What ITIL certifications mean to your IT management practices

If you've done your research into current IT certifications, you'll see that Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, is near the top of many lists. ITIL methods are designed to help companies identify areas where they need improvement, providing vendor-neutral guidelines on where to make specific changes to reduce costs and increase productivity.

For example, you may use ITIL practices to reduce helpdesk traffic by implementing self-help sections on your company's website or you may use ITIL guidelines to decide whether something is done in-house or by a third-party.

Keep in mind: ITIL is not a tool but rather a set of best practices pertaining to IT service and lifecycle management.

The History of ITIL

Before we delve into whether you should implement ITIL methodologies, let's step back and look at its roots.

In the 1980s, the U.K.'s Government's Central Communications and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) formulated a set of recommendations that was designed to provide a "practical, no-nonsense framework for identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT services to the business."

ITIL began as a library consisting of books that discussed specific IT service management best practices, based on recommendations from the CCTA.

After its initial publication Version 1 of ITIL consisted of more than 30 volumes from 1986 to 1996. In 2000/2001, ITIL Version 2 was consolidated into eight sets of books that grouped related process guidelines for the various aspects of IT, namely services, applications and management. In April of 2001, the CCTA was merged into the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

The OGC announced ITIL Version 3--now known as the ITIL 2007 Edition--in May of 2007. It consisted of 26 processes and functions and contained in five core publications:

Service Strategy

Service Design

Service Transition

Service Operation

Continual Service Improvement

In July of 2011, ITIL was updated again. This update provided additional guidance with the definition of formal processes that were not previously well-defined, and corrected various errors and inconsistencies that had crept in over the years.

At this point, the OGC was no longer listed as the owner of ITIL, and it was consolidated into the Cabinet Office. The 2011 edition of ITIL is owned by the HM Government. As of January 31, 2012, ITIL certification exams have focused on the ITIL 2011 syllabus (the core principles of ITIL practices for Service Management), rather than that of the ITIL 2007 Edition.

The ITIL Qualification Scheme and Credit System

The ITIL Qualification Scheme uses a modular credit system called the ITIL Credit System. All ITIL and ITIL-related qualifications within the ITIL Credit System are assigned a specific credit value. As those credits are applied, the applicant qualifies to test for a higher level of certification. There are five levels of qualifications within the ITIL Qualification Scheme that include the following:

ITIL Foundation, which scores candidates with 2 credits, consists of 40 multiple-choice questions. No prerequisites are required to take this examination. It deals with key elements, concepts and terminology associated with ITIL service lifecycle management.

ITIL Intermediate Level, which scores the candidate with 15 or 16 credits, is open to candidates who have already passed the ITIL Foundation exam and have completed an accredited training course. The intermediate level includes two elements: Service Lifecycle examinations: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement as well as Service Capability examinations: Planning Protection and Optimization, Release Control and Validation, Operational Support and Analysis, and Service Offerings and Agreements.

ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC), which scores the candidate with 5 credits, requires the candidate to have passed the ITIL Foundation exam, along with an additional 15 credits from passing ITIL Intermediate exams, giving them a minimum of 17 credits in order to take this exam. This is also the gateway exam to achieve ITIL Expert Level.

ITIL Expert Level requires the candidate to have accumulated 22 credits that have been gained by passing the ITIL Foundation, Intermediate Level and MALC exams.

ITIL Master Qualification requires the candidate to already be ITIL Expert-level qualified. To achieve the ITIL Master Qualification, candidates must "explain and justify how they selected and individually applied a range of knowledge, principles, methods and techniques from ITIL and supporting management techniques, to achieve desired business outcomes in one or more practical assignments."

When a candidate completes a given level of the ITIL examination, he or she is given the certification and the attributed credits. Each level of certification has its own requirements, all of which include earning a specific number of credits.

ITIL Complementary Qualifications

Fortunately, the ITIL Credit System provides credits for other IT certifications (called ITIL Complementary Qualifications) the applicant has passed, including these:

Problem Analyst, an APMG-International qualification teaches candidates how to prevent problems and incidents from happening. This qualification is worth 1.5 credits.

Lean IT, an APMG-International qualification, teaches candidates how to create a value-oriented, customer-centric culture, while removing waste, inflexibility and variability. This qualification carries 0.5 credits.

ISO/IEC 20000, an APMG-International certificate, enables companies to demonstrate excellence and prove best practice in IT management. It is worth 1.5 credits.

Service Catalogue is an APMG-International certification for those who already have an ITIL Foundation certificate. It teaches applicants how to control demand, publish and track service pricing and cost as well as automate service request management and fulfillment. This qualification is worth 1.5 credits.

IT Service Management Foundation is an EXIN and Tuev-Sued IT Service Management Foundation based on ISO/IEC 20000. It focuses on the core principles, practices and processes of a quality approach to IT Service Management and is worth 1 credit.

Certified Process Design Engineer (CPDE), an LCS certification, focuses on the assessment, design, implementation, integration and management of IT Service Management processes. This qualification is worth 1.5 credits.

BCS Specialist Qualifications in IT Service Management covers a broad range of industry practices including ITIL, COBIT, ISO/IEC 20000 and SFIA/SFIA. Six BCS-ISEB Specialist Qualifications are available: Specialist Certificate in Service Desk and Incident Management, Specialist Certificate in Change Management, Specialist Certificate in Service Level Management, Specialist Certificate in Business Relationship Management, Specialist Certificate in Problem Management and Specialist Certificate in Supplier Management. Each certificate earns 1.5 credits.

Configuration Management Database - This APMG-International certification, teaches candidates how to identify, control, report, audit and verify the service assets and CIs of a CMDB, and carries 1.5 credits.

Change Analyst is another APMG-International qualification that teaches candidates how to assess, authorize and manage changes within an IT service environment. This qualification earns 1.5 credits.

Sourcing Governance Foundation (SGF), an APMG-International qualification, teaches the main concepts of Outsourcing and Sourcing Governance and how to apply them. This qualification is worth 1 credit.

BiSL, an APMG-International qualification, makes candidates familiar with a framework that was created to establish a business information management domain. It also teaches how to actively manage, maintain and support the functionality of information systems. This qualification is worth 0.5 credits.

ASL2, an APMG-International qualification, focuses on the best practices for designing and carrying out effective application management, including the management, maintenance and upgrading of applications. This qualification is worth 1 credit.

Note: A maximum of six credits from ITIL Complementary Qualifications can be applied towards the ITIL Expert certification.

The official site of ITIL features a tool called the ITIL Credit Profiler, which helps potential candidates determine the total credit value they have attained, and provides them with general guidance on additional certificates they may want to obtain, based on their specific career objectives.

ITIL Certification Management Board

ITIL exams are provided at three levels: Foundation, Practitioner and Manager. The certifications themselves are managed by the ITIL Certification Management Board, or ICMB. Originally, the ICMB included representatives from various international organizations, including the U.K. OGC, APMG, the Stationery Office (TSO), ITIL Examination Panel and Examination Institutes (EIs).

In 2006, however, the OGC, which owned the ITIL trademark, turned over the management of the ITIL trademark and the accreditation of examination providers to the APM Group. The APMG then contracted with EXIN, BCS/ISEB, Loyalist Certification Services, PeopleCert Group and other certification bodies, accrediting them as the official examination bodies.

These official organizations are now able to accredit official ITIL training providers and offer ITIL exams. Here is a list of accredited ITIL training partners as provided by the official ITIL site.

Each accredited certification organization uses the same questions, from the same question bank that was developed by the APMG. Only accredited training organizations are allowed to advertise, market and/or deliver ITIL certification courses to applicants.

Accredited Training Organizations and Examination Institutes

There are a number of Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs)--those that have been fully accredited by an approved Examination Institute)-- that provide ITIL certification courses, both online and in person. A full listing of ATOs is provided here.

Additionally, there are many examination institutes (EI) that are accredited by APMG. These examination institutes are allowed to provide an ITIL examination scheme through specific accredited training organizations, and accredited trainers with accredited materials. A list of official Examination Institutes (EI) is also provided by the official ITIL site.

Test Your ITIL Knowledge on Sample Exams

Prior to taking any of the ITIL exams, you should be able to pass any of the sample ITIL exams that are available online. Additionally, you can download a sample ITIL exam from the official ITIM site in PDF form.

A list of online ITIL sample exams can be found here.

Additionally, Android OS and iOS have apps are available:

Android (free)

iOS ($9.99)

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This story, "What ITIL certifications mean to your IT management practices" was originally published by CIO.

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