Rant vs counter-rant: the ITIL V3 Certification Scheme

Pierre Bernard over at Pink Elephant had a "personal rant" about "people «complaining» about the ITIL® V3 scheme" and "much negativity presently in various blogs and social media sites about the ITIL® v3 scheme". That'd be me, for one, so I feel compelled to comment.

The scheme - meaning the Certification Scheme - has plenty of room for improvement. Pierre says "«It is what is it is»." No it isn't. It is whatever it can grow into being in response to the demands of the millions of people paying millions of dollars for professional certifications that are an important investment asset for their career. Those certifications should be as respectable, admirable and dependable as possible.

That's at an individual level. At the level of the profession as a whole, even those of us who don't invest in certifications have an interest in the integrity and reputation of the profession.

Pierre goes on to say

for your information, coming up with the appropriate syllabus for each course in the ITIL® V3 qualification scheme was not easy. We, the senior examiner panel; came up with many great ideas but at the end of the process, we could not use them all. The scheme was reviewed and approved by the Qualification Board. The board is composed of members from each of the Examining Institutes (EI), ITSMF International, The official Accreditor (APM Group), and the Chief Architect for ITIL® v3. Many people are involved in this.

Last year I wrote

Clumsy execution in the ITIL world is often excused on the grounds that it is run by volunteers. This is not the case with certification. The governing body is filled mostly by commercial organisations (except itSMF). There are eight examination institutes. Just one of them, EXIN, reported 160,000 foundation trainees last year. Every candidate pays a three-figure sum just as an exam fee (not including training fees). There are tens of millions of dollars in exam fees flowing into the industry every year.

It would be nice if some small part of that were spent on hiring adult education experts to design, write and test best-practice exam questions, and to quality assure the delivery.

Pierre has confirmed that the certifications were written solely by the industry and any involvement by qualified adult-certification experts was accidental. I welcome a comment here by anyone who can point to such experts amongst the group Pierre described.

I find it astonishing that everyone involved in the scheme come from an industry that sells the importance of bringing us in as consulting experts, but we don't do the same when dabbling with something about which we know very little i.e. writing multi-choice exams.

Pierre comments on

Becoming an (ITIL®) Expert

In order to be an expert in any field or discipline, one must put in effort and time; what people refer to at «sweat equity» or the «heavy lifting». One does not become an expert by attending an introductory class on a particular topic.

In the case of ITIL®, read the books! Read the books! Read the books! Discuss the topics with others, make them you own, identify where they are in your organization, read blogs and whitepapers. You should attend a set of courses covering the entire spectrum of the framework

...and you still won't be an expert. "ITIL Expert" is without a doubt the dumbest name ever for a purely theoretical certification that can be obtained soley by sitting a series of exams.

Pierre makes an invitation

If you firmly believe that you can do a better job at writing exam scenarios, questions, answers and relevant rationales, please contact APMG and apply to become an examiner.

OH GOD NO! The last thing the scheme needs is more well-meaning amateurs fiddling with it. APMG put your hands in your well-lined pockets and buy some experts! Real experts, not certified Experts. As Pierre rightly points out

Creating exam questions is not as easy as it seems.


Be Thankful

Can't we be happy that people somewhere out there are making money hand over fist on a scheme that doesn't measure shit as we watch our ITSM world pass away. Come on, we have at least 5 years left let these organizations rake in millions/billions of dollars to give to their children to spend. The children that will never know a world of ITSM. Be thankful that we live in a world where you can sell shit to anyone because "That's what everyone is doing".

Watch Out!

Next thing you know, you're going to have training companies knocking down your door wondering how they can make money "hand over fist"!!

Last I recall hearing, it doesn't seem like the pickup rates (via testing numbers) on the core products indicate that to be what's really happening.

after the goldrush

Like all goldrushes (e-commerce, iPhone apps ...) ITIL training is turning into a tough slog. The industry (and the consumers?) has devalued the product to a commodity. Add to that the recession and everyone has to battle. Most of the gold-miners gave up in winter.

I don't share Chris's gloomy view of ITSM's future though. ITIL's days may or may not be numbered but ITSM is here to stay, as one castor of the seat of IT Management.

Topic Worthy Of Discussion...

I'm glad you posted this. I think it's a topic worthy of discussion. I have a number of thoughts on it, but let me launch off with a few high level ones:

1. What the IQS should be should be driven by what's in the best interest of the consumer (applicant/professional) and the CUSTOMER (who pays the bills and gets the value)

2. There's nothing wrong with volunteers preparing questions or participating in the design, provided that:

  • Someone versed in instructional and exam design helped establish the foundation upon which the curricula and exams are based
  • The people who create questions are taught how to follow the design guidelines
  • They actually follow the rules during the construction
  • Quality and conformance testing is used to assure that all of the design guidelines have been met.

From what I can tell, there's nothing about any of these points reflected in how the current testing scheme was established. Just using the term "Blooms Taxonomy" in a document and actually following the guidelines it represents are worlds apart.

3. On the ITIL Expert moniker, I agree with you. It's little more than a resume differentiator to the holder and potentially misleading to a customer. I talked about this a little bit in the ServiceSphere podcast that I did with Chris Dancy, Matt Hooper and Steve Chambers. If you're an "expert" you had better have the knowledge and experience to back that up. Ideally, the governing organization has established a set of standards that are used to evaluate someone against that are as free from bias as possible that serves as the foundation for the "credential". It would take into account necessary prerequisites to qualify, knowledge standards, behavioral and performance objectives. Have someone pass one of those and I'd happily endorse the use of the term "expert".


Expert is only a label that ...

Rob/Ken - ABSOLUTELY agree, Expert is not a good "test for" label..

From Wikipedia; An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status "by their peers" or "the public" in a specific "well-distinguished domain". An expert, more generally, is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study.

I have always held that if a customer or colleague wants to call me an expert, that's great, but I will never call myself one (even if I ever do take the bridge test). "Expert" is a relative term and should be something as stated above - broadly accepted by peers or publicly. I think more importantly, "expertise" isn't going to result from what you know, it's going to be based on how you apply and use what you know in real world situations. Did the outcomes result from your expertise in the matter? Expertise should be and has been in my experience, a result of results and outcomes in customer and colleague terms that were not part of a test.

When an "Expert" witness is called to the stand in a court case, their expertise is challenged by the other legal team since they will be providing "opinion" even if they were not witnesses to the case.. I don't think "I passed a test" would pass the legal definition of an expert.

John M. Clark

I miss being called 'someone

I miss being called 'someone who has the ITIL Manager's Certificate'. Well actually I suppose that's still true. How about 'someone who who holds the ITIL v3 Expert Certificate' as a compromise for the time being? That way I'm not pretending to be an expert but merely someone who picked up a piece of paper that has the word 'expert' printed on it.

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