Open letter to ITIL Qualifications Board

Today we have a guest post from Peter Gerritsen who has written a letter to the ITIL Qualifications Board proposing some changes to the ITIL V3 qualifications scheme. I told him he has a snowflake's chance in Hell given what they went through to get the scheme to this point (I have plenty of experience of hammering on the doors of Castle ITIL). We are interested in your views:

From : Peter Gerritsen
To : members of ITIL Qualification Board

Observations and suggestions regarding ITIL V3 certification

As a freelance consultant and ITIL trainer I am in contact with many people working in the field who give me feedback on the ITIL certifications. During my activities as auditor of course institutes and courseware for EXIN I have many contacts with training institutes who ask questions and exchange experiences. The previous inputs and my own insights bring me to the following observations and suggestions.


Any ITIL training contains much theory, so much that there is hardly time for exercises. In order to keep training interesting and to keep the participants from falling asleep, even a very good trainer needs to have exercises built into the training. In none of the syllabi for V3 courses is found a mandatory percentage of exercise which results in training organisations inserting just an absolute minimum of exercises. In my opinion a good amount of exercises is very important for the participants in order to be able to connect the theory to practical situations, which by the way is a key element in competence based learning. The exchange and discussion of the results of the exercises gives a lot of added value to training. [Skep: it is evident that the number of professional adult educators involved in the design was close to zero, or they were over-ruled by the commercial imperatives]

Secondly, more and more people are looking for training that is geared towards their current and/or future job. The current certification scheme is not aligned with this need. Many people are still choosing for V2 training as it is less complex (scope!) and more practical!

-Mention a mandatory amount of exercise in the syllabi: 20% of the time for foundation and 50% for intermediates and MALC.
- Create (see also sections below) a certification scheme that makes sense in career support and career development.

Foundation level

The scope (in terms of processes and activities mentioned) of the actual V3 foundation exams, even though they have been made more “light” is still to large, that is: there are too many subjects to discuss in a 3 day training. Furthermore the groups are of a very different composition. Often we train groups of “techies’ who do not (want to?) understand the more strategic subjects (like strategy and CSI). Companies that are at the start of an ITIL implementation often send all their staff to foundation training. Their goals typically are:
- Make sure they (that is: their staff) understand the basic mechanisms of ITIL
- Make sure they all use the same vocabulary
- Get their employees enthusiast about ITIL
Limiting the scope of the foundation exam and instead going at a more detailed level of the processes might work. The current scope of the foundation exam fails to get techies enthusiastic.

On the other hand, there are IT and customer managers who attend such training who would like to have some more insight in strategy and CSI and do not care so much about the more operational processes. Just a few basic operational concepts would do for them.

Suggestion: create two different foundation level trainings, both with a limited scope and more tailored to their target groups (“techies” and managers). The more limited scope for ‘techies” would cover the scope of (and thus make obsolete) ITIL Foundation V2.
[Skep: here I strongly disagree with Peter. In the past I created and delivered training for IT folk specifically to break them out of their tech shells and realise they need to understand business in order for their own career to thrive. We must not allow them to stay insular: that is the whole point of ITSM]

Intermediate level

The concept of the capability training is good. They are about as practical as the V2 practitioners (see remark on level of practical work/exercises above). The exams are original but in my opinion test not all bloom levels they are supposed to test. At this level of practical training just using MPC questions is not enough. An evaluation of the practical work should be added. Furthermore: one can have a fair number of questions right with just a global understanding of ITIL V3 and a lot of “answering techniques” comparing, deducing and eliminating.

For the life cycle modules I see no added value apart from Strategy and CSI as they are not covered by the capability modules. I did all intermediate exams (in a very short timeframe) and was not able to clearly distinguish between a life cycle and a capability exam.

Suggestion: create a capability module that combines Strategy and CSI and discontinue the lifecycle modules SD, ST and SO and work on better (more complete and more practical) testing of these modules. Involve trainers in this testing. This could make the V2 practitioners obsolete

Managing Across the Life cycle

Whilst doing the MALC exam I was very disappointed. Three out of the eight questions had absolutely nothing to do with ITIL and tested just common management knowledge. The idea behind MALC is good, but it should be more aimed at IT managers and consultants. People just do not want to do al 5 life cycle or all 4 capability followed by MALC. It’s too long and too expensive. [Skep: I think that is the point: it was far too cheap to get a V2 Manager's cert - the industry wants to milk more from each customer]

Suggestion: I would suggest a revival of the service manager training, but then based on V3 with partially MPC testing, partially written answers and an in-course assessment. This could make the V2 Service Manager obsolete.

Expert level and above

In my opinion these levels have no added value in the market. Certainly not in view of what I mentioned above.

Suggestion: Discontinue these levels and instead team up with one or more MBA institutes to create an MBA in IT Service Management based on ITIL and COBIT.

Localisation and translation

I live and work in France. The French generally have many problems with understanding English. If they manage to understand English it’s of a very basic level. The level of English, even in the foundation exam is to elaborate for them. Passing ITIL exams in English is in most cases a guarantee for failure even if they have clearly understood the matter in the training. Translation and localisation (utilisation of French examples in case descriptions) is imperative.

When exams are written in French beware that French is a very precise language and that
ambiguity in the phrasing of the questions is often interpreted as a sign of bad translation..

Suggestion: speed up the translation and localisation of exams (especially intermediates). Work on improvement of existing translations of foundation exams. Use specialised translators with experience in exam questions. The local itSMF chapters can indicate ITIL specialists who can validate the correct level of French.

Written from a sincere interest in ITIL, ITIL training and ITIL certification.

Yours truly,
Peter Gerritsen


Mostly Agree - But A Single Voice Does Not Get Heard!

I understand the feeling professional Trainers have about incorporating exercises into courses - it certainly makes the experience more interesting and likely more effective. But I'm not sure that mandating a % of time to exercises is the right way to go. I'd leave it up to the developer - if they have a good product (with or without a certain % of exercises) it will sell and generate positive results, if not, it won't.

I think the two Foundation options is a decent idea and I tried to persuade the Chief Examiner and APMG to do this in February 2007 when they were formulating the new scheme (so much for my influence!) I take Skep's point about not wanting to miss out on making sure everyone has a broad understanding, but that doesn't mean you can't have a "bias" towards operational stuff in one course/exam and strategic stuff in the other. It's quite possible to have an "ITIL Overview" in half a day, covering broad brush strokes of what ITIL is and how it can be used, then for the "ITIL Operations Foundation" a couple of days could be spent fleshing out how operational folks use and interact with ITIL practices This is what the V2 Foundation did and it was very well received (compared to the current V3 Foundation!) The "ITIL Strategic Foundation" could then do the equivalent for that audience.

Intermediate Level & MALC
I've already blogged on this at length. The Capabilities are really the equivalent of the V2 Practitioners - very good. The Lifecycle courses/exams are the thorn in our sides. Just combine them into a V3 Service Manager over 2-3 weeks - like the V2 Service Manager - and be done with it! That's it. Scrap the Managing Across the Lifecycle concept - it would be redundant. I guess this would also make the "ITIL Expert" redundant too, and this would be a step too far for APMG and the Chief Examiner because they wanted to get away from V2 terminology & concepts in the certification scheme. So we could call the "V3 Service Manager" the "ITIL Expert Manager" (we'll be dropping the V2 & V3 tags next year anyway). Then if you do enough of the Capability courses/exams you could become an "ITIL Expert Practitioner". Voila!

Well said Peter! When the V3 scheme was introduced I believe the issue of exam availability in non-English languages was an afterthought and MAJOR GAFFE. At a stroke we left the non-English speaking world in limbo. This should NEVER happen again! So any future changes to this scheme must incorporate plans for translations at the outset. New exams should be released in multiple languages on the same date. It's called "good project management" - do it!

One last thing. I can't overlook the comment you made, Skep, about how you believe the industry (training providers?) came up with this V3 scheme because they wanted to "milk more from each customer". I keep hearing this accusation again and again and from our point of view (at least at Pink) it couldn't be further from the truth. We agree there's overkill - and overlap (see Peter's comments on the value of ST, SO & SD) - in requiring people do so many courses/exams to get all those credits. I'm all for a wide variety of courses developed by a wide variety of suppliers. Customers can then chose what they want based on their needs. But to "enforce" a requirement for a specific (high) number of credits to get ANY recognizable designation (Expert) certainly does smack of greed on the part of whoever's supplying the courses/exams. I'd much rather sell 10 of one course than 4 of one, 2 of another, 1 of another, 1 of another, 2 of another and develop 3 courses that sit on the shelf and never sell at alll!!! See my point?

OK - I'm starting to rant. I'll stop now.

Except for one last, last point. You're probably right to say that Peter has a "snowflake's chance in Hell" of getting anywhere with his ideas. Not because they might not be good, but because the "powers that be" seem to have deaf ears. Probably the best chance that "the industry" has of getting ideas heard is for a collaboration of training providers to get their heads together and speak as one voice. Yes - you heard right - trust the training providers! Think about it, collectively they really could wield some power. And, like I indicated earlier, a better designed scheme really could serve all needs. It could contain more options (key word here - OPTIONS!) so people could pick and choose what really meets their needs. Rather than be "forced" through a path containing some irrelevant and ill-conceived courses/exams which you really must do to get the required credits to get to a single destination - ITIL Expert.

The changes we've talked about here are not that radical.

Exercises in Foundation training

My V2 and V3 Foundation material is fairly bare-bones, and I don't have any mandatory exercises written into my curriculum. Here's why:

1) In a three-day V2 Foundation class, there is plenty of time for discussion, roleplay, and simulation exercises. However, every class is different: Some "classroom cultures" won't groove on a roleplay exercise (for example), but they're happy breaking into groups and working on an exercise together. You have to read every class. Instead of building specific exercises into the courseware, it's left to the instructor to choose what's best from the exercise arsenal... if they choose to use exercises at all. Sometimes the discussion is plenty. It's also a perception thing: I don't want students to think they're getting gypped because an instructor skipped an exercise in the student workbook. It's better to be handed something extra than to skip something and feel ripped off.

2) In a three-day V3 Foundation class, there is significantly less time to dedicate to non-lecture activities. In V2 Training we had 11 concepts to cover (10 processes, 1 function), but in V3 Foundation we have 25-ish (21 processes and 4 functions) in the syllabus. In order to cover the material, provide breaks, lunch, discussion, time for students to take a sample exam and for us to review it together, wrap up with a review and pre-exam Q&A, and get ready for the proctor, it's hard to make time for multiple, meaningful exercises without the students feeling rushed.

3) This might just be an American thing: Many adults haven't taken an exam since school and have test anxiety. They make it very clear that they don't want to "waste time" simulating that they're on Apollo 13 or Wall Street; they want to nail the exam because their performance review/pay raise/job security depends on it. So in lieu of exercises, I ask a lot of open-ended questions and ensure the floor is always open for discussion so we can "apply this ITIL stuff" to people's real-life situations. The discussions (regardless of whether it's a private or public class) are so valuable, and my class evaluations confirm it. However, instructors also need to be good facilitators for this approach, because classes can quickly devolve into a whiny tangent-fest. Also, this approach means students must be reminded to answer the exam questions based on The ITIL Way and not the way they do things in their own organization.

4) Depending on whose facts you use, I supposedly co-taught the world's first ITIL V3 Foundation class with exam in June of 2007. (I mention this only to show that I used to work for a company that was a very early player in the V3 game.) When we first designed the V3 Foundation course with our business simulation, we were selling it as a four-day class, because we knew we couldn't cover the material plus the simulation in 3 days. Problem is, we couldn't sell the darn thing-- students weren't willing to miss four workdays just to earn a puny Foundation cert. The market demanded a three-day, no-simulation version of the class. However, our leadership believed that our business simulation was a selling point and a key differentiator, so trainers were told to "just cram everything into three days." And two things happened: Some trainers omitted the simulation and students felt more relaxed, or trainers did the simulation and student pass rates (and satisfaction evaluations) were not nearly as high.

Wow. I wrote all that just to say, "I don't think exercises should be mandatory. Let the trainers (and ultimately the market) decide." :-)

Love your blog, love the discussions.

a market advantage

Hi Jill

great input, thankyou! Written from real experience.

You may be interested to know HP were running a pilot Foundation course in the first week of May 2007. Not that that gives them a market advantage of course...

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