The itSMF's prISM programme is rolling out worldwide. It seems to me to have a very limited market.

In case you are unaware, according to the prISM Institute

ITSM is a practice. priSM® is helping to transform IT Service Management into a profession by recognising a formal, agreed upon body of knowledge. It provides credential holders with a career framework that describes the development options available to professionals.
A credential holder’s qualifications and experience in IT Service Management are evaluated and validated by qualified professionals, to ensure that they can apply their knowledge and skills. Finally, they must abide by a code of ethics and good practices to ensure standards of professional behaviour are maintained at the highest level.

(I'd like to quote the prISM Handbook directly but it has been saved in some cutesy pdf format that prevents copying - this shows more paranoia than community.)

Why somebody would go to the expense of all the certifications and accrediting to get a credential this huge that is ITSM-specific is beyond me. Unless you were an employee of HP.

It is the most narcissic inside-out concept, that one should be a super-specialist in the mystic art of ITSM, when there are so many equally important and related disciplines such as architecture, governance and assurance, to name a few. To wedge oneself in the blind alley of ITSM specialisation sounds like career death and a wild waste of time and money to me. Unless of course you are an employee of HP.

OK I'm being facetious with the HP bit, but PRISM seems geared to a small elite of ITSM super-gurus which is fine when one of the mega corporations wants to blow a bazillion bucks on an "ITIL project" but I thought we were all agreed these days that there is more to life than ITSM and a more holistic approach is required. PRISM strikes me as an idea after its time, too narrow in focus, and way over-engineered.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for accreditation and anything else that improves professionalism in IT. But to build a structure of this complexity around one specific IT discipline seems out of whack to me.

I'm an IT strategy and management consultant. That's about as specialised as I ever want to get. To confirm I'm not a crook or an idiot, my IT Certified Professional accreditation from the NZ Computer Society does very nicely, thank-you, as it does for a wide range of people in our industry.

And if I ever want to prove some specialist skills then I will combine that ITCP with a knowledge certification such as an ITIL cert. Or I might even go for a combined certification and accreditation such as a CISSP. But the ISACA accreditations are much simpler: more realistically geared to their place in the scheme of things. (prISM's view of their place in the scheme of things is to award a CISSP a contemptuous 2 points towards certification, same as a Foundation plus a one-day simulation). But to embark on the prISM journey would be nuts unless I intended to devote my entire career to a narrow focus on ITSM.

Which would be an odd call. For a start, ITSM is not a clearly defined profession, compared to networks, testing or even architecture. Depending on how one thinks of ITSM, either (a) it is a niche concern around delivery of services, in which case supplementing a more general ITCP-type credential makes more sense so I don't get pigeon-holed or (b) ITSM is a way of viewing all of IT management in general in which case a much broader set of skills and knowledge is needed than just ITIL etc.

I don't really get prISM. It seems to me the ITIL certification industry has thundered on with unstoppable momentum to an illogical conclusion. ITIL Expert was a bit extreme in what it asked of people for such a narrow niche as ITIL. ITIL V3 Master is going beyond common sense, hence nobody is much demanding it. prISM is just off the scale. An ISACA-style accreditation would have made more sense.

The world needs IT professional accreditation. I don't think it needs ITSM professional accreditation. Unless you are a major consulting vendor who wants to differentiate for the Fortune 500 market and to justify the nose-bleed fees you sell your top consultants for.


As someone who DOES work for

As someone who DOES work for HP, I feel that the tone of your opening paragraphs is a bit unfortunate.

I agree that prISM does not yet have significant recognition in the industry, but I think it is a good attempt to get beyond ITIL certification to an assessment of what people have actually done.

If I wanted to recruit a service management consultant then I would look at their employment history, and the projects they have been involved in. I would be interested in things like their ITIL certifications, prISM accreditation and CISSP certification since these show that they have demonstrated their knowledge and competence to other people, but ultimately I would have to make my own judgement based on what they have actually done.


Skeptic "hearts" priSM

Mr Skeptic…
I understand the love of controversy – and I’d like to optimistically suggest that, for a moment, we channel that energy to a project – say ‘world peace’ or maybe ‘professionalism in Service Management.’ In my mind, priSM solves the professionalism in service management issue, so let’s discuss!

First, I must thank you for acknowledging priSM (note the spelling!) – We must be making headway to land on your scope of discontent and argumentativeness. To all the volunteers (there are over 50 and growing who work a lot hours to support this program because they believe in it), credential holders (the numbers continue to climb), advocates, and supporters, a hearty “WELL DONE!” I hope you see this as an accomplishment and use it to continue to drive professionalism in Service Management forward.

Thanks for the opportunity to reply (more paranoid bloggers would not allow comments, of course). People will like what they see when they review this program for themselves, I believe. The ‘super-specialist’ and ‘super-gurus’ can be found in any profession, including the ITCP from the NZ Computer Society, but more on that in a moment. I know that you don’t believe that IT Service Management is a “narrow and limited specialization.” I know that you know that it is a wider brush that covers “building IT responsibly.”

priSM is new. It is developing. As with new concept, there are clearly needs for improvement and quite frankly, there have been many. Those improvements have come from experience of managing the program, comments from industry, and our stakeholders. We will continue to improve because this program is for the Service Manager and it must fit their needs, thus tell us what works and what doesn’t. priSM has a Global Advisory Committee that is chartered to do exactly that and improvements have been made due to their guidance and suggestions.

Your post mentions that priSM is ‘over-engineered.’ Hmmm. Write a program that drives the Service Management professional to address their practical experience, professional contributions, and education that is measurable, repeatable and delivers quantified results, each and every time. We took a very broad view of ‘Service Management’ so to be inclusive, shall I say, ‘a holistic view,’ across IT. As such, there seems to be an infinite number of activities and organizations to contact. What is listed in the priSM Handbook (v51, pages 10-14; available on the website) is an ongoing and continually expanding list for our priSM community to explore and experience. It clearly states that the list changes and the website ( has updates and we encourage applicants and credential holders to submit new activities as there are so many areas to cover – how can we possible ‘know everything?’ I challenge you – apply or help us make this work and then apply.

‘ITSM is not a clearly defined profession.’ You’re right. Research tells us that there are common elements that characterize a profession (just do a Google on ‘professionalism’) and simply those common elements are: code of ethics, body of knowledge, research, continuing education, recognition as a lifelong occupation, leaders/philosophers, credentialing. Within IT Service Management, all of those elements are there (can I say you even fit under ‘leader/philosopher’?) except credentialing.

priSM answers that missing piece. There is a difference between a certification (ITIL® Master/Expert), a membership, an accreditation (presents a certificate of competency/compliance, e.g., ISO/IEC 20000 accredited organizations), and a credential. To make this simple, a credential is defined by a set of accepted criteria and awarded based on an impartial review and requires the credential holder to maintain (professional development). I’ll let you look up the others, but trust me, they are very different.

‘An effort by itSMF to gain some revenue for itself and add credibility to what we all do.’ Half right. It is about adding credibility; it’s about the formalization of a profession (see above). Gain revenue. This isn’t cheap and a majority of the work has been volunteer – so let’s not belittle those efforts. The priSM Institute® is a subsidiary and a separate company that must stand on its own. Any profit is going back to the itSMF Chapter who has credential holders. Revenue? Yes. But not more than the costs. Remember, unlike many other professional organizations, itSMF is a non-profit.

Near the end of your post, you suggest that one consider the BCS or ISACA. Both of these organizations are fully supporting priSM and we are finalizing the ‘reciprocity agreements’ with the BCS as I write. I have been in several conversations with ISACA along the same terms and we are moving those discussions forward. We have corrected the placement of the ISACA certifications. These organizations and many others see the value of priSM and the collaboration benefits.

Thanks for the ‘head’s up’ for the ITCP from the NZ Computer Society – I hope to open discussions with them. By the way, as in ITCP, isn’t your objective the following: “Certification is not the objective of ITCP. Professionalism is.” with a goal of ‘maturing ICT into a true profession’ ( I downloaded the Certification Model (pdf by the way) and read the 92 pages. Excellent program and there are many compatibilities but also some clear differences. I will not make this a compare/contrast but I would like you to have a review of the priSM program and ask questions – I’m happy to address them!

Again, thanks for talking about priSM on your blog. I hope to win your enthusiasm over time.


the target or objective of PrIsM

Hi Suzanne

I'm confused about the target or objective of PrIsM, as I'm sure are many others, and as i suspect even the pRiSm institute may be too. I'm pretty sure it started out as accreditation for ITIL Experts. Now it seems to be accreditation for IT professionals, or at least IT operations professionals. It seems pRISm is reaching out to an ever expanding range of existing certifications and accreditations to absorb them within its scope. This fits my point that ITSM is not a profession in and of itself but rather a perspective on IT operations as a whole, perhaps all of IT.

If PrisM is attempting to perform the same function as ITCP in NZ or CITP in the UK, then I can understand the need in the USA because they have never been able to amicably agree on one central body or one accreditation but we have no need of that in most other countries. The need is already addressed or can be addressed by a central IT organisation such as NZCS or BCS. ITSM is not the appropriate context for that and itSMF is not the appropriate vehicle, in any country.

On the other hand if pRISM is focused on ITSM as a specialised discipline, and the target market is approximated by itSMF members rather than the whole of IT, then i stick to my assertion that it is too much for such a narrow niche.

Thank-you for joining in on my blog of discontent and argumentativeness.

Losing my religion

Interesting that this organisation tries again to set up an institute for Service Management.

As an ITIL Expert and professional who has been using ITIL for over 10 years and am now finding that my expertise is in more demand now because I am also looking to Lean and Agile when I work. ITIL is not my only God and I won't be returning to the hide-bound past of ITIL accreditation.

My membership of the ISM was a waste of money, Clients had not heard of it and didn't care if I was a member or not. I don't intend to make the same mistake again.

Getting priSM recognized

Getting priSM recognized will take a long time. Other credential like initiative mentioned earlier have been around for many years and are know acknowledged within other narrow fields like security, risk and governance.

priSM doesn't have an ITIL focus, but embraces frameworks, best practices, standards etc. relevant for service management and the list is growing. That is the whole idea and maybe something that can bring itSMF away from the perception of being the "ITIL user group".

The difference between this initiative and ISM is that ISM was a local, one country (chapter) initiative whereas priSM is a global initiative. Exactly the reason for ISM to be closed down and people who want it to be transferred.

prISM won't work because nobody has heard of itSMF either

My ITCP certification works for me - and worked straight away - because even though most employers hadn't heard of it, they had heard of the NZ Computer Society, and even if they hadn't heard of the NZCS they could guess that it was the industry-representative body.

When employers look to who stands behind prISM they are no further ahead. Who the hell are the itSMF? And what authority do they have to be issuing a broad professional certification?


No matter how wide pRism spreads the net of other certifications, I think one runs the risk of being branded an ITIL geek. As the world.sobers up from its ITIL high I'm not sure that's a good career place to be, at least not down here in the real world. In the stratospheric business heights that some contributers to this blog move, maybe specialization is a good move, but I'm going to stick to being a generalist. It served me well working in software and it serves me well now.

ITIL Geekage

I agree - the ITIL Geeks (and I used to be one) need to widen their horizons. Technical Architecture, The End-User Experience, ICT Strategy, Productivity and Collaboration, Mobile computing using smartphones, Social Networking for business use, The Cloud and security concerns are not covered to any extent by the new ITIL 2011 - and these are real issues for us Heads of ICT who used to be ITIL Geeks (and still like to return to our comfort zone to debate things like Problem Closure categories occasionally)

Interesting thread. A

Interesting thread. A Service Management professional requires broad array or skills and experience, many, if not all of which are acknowledged in the priSM credential. Understanding the ITIL framework is only one dimension of that, but as others have aptly pointed out in this discussion, there are other areas that one needs to be familiar with in order to understand the big picture: project management, governance, security, architecture, and IT Management in general. The list of attributable skills and experience to a priSM credential holder is dynamic and is updated continuously. As a ITIL Foundation certified professional, with no experience whatsoever, I can hang a shingle tomorrow and bill myself out as a consultant. I would argue that the company that hires me with these qualifications alone without further probing my background, experience and references gets what they deserve.

However, priSM fills a void that exists where there is no one place where an employer or a company seeking consulting assistance can go to to assure that an individual's certifications have been validated, experience has been accounted for and requirements for ongoing education and utilization of skills have been maintained. I personally have been asked on multiple occasions by companies that I interact with where they can go to verify professional credentials for ITSM job or contract candidates. The fact is that you can't even reliably go to OGC or AMPG to validate an individual's ITIL certification (if this were the only thing you were interested in).

So, as someone who has never worked for HP :-), I think there is value. As someone who has occasion to employ IT Service Management professionals, it gives me the opportunity to validate candidates - not a huge population to check on initially, but hopefully as others see the value of this credential, there will be. I imagine that IEEE and other professional credentialing organization were (and perhaps continue to be) looked upon with the same level of skepticism. But then most good ideas are born of skepticism, aren't they now.


As I said, I'm all for professional certifications. My profession is IT systems operations and strategy. If prism is geared to a small group who want to be more specialised than that then good on them, but it seems an awful lot of effort to pour into such a narrow niche as itsm.

Project mgmt is a crisplydefined professional activity. Itsm is not: it is a perspective on a wide range of activities . I think a general professional certification such as CITP provides as much assurance to a prospective employer - all my employers seem to think the same way.

Established alternatives - don't ignore these.

British Computer Society (BCS) memberships (MBCS, CITP, FBCS) that include Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

ISACA qualifications CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC (new) - all with CPD.

Both are available worldwide and well-established.

E-Skills and ICT Professionalism survey from the EU

A timely survey from an European Commission project on just this topic

Seems far too narrowly focused.

It seems to me, at least right now, that this is an effort by itSMF to gain some revenue for itself and add credibility to what we all do. That makes sense.

I think, however, that over the next decade, IT Service Management will get very highly specialized to a much smaller group of producer companies - those that provide software and outsourced services.

Producing IT services would seem to be well understood at this point.
Governing, controlling and exploiting those services for company agility and benefit is not nearly as well executed.

Ian Clayton's USMBOK and Outside-In approach - Service Management as a whole - would seem likely to produce better outcomes for companies that consume IT services from these producing companies. And, Dean Meyer's Fullcost approach to creating a services budget with a costed catalog of services. Or, dare I say it, Charles Betz' approach to ERP for IT and Enterprise Architecture as a Strategy. Or, Westerman's approach to building credibility and trust for IT services.

As we move to a much more modular, outsourced, bought-services-driven IT environment - increased investment in a career in IT service provision would seem to also become more specialized.

On the other hand, those that wish to differentiate themselves so they can make a transition from a consuming company to a producing behemoth may consider such an investment worthwhile.

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