Aidan Lawes on ITIL certification

It is a happy day indeed for the IT Skeptic when I find myself singing the same song as such a venerable member of the ITIL community as Aidan Lawes, and yet that is very much the case with a recent blog entry by Aidan. Does the ITIL V3 certification scheme provide real value to the buyer?

For those who came in late and are unfamiliar with the Lawes name, Aidan (immortalised as St Aidan in the Not ITIL books) was CEO of itSMF UK (pre International days) for eight years, and was one of the senior figures behind ITIL V3. His highest credential is of course that he is a Kiwi.

A cursory glance at the blog entry and you might miss its real subject - I did (thanks to the reader who sent me back for another look). It is headed "Meeting the Customer's Needs ". Aidan says:

OGC, APMG, the Examination Institutes (EIs) and the Accredited Training Organisations would all claim that the end consumer, i.e. those taking the exams, is the customer – and to a degree that is true. But the model is actually more complex than this... Of course, they want to exercise control (or at least have a veto) over the scheme and they want to make some money from it. They have a contract with APMG under which APMG manage the scheme and deliver the revenue to OGC. APMG acts as both Accreditor and EI, so in some cases its customers are the other EIs and in others those ATOs which it directly accredits... with all training there is the “customer” (payer) and the “user” (trainee), and their needs and desires may also be divergent.

I am less polite. I've said for some time that the real customers of APMG are the EIs, and indirectly the ATOs, and the certification program is designed to that end. Trainees are just the target market. N.B. APMG's business as an EI in their own right is incidental to their main business, and something of an irritant for some of the other EIs. APMG's real business is selling to the EIs - they just recruited the eighth EI the other day.

OGC employs virtually no subject matter experts in the various areas, including ITIL, and hence depends on external individuals or organisations to both develop the material and deploy qualification schemes.

In the satirical Introduction to Real ITSM I said:

Real ITSM is represented by the Real IT Service Institute, or RITSI. The Institute is incorporated in London [London, Tanzania not London, England]. Membership is inclusive: open to all vendors, consultants, trainers, examiners and publishers without exception (unless we don’t like you)... The integrity of the Real Practice content is of course paramount to RITSI. The Institute retains a part-time unqualified career bureaucrat to govern the ongoing development of that content through the DogmaITSM program.
DogmaITSM keeps the core content up to the state of the art through reviews every seven to ten years. It employs a commercial tendering process to find the most knowledgeable authors. To ensure Real ITSM’s relevance to the whole world, authors must be selected from vendors from more than one country.

Same melody, different key.

Aidan makes the throw-away remark "Leaving aside the vexed question of whether the style of questioning actual tests the right things..." Of course the IT Skeptic does not leave it aside - multi-choice tests little of relevance - and I sense a hint of doubt from Aidan.

More from Aidan's blog:

we arrive at a situation where ATOs concentrate their efforts on teaching people the facts that they need to know in order to pass the exam... the whole structure is ITIL-centric and not focused on the end-customer at all... Why can someone only be called an “expert” if they have a roughly common set of knowledge? ... How many people will actually work at a strategic level – at any point in their career? Isn’t this area one in which most people are always going to have only a passing interest, rather than needing to know the detail?... . Why is the Foundation level course now so broad and shallow in depth that it doesn’t really equip most people with the capability to really do anything?... Why does the exam setting body feel that they must also dictate the structure and content of a course in order for it to be accredited? Shouldn’t they define the exam syllabus and leave the course definition to the ATOs? ... Perhaps there needs to be a route for “exceptions” – an option for accessing exams without the learning programme.

Questioning the ATOs' monopolistic grip over the road to certification. Wonderful stuff. Read the blog.

One more great point, which may come from the fact Aidan has just been to India

what about markets where the costs of training are borne by the individual far more than the western countries - and where the cost of an exam is equivalent to the cost of training, rather than 1/6th or 1/7th

I've raved in the past about how requiring ATO training puts the certification out of reach for many countries. Aidan makes the point that the exam itself is pretty steeply priced too.

So what do you think, singing a similar song? Of course being the polite and discrete man he is, Aiden hums where I yodel.


the finest ITIL skepticking is by Aiden Lawes

There's no doubt that some of the finest ITIL skepticking around is being written by Aiden Lawes. Check out this latest blog post :

The problems with ITIL, as is true with many other approaches, mainly stem from people. They either willfully or mistakenly cast ITIL into a particular light – sanctifying or demonising it in equal measure because they have an axe to grind, have been misinformed, misunderstand it or are seeking to make money from it.

Why can’t people accept it for what it is - some guidance about how to get a grip on an area that has been contentious and problematical for many years, viz. how do we ensure that investments in IT actually deliver value to the wider enterprise? It is not THE answer to everything, it is not carved in tablets of stone, and it most certainly doesn’t absolve managers from the obligation to perform their management function – to make decisions based upon reliable information from a range of disparate sources, including making choices that may or may not prove to be correct and continually to seek to improve the quality of service provided.

Aiden Lawes on ITIL Certification

Wail on oh exhalted Skeptic....the cost of certification is well out of reach of most IT professionals. The only hope of getting certified above foundation is if the company one is employed even values the entire process or as I've seen stated here before, is happy to execute the framework on the very basic of educations (and most not at all). Rare that any company unless it is a vendor of such services will spend on education for such a narrow focus program especially in this current world economy.

Value of certification

Hi Skeptic and Aiden,

Add the so-called phenomenon of 'recession' on top of all these!

You can see, as the situation Aiden hinted in his blog has evolved, people are not really 'valuing' the certification as much the 'cost' an ATO are offering.
The result - instead of an apple to apple comparison on quality, contents, trainer profiles, references etc among training options - customers has boiled down to comparison on their cost - At least in those markets that you mentioned (like India- where I can provide first hand information).
The decision has (more or less) started to be limited to 'cost' - and the comparison happens among freelancer trainers who could provide the trainings at a 'per-day trainer charges' to Accredited and established ATOs who may not afford to bring the price down beyond a limit.

What Aiden mentioned is absolutely true - in these part of the world (and mind you in volume of trainings and certification this region must be almost at par with Europian countries) - the training prices (based on the value the customers started to assign) has really brought down to a level equal to the certification cost. And the ITIL V3 syllabys (the breadth and shallowness mentioned by Aiden) has not helped to change the valuation at all...
It is slowly becoming (if not already become) just become a basic certification - to be added in the resume.

The lethargic way the market is reacting to the intermediate and higher level certification might be just the indication the authorities need.

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