Why do we waste money training people in ITIL? Just More Crap

It greatly concerns me the huge numbers of people being sent on ITIL Foundation training. Given the cost of ITIL certification, I suggest companies who send staff on theoretical ITIL training - other than the small number actually involved in designing the transformation - are wasting their money. The real target group for that theoretical training are the specialists and consutants. My recommendations are:

  • Train a few in-house specialists and champions in ITIL theory. In their case, Foundation is not enough. They need some Intermediate too. If they want Expert they are probably leaving you soon :)
  • Rent real expertise from external consultants (because no training course will create in-house experts).
  • Develop in-house training around :
    - why are we doing this?
    - what changes for us?
    - which of our in-house roles are impacted?
    - what do our new procedures look like?
    - what will you as an individual need to do differently?
    - where can you find the detail of your new procedures?
    - what help, support and coaching is available?
    - how do you feed back?
    - how will we measure and reward this?
    - most of all: what's in this for you?

Organisations should do this for two reasons:

1) All the ITIL theory is Just More Crap to most staff, "just another certificate" as one LinkedIn comment put it. Yes it creates a few enthusiasts, but the above training will create more. [BTW, the other reason you do ITIL theoretical training is to give your staff a rubber stamp, for their career's sake. Fine, if you understand what you are doing and why]

2) If they don't do that training anyway the transformation will fail. Such training in what it actually means to the organisation is an utterly essential foundation to cultural change. Without it, all the manuals and flowcharts and new titles are ... yup ... Just More Crap.

And guess what: many of the training factories are just that. They don't have the skills or procedures to design this kind of custom in-house training - it takes real consulting and business analysis. The consultants working on the transformation are the ones to do it, or training specialists in consultation with them, working with the in-house transformation project team. The value for money is much greater, which is of course what it is all about in 2009.

JMC - the new buzz-acronym.


It's All Relative...

to what you're out to accomplish.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I am a flight instructor. I'll use this as my example, so as to provide an example of how this plays out in other domains.

When going for a certificate, things are dvidied into two parts -- the knowledge exam and the practical exam. It's not that the latter doesn't test knowledge, but it'd be a stretch to say that the former tests the latter! The knowledge exam is a fixed time exam covering a wide range of materials. There are lots of "methods" for getting a "pass" on the exam and I'll list them in what I believe to be decreasing order of value:
1. You can go to a ground school and get group instruction as part of a formal program;
2. You can go to a "boot camp" review course and jam stuff into your head to recite for the test;
3. You can self-study using videos; (you can't ask the video questions, that's why I rate it lower than #2)
4. You can use testing software to drill on the question styles and some similar content as to what has been on the test
[NOTE: The test bank used to be public info, but too many people taught the actual test questions, so they stopped doing that]

Why this order of value? Well, it's a matter of focus. In the upper-tier, you're working on really learning the theoretical aspects of aviation AND getting ready to pass a test. At the lower-levels, the objectve is passing the test. If passing is the sole objective, then I don't place a lot of value on it. These are not mutually exclusive objectives.

Remembering an esoteric fact from your ground school may make you popular in the BS sessions around the hangar, but don't mean squat once you have to execute. It's one of the reasons that the knowledge portion of the exam doesn't get the respect or attention it necessarily deserves -- the link to practice isn't emphasized enough. It all boils down to passing that dang test! Grrrrrr.

How this relates to service management is that if the training that the "student" (i.e. the Foundation candidate) receives is only sufficient for passing the test, then I'd say that the fundamental value proposition isn't there. Students and providers alike should do a "gut check" and see if the value is there. If it's not, look for options that give you what you need to be successful, not more stuff for employees to hang on their "I love me" wall in their office/cube.


Quality of the teacher

The value of training comes from the quality of the teacher, which is why in the early years when I was with Quint UK we never used anyone as an ITIL trainer who didn't also carry out consultancy assignments. Likewise we only employded consultants who could also teach.

Doing in house training with your consultant means that people get to see what it means to them, but key players get benefit from attending public courses - especially if they are residential and they get the benefit of the out of classroom skills transfe,r not just with the tutor but wth other delegates.

James Finister
Wolston Limited

More than that...


I certainly wouldn't argue the point that the individual trainer can make a significant difference in the outcome of the training session. Lookiing at it from a practical perspective, you're always going to have a small percentage who are rock stars and then all the rest. If you're the client and it's your job on the line if it fails, do you want to risk not getting the rock star? No, didn't think so.

Worse yet, you only have so much time to go through the Foundation material AND add "value" (y'know, the stuff you want to talk about, not the stuff that's in the "exam"). That's my key point. I say to heck with the paper -- give 'em what gives value. In the end, if someone is doing it for their next job, they'll interview better because they actually know something.


Body of agreement

I think a fair number of us are in agreement on that. Simulations can help considerably to add an extra reality to the training, but a good tutor can deal with real life - as longh as the syllabus allows. That's why I've been developing a framework agnostic ITSM course for the UK market,.

James Finister
Wolston Limited

A "framework agnostic" qualification program already exists

Hi James et al,

The new EXIN IT Service Management qualification program is a framework agnostic (or in EXIN terms, framework neutral) qualification program. It is multi-tiered and recognizes existing qualifications that delegates have to enable a fast track approach to be taken leveraging existing training investment. It focuses upon the critical elements of IT service management that all service providers should know about. It takes its scope from ISO/IEC 20000 to set the boundaries of what is internationally recognized as "critical".

It is very much an ITSM qualification program focused on the "how to" elements of service management and gets away from the brand lead focus that we have today in my personal opinion. Taking the best and complimenting service providers' own best practices this qualification program also saves time and money by focusing on those critical elements while still delivering significant benefit.

Further information can be found at :


This program has been in development for around 2 years and a lot of hard work and quality effort has gone in to this program. EXIN are taking further steps to raise the awareness of the program across the world, so watch this space!

All the best, David.

David Clifford

- Fellow and President-Elect of the ISM (www.IoSM.com)
- Head of Consulting Practice PRO-ATTIVO (www.pro-attivo.com)

ISO 20000


Surely an ISO 20000 qualification can hardly claim to be framework agnostic.

Fan of ISO 20000 as I am it still isn't what I have been working on, though I am tempted to take it myself.

That is if I could find a UK provider for the course.

James Finister
Wolston Limited

itil and itsm

Right - 20k seems not exactly framework agnostic, but that is mostly caused by the fact that it happens to use largely the same terms as ITIL. Which doesn't say that it follows the ITIL framework. Which, actually, isn't a framework but a set of loosely coupled practices.
So what do we have here: a standard that requires specific performance in a number of areas. These areas are described independently from any external source, as David confirms - and he should know. You can indeed use any framework or BOK. The only important thing is that whatever you use, it should work - at least if you're working in the best interest of a customer instead of maximising your invoice to that customer. A good framework would then be very welcome. But they are REALLY hard to find, since most people still follow ITIL blindly, thinking that it is a framework to be applied in practice. It isn't. And it doesn't claim to be - it's what the readers unfortunately make of it - most of them from the perspective of maximising their invoice to a customer.
James - I can guarantee you that using a real framework with simple structures will provide the trick you're after, or maybe you're already using that in your own practice. It's much cheaper, much faster and provides much better results than any "ITIL implementation" I've ever seen. But let's face it: that is not in the interest of most of the larger providers. Luckily, James - you're not a victim of that strategy, being a small independent company. Maybe we should rearrange this world into a 'small provider market' ;-)

Different world


I've been around the ITSM world long enough to know the value of the frameworks and to have spent a lot of my time promoting them. Just checked and my managers certificate is number 720 - what a different world it was back then. So I don't disagree about their value

As Jan says it is different being a small independent consultancy, rather than a body shop built around a framework. People buy from firms like ours because of our specific expertise and track record. Our interim work is different again from our consultancy work. The big difference being, and this is a gross over simplification, is that consultants get called in when the client has a perceived problem or a bright idea, but interims get called in when there is a real problem. In the interim case you don't have time to sell a framework because you are dealing with a specific issue, such as saving an outsourcing contract from termination. You use the frameworks in the background, you use the terminology, you sow the seeds for a later formal adoption, but what you need to do during the triage period is different to, but not incompatible with, the long term patient care plan.

A lot of organisations have a very short time to sort themselves out in. The traditional ITSM project approach is a luxury they can't afford, and a lot of the help they need isn't in the frameworks anyway - how to re-negotiate a contract for instance. Again that doesn't take anything away from the value of the frameworks, but it is a case of using the right tool to do the job

James Finister
Wolston Limited

ITIL is crap and creates lazy workers

ITIL is the biggest crap sold to human history, it does not resolve in a better workflow, but only creates worse work related enviroment ever.
Before working with ITIL everyone at work knew what they where doing and did their jobs as what they getting paid for.
After implementing ITIL crap, you creat a box like thinking, only do what you are told to do and is written within the ITIL what you supposed to do.
One person gets sick, and stays at home for more then one month.
Other co worker (not beeing payed for his sick co workers position), now needs to do his own and his sick co worker job, so accoording ITIL this is not possible so good luck with it he tels his boss, it's not in his job description.

Before ITIL he would not think twice to leave the work of his sick co worker on his left side just because he get the same pay as he co worker (equal).

Hope you catch my drift on this way of thinking ITIL brings to your business, and make sure you have 2 for the same price or you wil have nothing done, and you wil be looking at job hoppers 3 months in 1 month nothing etc etc etc.
End result a business not running as it should, overall increase of personel and salary, managers beeing brought in to have a look where the problem is (you get one and before you know it you have 100 managers managing each other), end result after all of this, people getting fired because the managers tell the higher management that the monthly salary pay checks are to high (hmm makes you think hu).
Crazy way of thinking but implementing ITIL crap only creates jobless people and lazy workers, and you get people in who do not know nothing about the work they supposed to do, just because they have been learning crap for their whole live.

Been there, seen it happen, and that times 3 til now and am afraid it wont be the last.
So think twice before using ITIL, ITIL stands for (Itil Terminates Informatica Logics)

Wrong - worst crap ever sold was...

Afterthought - worst crap ever sold to human kind was not ITIL, it was the England soccer away shirt that was cherry red instead of blood red. It no longer hid the bloodstains... Oh and their was a small thing called TARP.

Anonimous crapper - rotten tomatoes?

Those who know me, know I am one of the sternest critics of ITIL - why - because so many of my clients have been led to believe it is the only source worth trusting. ITIL is not crap. What is crap is the way it is employed by so many to address the challenges of an IT organization in a service society. Here I blame the consultants, vendors and evangelists who read more into ITIL than it was intended to offer, and that is there.

ITIL is just fine, in fact its better than it was and continues to move towards actually being a definitive reference. It just seems it might take another update and another five years. It is but one set of opinions and guidance towards the theme of service management.

Few pointers here for you and others. As Skep suggests if you want to vent or bitch - go a bit further and offer some specifics, there are plenty of easy targets within ITIL. Be constructive 'Its crap because.. and here are a few examples... and some suggestions on how it should/could be approached". Help others who might tread into the 'crap'. In suggesting its crap, offer your own baseline or yardstick for what represents un-crap. Good stuff.

One more think - anyone implementing ITIL has got it all wrong. We in IT do not need to implement anything. Here I find myself agreeing I think with one of your comments - we just need to do what we are charged to do - deliver the right level of service at the right cost and help those we serve, succeed. Be as anonymous as we can and as I always say - adopt the philosophy that IT stands for "invisible technology".

ITIL has value. However, you can only appreciate its value when you understand what you need to be doing to help your customers and organization succeed, and how ITIL helps you do that. Doing ITIL without understanding this linkage warrants being put in the proverbial village stocks and peppered with rotten tomatoes.

inability to distinguish

Whilst I am overjoyed to be providing a forum for all the embittered and angry workers of the IT industry to vent, it would help if folk had reasoned arguments based on fact. In particular, I'm puzzled by the widespread inability to distinguish between the failings of the messenger and the message. What you describe is so clearly bad management that I am at a loss to understand how you can lay it at ITIL's door.

Framework agnostic?

Well, I know that you know the standard very well James as do I, so I guess you will agree that a service provider can use ANY framework or their own best practices or combination of the two to achieve certification to the standard if they take the certification route, so yes, it is framework agnostic then by this definition. (Of course the standard isn't just of use if one wishes to get certified, it can be very useful as a way of navigating the various frameworks using the critical elements that should be implemented, but that is another story).

There may be a focus in the industry that promotes ITIL over all other frameworks to support 20k certification/compliance but there are also many schools of thought that say, let's get back to focusing on ITSM and away from the brand lead initiatives.

The syllabus that support the EXIN "IT Service Management qualification program according to ISO/IEC 20000" encourages course providers to embrace all relevant frameworks and provides specific guidance on a range of those.

So, in response, yes, this program can claim to be framework agnostic/neutral (in my opinion of course). I'd welcome your further comments, this is a good healthy debate!

Cheers, David.

teaching service management

To be a pedant, I think ISO20000 is very much a framework, as in a taxonomy or structure, but it is not a BOK. So i'd like to reword your statement to "a service provider can use ANY BOK or their own best practices or combination of the two to achieve certification to the ISO20000 standard framework if they take the certification route, so it is BOK agnostic " and then the two of you are on the same page I think. It is not enough to be BOK agnostic, James wants to be framework agnostic too.

if I were teaching service management now, as distinct from teaching ITIL, I'd use USMBOK as the superset of all the other frameworks and BOKs, especially if/when Ian completes the mappings of how the others fit in

That certain something

I've got a lot of time for both ISO 20000 and USMBOK, but most of my work is as an interim. I have 30 days to go in to organisation and say "This is how it is, and if you want to change, do this by the end of a 100 days" I don't have time for frameworks, I need to provide basic rules and guidance, and above all else some basic values that help the client make the right decisions to support the business.

James Finister
Wolston Limited

Apparently you do have time...


If you've got to be in and out in 30-days helping to drive results, you not only have time for it -- you have a real need for it. I mean, are you going to invent it all from scratch for 28 days and then spring it on them?? Didn't think you would.

I think one of the problems may be that "frameworks" have gotten a bad name (it seems deservedly so, in some cases). If a framework is (think generically) the arrangement of parts that gives something its basic form, this is an appropriate basis on which to engage your customer. If it's "well, you must do 'x' because the 'y' framework says you need to... oh, and then we need to do 'z' becuase 'x' requires it...", then I wouldn't call that a framework -- I'd call that a codified collection of constraints! (say that five times fast, eh?)

In the end, knowing that you can come in with your bag of tricks and pull what is fitting for a customer at a given stage of their evolution and have it produce results is just smart -- for you and your customer. Of course, I would think that -- that's how I use the USMBOK! :-)


Good to hear!


That's why I've been developing a framework agnostic ITSM course for the UK market

Good to hear. Best wishes for your success with that!


ITIL or SMBOK training has it's value.


Sometimes it is hard for me to tell whether you're actually taking a position or just trying to stir some controversy in an effort to stimulate conversation. I suppose it's not important.

As one of those consultants who do mentor people on ITSM and ITAM (that doesn't do this sort of training) I must say I prefer a critical mass of individuals have basic training and that specific individuals get advanced training over time.

It is often quite cost effective to train so that there is a critical mass of people who share terms and concepts - it simply makes communication easier.

By the end of any engagement we want to transfer as much knowledge to our customers as possible. One of the ways to do that is to engage with them in meaningful discussion about their objectives and processes - I actually want them to struggle a bit with it and consider multiple alternatives - because then they "own" the process themselves. We recommend they then engage the individuals whose jobs will be affected in the same way. For every decision made we then recommend that our client management thoroughly explain to stakeholders why the decision was made. Then, management set clear expectations (with measures) about the new performance and follow up on that regularly.

Dictating process from the top-down rarely works, particularly when an organization "implements ITIL" instead of really knocking the ideas around a bit and adopting ITSM ideas where it works best. The people who are going to actually do the work really should be a part of the detailed decision making.

For these kinds of conversations to take place economically and have the staff swiftly prepared for these conversations, it is often best to make training a part of the program.

Any change in policy and processes is a change to the day-to-day work of the people involved. All too often the idea is to whip some technology on these folks then send them to a quick technology training class expecting them to change, or expecting that they'll just do as their told. It never seems to work out well that way.

As Terry Josephson wrote, "The more you prepare, the luckier you appear." That seems to apply to helping people make the changes needed to earn success.

Cary King
Minerva Enterprises
Managing Partner

the unwashed masses

No I'm serious... I think.

" it is often best to make training a part of the program"
"All too often the idea is to whip some technology on these folks then send them to a quick technology training class "

Totally and utterly agree.
The training that should be delivered in these cases should be tailored as I described above so as to have relevance to the attendees. I'd love to hear some course instructors' estimates of how often Foundation training fails to engage attendees because they don't see the relevance. If the training is framed as i describe above, then the common language of ITIL can still be taught and the relevant bits of theory, and some might even be inspired enough to go off and learn more.

Remember I'm not talking here about your original core where you "engage with them in meaningful discussion about their objectives and processes ", i.e. do the planning, design etc, what I called "a few in-house specialists and champions ". Yes you can equip them with theory. I'm talking about the training for the much larger group of "individuals whose jobs will be affected"


I agree that clients should have a consultant/mentor (one that has practical experience...not one who specializes in theory) as part of their team. In my opinion the consultant is the center of the ITSM universe and should mentor (not do it for them) the team driving the program. The consultant should also be leading the training effort...that is get everyone trainined up on the basics (Foundation or Orientation), some on the specifics (Intermediate) and some overall management of the program (Experts) with the consultant/mentor helping fill in the blanks in preparation for the certification (if that is the path their company want them to pursue....in some cases it is mandatory...especially in outsourcing or government contracts) or the specifics of their ITSM program.

The best and most economical way to make this happen while enabling the consultant to scale across the enterprise is through the use of online programs combined with the creation of an online community where the ITSM team can communicate with the mentor and each other. The online program provides consistancy of training (everyone get the same training and messaging...in fact video based training provides the capability for the consultant to create one additional module to the training that introduces the overall plan to the team) and with the support of them Consultant/Mentor consistancy of linkage back to the overall ITSM program.

just my two cents...

People need the How

Online training might suit some people, but for many others - this author included - it is a total waste of money and utterly ineffective. I learn nothing if I don't sit down with a live human, and talk. Even where something does stick, any online delivery should only be one part of a total cultural change program that still involves real people talking with real people to get them involved, hear their concerns (and feed them back), correct their misperceptions. Online training speaks but it doesn't listen.

And if the online and human training is just off-the-shelf theory then for most of the trainees it covers 10% of what they need to know and only 10% of it is what they need to know. Put another way, theoretical training is perpendicular to the trainign they need and only the interesction si sueful to them. Or put a third way, theoretical content should be part of training only where it is needed to explain or reinforce the new way somethign is done. The first objective of trainig is to equip people to do their new job and ITIL theory doesn't do that. ITIL theory teaches the Why not the How. People need the How.



You missing the point. The online training can be delivered at 50 to 70% less than traditional training. That FREE's up money to use to hire an experienced mentor to do what you stated above....teach them the how. Right now all the money is being dumped into the training to try to Do IT Themselves but with out the right coaching it will never happen.

Online Training

In my opinion you do not free up money at all, since you need to compare the effect of the online training. In an official class people spend 2-3 days together with an inhouse trainer (if possible). You compare only the cost of the trainer and then you will save money by comparison.

But in a real calculation you have to consider the time the trainees spend on the training. To achieve the same quality of training with an online training (please do not compare a 3 day class for foundation with a 4 hour online training!), you would need to have the trainees working at least 4-6 days, since an instructor lead training is much more efficient in knowledge transfer. So in the result you will have spent more on the online training.

I know that this is not reported in your spending and that is why many companies (esp. large ones) are heavy on online training. But it is very inefficient.


if that's what happens then I'm all for it. If the saved money just gets diverted and cultural change gets ignored as usual then I'm not :)

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