Five Things I like about ITIL Practitioner (and one thing I didn’t)

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After a few years in the ITSM profession, I recently earned my ITIL®[1] Practitioner certification.

If you’ve not heard of ITIL Practitioner, it’s the new addition to the ITIL certification scheme from AXELOS, the joint venture of the British Government and Capita formed to develop, manage, and operate qualifications in best practice, in methodologies formerly owned by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).[2] The aim of ITIL Practitioner is to provide guidance as to how to adopt and adapt ITIL within their organizations.

But wait — ITIL is a framework and has always been intended to provide guidance and not be prescriptive. The fact that ITIL is guidance and not prescriptive is both a strength and (some would say) a weakness of ITIL. Does the Practitioner qualification thread the needle and provide implementation guidance without being prescriptive? I think it does. But if you’re still looking for the “ITIL cookbook”, you’ll not find it in ITIL Practitioner.

Having said that, here are five things I like about ITIL Practitioner:

  • ITIL Practitioner addresses the gap that has existed for some time – how to get started.   Actually, the answer to “how to get started” was discussed in ITIL V3 – use the CSI Model. It really doesn’t matter where you start an ITSM implementation (although I do have my preferred places to start), the CSI Model can be used to put you on a good path. In fact, I always start out any ITSM improvement or implementation initiative by asking the questions found in the CSI Model. I often call it “my secret weapon”. ITIL Practitioner is built around and emphasizes the CSI Model, doing a deeper dive into each of the six questions and explaining how to use it to build both the right plan and continuing momentum for the ITSM implementation.
  • The Guiding Principles. ITIL Practitioner highlights nine guiding principles for an ITSM implementation. I would say that these Guiding Principles are just plain good advice for any type of project or improvement initiative, whether or not it involves the use of ITIL.   To the point, in my experience, many ITSM implementations get “over baked” by losing focus on delivering business value, or becoming obsessed on achieving some kind of perfection, or trying to do things in a vacuum. Applying the Guiding Principles to an ITSM initiative can help ensure success.
  • Acknowledges that other frameworks and methodologies can and do play in the “ITSM sandbox”. While ITIL Practitioner doesn’t go into much depth, it does mention where other ITSM methodologies, such as COBIT®[3], Agile, Lean, DevOps, and others can be leveraged in an ITSM implementation based on ITIL. Perhaps this will start to dispel the myth that ITIL can’t or doesn’t play well with others; those having had some experience with ITSM implementations have known that this has never been the case. In my opinion, all methodologies have strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, you need to know what tools you have in your ITSM toolbox and use the right tool for the right job, following a balanced approach. It was refreshing to see ITIL Practitioner acknowledge that other methodologies can and do “play nice” with ITIL.
  • Provides some tools and templates. The appendix of the ITIL Practitioner Guidance is chock-full of some useful templates and tools to help your ITSM implementation along, such as a Business Case Worksheet, Communications Campaign Checklist, KPI Balance Checklist, and others. All good stuff!
  • ITIL Practitioner emphasizes the often overlooked “P” of ITSM implementations – People. ITIL Practitioner provides chapters discussing communication and organizational change management (OCM). The communication chapter talks about the importance, value, and benefits of good communication, as well as presents some techniques and considerations for effective communication. Building OCM as an organizational capability – not just some other department’s job – is a key concept discussed within that chapter. Everyone involved in an ITSM implementation has a role and responsibility to help each other along the change journey. This chapter provides useful insights and techniques for helping individuals through the change that an ITSM implementation must accomplish.

Now for the one thing I didn’t like about ITIL Practitioner. The exam.

The ITIL Practitioner course is very different than any other ITIL training. ITIL Practitioner follows a scenario-based, interactive, hands-on approach – the students literally must “learn by doing” to successfully complete the course. There is little lecture in this course (at least the course for which I was a member of the course developer’s review board), so there shouldn’t be an instructor who just stands in front of a room, spewing out terms and definitions, and reading from a slide deck. (If you find yourself in an ITIL Practitioner or even an ITIL Foundation course where the instructor does this, you should walk out and demand a refund.) Students apply and use the concepts being presented to learn how they are used. I like this approach.

As such, the exam is scenario-based. But unlike other intermediate level exams that use a gradient-style, multiple choice approach (where each question has four choices ranging from the “best” answer to a “distracter” answer), the ITIL Practitioner exam is 40 multiple choice questions – with only one “best” answer for each question. Here’s where I have the issue. Some of the questions were too vaguely worded to understand what was really being asked. While I understand and agree that exam questions must be written to challenge and ensure that the student understands the concept, the questions must also be written in language that is clear enough so that the best answer can be selected. While I don’t know if the specific questions that I missed were due to this issue, I will say that the vague wording caused me to make assumptions, which I found a bit frustrating.  In talking with others who have sat the exam, I’ve heard similar concerns.   One colleague said the exam was “bizarre”.

With that said, I feel that ITIL Practitioner is a good add to the ITIL bookshelf.  The exam issues will work themselves out as more people take them, but even today, the exam is passable. It will be interesting to watch how the market reacts to ITIL Practitioner.

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[1] ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.

[2], retrieved 4/29/2016

[3] COBIT® is a registered trademark of ISACA.

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6 thoughts on “Five Things I like about ITIL Practitioner (and one thing I didn’t)”

  1. While practical knowledge is always better than certifications but what a certification does is it sets a benchmark for certain practices there by bringing uniformity across the industry, While this is good for some industries for some others this may not be a amicable solution.

    1. No argument about the value of certifications. The point of my post is (at the time) the exam is not well-written and expects the ITIL Practitioner exam-taker to make significant assumptions and inferences to properly answer the exam questions. Hopefully, AXELOS has addressed this issue by now.

    1. I appreciate your enthusiasm! There is so much discussion regarding the “death of ITIL”…I don’t believe that ITIL is dead. I would say that while ITIL is less than perfect (then again, what *is* perfect?), those that have struggled with adopting and adapting ITIL have not utilized concepts presented in ITIL Practitioner.

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