Tweets about ITIL Certification caught my attention today. What the hell does ITIL Certification mean?
First of all, you can’t ITIL certify a system (that’s what COBIT and ISO aim to do), you can only certify an individual. This already gets my BS-ometer tingling because certifying individuals creates gladiators, and gladiators are the enemy of high performance IT: read Free the gladiators!
What value is an ITIL certification then? There are plenty of job adverts that list ITIL as a “skill” (what the?!), and even I’m “ITIL Foundation Certified”, and there’s a whole business around ITIL out there, so it must be really important and worth some noodling.
When you take an ITIL class and sit the ITIL exam, just what are you learning and proving? I sat my first ITIL exam at HP in California. The instructor was quite clear, and correct:
ITIL comes from Britain, which means it is full of strange words like ‘bespoke’, and specific ways of doing things – these are things you might disagree with, but that is the ITIL way so that is what you must learn or fail the certification.
So, ITIL is the skill of learning by rote then? A bit like reading French from a phrasebook and looking puzzled because you don’t really understand the words, nor how the words are put together in a sequence, and when it comes to doing it for real in Paris: you look a complete idiot. Learning by rote is not equal to understanding, I hope you agree.
If ITIL is learning by rote, and the certification just means someone can regurgitate some funny words and draw some boxes that string together, is that valuable? Of course it is, if they are speaking to another person who is regurgitating the same words and drawing boxes that string together. As long as they both understand each other, they don’t have to make sense to anyone else – right?
I don’t think that employers are looking for people who can “learn by rote” when they ask for “ITIL certified” – so what are they looking for, and where does this leave the IT system? Don’t employers want someone to come in and talk their language, understand their system, and have someone bring experience to the table and creativity to solve today’s problems and set the vision and strategy for the future. And surely any methodology that keeps telling itself and its believers to “align with the business” suggests it is not starting from that position to start with? I think ITIL v3 Service Strategy is intended to snuggle up with the business – but have you tried to read the book, never mind act upon it? Not trivial, I can tell you.
So, instead of ITIL certification (let’s call it a Foreign Language Certificate, shall we?) why not award IT people medals of honour for service in the line of duty, battles fought, battles won, but not as a heroic individual but as someone who fought to build a great IT system of people, process and technology. In this brave new world, when potential employers look for staff they don’t ask for “ITIL certified”: instead they look up your career progress (which you’ve been updating and having independently verified instead of doing all those ITIL exams) instead on an independent register. It’s a far out, whacky idea but it just might work.
What’s your answers to these two questions:
- Which do you value most: (a) someone with twenty years experience and demonstrable track record of creating a high-performance IT system, (b) or someone with an ITIL certification? – A or B?
- How much more value does an ITIL certification add to someone with twenty years experience and a demonstrable track record of creating a high-performance IT system? – +1% – +100%?
My answers are (a) and (5%). It’s only 5% for the second answer because the experienced war horse might need to make sense of Mr Nonsense :-)