted me prices never less than $7000 (and yes, up to $10,000, not including T&E). All but one were ready to register me immediately for a class or put me on a waiting/interest list without even an explanation of V3 and how that might affect the certification scheme. All but one were willing to immediately take my money without batting an eye.

The only one who honestly discussed the possible issues of V3 on training and certification, who openly discussed the questions around the future of ITIL certification, who was in no hurry to collect my money and rush me into investing in a very expensive course with an unknown future return, who encouraged me to hold off making a decision about spending money on a class (including his own until ready) and who gifted me with a brief education via email (free of charge) about the future of ITSM and options for training and certification was ITSMI.

Is this a question of ethics? You bet it is. What is very disturbing, of all the training providers, there was *only* one who responded to my inquiries in an ethical manner. ITSMI was the only organization willing to place the good of their clients and the spirit of ITSM before their own bottom line training sales numbers.

If the unethical practices of the other training providers are the norm, then our field is in deeper trouble than just struggling with a new version of ITIL.

HP's FAQ on certification and ITIL version 3

HP's FAQ on this subject has a few interesting tidbits:

update courses ... will range from short webinars to 2-3 day
classes, and will begin to be available in the April 2007 timeframe...

as soon as ITIL V3 is finalized, HP plans to incorporate
a short ITIL V3 primer into existing courses, even before
any new exams are made available, to help introduce
students to what is contained in ITIL V3. [excellent idea]...

New exams will probably not be available before
early 2008...

the new courses/exams will be coordinated and phased in together.

and - give them credit - is providing advice.

People should take the training at whatever time is
appropriate for them to support their specific needs/
initiative. For those who do take ITIL V2 training and later
want to learn the specific changes made in ITIL V3, a
short update course will be available

Who is being kept in the dark?

I think the idea of negotiating a future proofed package deal is an excellent one.

I'm no longer involved in the training market, but I was when ITIL 2 came out. Drawing on that experience I suspect one of the big issues is that even those training providers who are making much of their involvement with ITIL 3 don't fully understand the implications of the refresh.
I think it is an insightful comment that the changes will be felt more on the manager's course than at the foundation level, but with one proviso - I ran some of the very first English language foundation courses and one thing that struck me was the foundation exam forced examiners to ask very black and white questions for the first time, and that actually revealed inconsistencies in the books which fed back into a wider understanding of "what ITIL actually meant to say...but doesn't" which in turn altered the examiners'approach to setting questions on the managers' exam.

I wonder if the same will happen with ITIL 3 - that it will take time for all those involved in training and the exams to agree what is canonical in ITIL 3 and what is subject to interpretation.

The best way to understand something is to teach it

I'm sure that will be the case: when you have to teach something you deconstruct it. As someone absorbs it for the first time, they see all sorts of inconsistencies and make all sorts of assumptiosn that reveal even more.

This is always the case, but I feel that in this instance the closed process of developing ITIL 3 has meant that even less review has been done than could have been, so it will be a richer source of inventiveness for the trainers ;-)

Opening it to the community would have meant a robust shakedown and a solid discussion of the implications by now, but the patronising elitist apporach of revealing only the finished product does not allow that.

In particular, it would mean that the training community had some idea what was coming at them and what the transitional and new training might look like.

The timing has been bad for everyone, particulary having CAR so close before V3. There are many aspects of the infrastructure around ITIL that are lacking: professional body, product certification, organisational certification, a standard, but we had two pillars that were in good shape: the "user group" of itSMF and the individual certification. Certification is now on uncertain ground and we all watch to see whether it survives the advent of APMG. As for itSMF, well that's another Special Report...

ITIL V3 - a trainers perspective
Read a trainers perspective on the matter, it makes for an interesting point of view.

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