An army of ITSM'ers

Last year over 1.5 million people took their driving test in the UK.

Budding drivers refer to the ‘Highway Code’, a high selling booklet designed to teach trainee drivers about navigating roads, cooperating with others drivers and staying safe.

So can we assume that the UK gained 1.5 million new road safety enthusiasts with a passion for road markings and road signs?

No.

It means 1.5 million people took their test. They went through the motions, they learnt a skill in order to meet the minimum requirements to get the job done and get on the road.

@ClaireAgutter

Claire Agutter of ITIL Training Zone recently stated that 20,000 people take their ITIL Foundation every month.

So we have 20K more ITSM enthusiasts? Call me a cynic, but I think not.

We have 20K people a month that ‘went through the motions, learnt a skill in order to meet the minimum requirements to get the job done and get on the road‘. In the case of ITIL foundation maybe it is to get that next job, make their CV more appealing or because the boss said so. Maybe some of them are tomorrow’s ITSM revolutionaries?

I think it is fantastic that ITIL training has such a good throughput but think it is a little misguided to use ITIL training as the litmus test of the ITSM industry.

In another correlation with driving tests, road safety campaigners are frustrated that few people refer to the Highway Code once they have passed their test.

“Millions of copies of the book have been sold, although whether many people refer to it once they’ve passed their driving test is doubtful, a point of frustration for many road safety campaigners.” The Telegraph

What do you think? What is the true indicator of ITSM Industry health?

Free ITIL Training?

Free ITIL TrainingI have a confession – I am a data squirrel.

Any template, anything Visio-flavoured, anything that might prove useful for meetings, documentation – I snaffle it and put it somewhere safe.

Freebie ITIL material, however, is a different beast.  There are things out there if you look, some useful, somewhere one might have to be a bit more creative, but there is stuff out there.

Free ITIL Training

There is no getting away from the fact the ITIL books and initial training costs money.  So to stumble across a free ITIL training overview merited a look.

First up – you cannot get away from this, you HAVE to register for most of the freebie-offers.  If handing over a decent, credible email is not your cup of tea, then this quest is not for you, traveller.

The prospect of a two-hour ITIL “taster” came to me through an e-newsletter from The ITIL Training Zone and I settled down to run through the training.

The Free ITIL Training course does require an email to access it, which will need verification, and will come back your ID and password, within a matter of minutes.

Registering

You are asked if you are a total beginner, someone who has Foundation certification, or if you are an expert (on the first pass) and then takes you to the course.  I logged in again to see if it changed the presentation depending on what you pick, but didn’t see the options again, so maybe this is more for analytical purposes.

It would be fascinating to see what the spread of participants are.

The course itself

The layout appears on the right and is broken down to handy links so you can just dip into what you want if you need to.

  • Introduction – The first bit covers a lot of probably the least useful bits of ITIL training in ANY course, if I am being honest – the history of ITIL. But it constantly asks the user to imagine how everything that is being taught relates to your own environment, putting it in context from the start. It introduces the concept of a case study that you follow throughout the course as well.
  • The core books – This is maybe the most daunting bit – there are lots of sections to go through, but they are in smallish chunks of around 6-10 minutes, and can be paused.
  • The last bit – With the case study that you follow throughout the course, and examples of real cases, the course constantly reiterates that you need to look at the wider piece and understand how it can help you in your organization.

What I liked

It’s nice and concise and it covers the details that you need.

It is worth noting that it doesn’t go through all the processes in Transition, and with good reason – this is a FREE taster to give people the basics of ITIL ahead of maybe doing the courses for real.

Maybe because I have worked across a range of roles, I can look across the piece and understand the larger end-to-end picture.  It constantly reiterates the approach of applying what you are being told to your own organisation.

People approaching ITIL education in general need to be of a mindset that it is a journey and not a quick-fix.

What people might NOT like

Globalisation

The first company I worked for was a multi-national corporation, centred in the US and the majority of our online training is produced in the US.  I have absolutely NO issue with hearing an American voice, but I have been on courses where people whine about Americanisms (there’s always one!).

Globalisation is prevalent in our industry and if this is an issue for you then perhaps this is not the course for you (or dare I say it the industry for you!)

Implementing ITIL

One of the things that always amuses me from trawling the Linked In groups is the sharp responses to queries about:

“I want to implement ITIL… give me x, y, z”

You will invariably see people slap that down with:

“You do not implement ITIL, you adopt, adapt, create and define policies and processes and deploy an ITSM tool to enforce, etc”

The course validates this phrase with talking about the processes and how they interact, and again this is an introduction to the basics.

And above all, it mentions the “journey” that you take in Service Management, which is often the answer given to the “implement ITIL” queries – so I think the course makes that distinction as you delve into it.

For beginners – this is in terms they understand – but would be interesting to see if more advanced courses still talk in those terms, or whether they make the “adopt/adapt/journey” distinction.

ITIL Lite – free or chargeable?

This is a taster course for offerings run by a training company – and there are links to a more formal corporate targetted ITIL Lite course on their website.

The benefit is, understandably, no additional marketing and links.

Just to reiterate – I am reviewing the completely free, ads-and-all version.

Would I recommend this?

I would definitely point people starting out in ITIL at this course, and in fact chatted to someone at a Regional itSMF UK seminar about this very course as an awareness starter for their staff.  They had also looked at it, so it is getting known as a key free resource.

A much respected ITAM colleague asked me whether it was worth their going for their ITIL certification, concerned about learning.  Unfortunately there is no short cut or free ride to the certification, but I would certainly point them at this for the basics, and leave them to make their mind up as to whether to go any further.

My final point focuses around the PDF “Report” that you are also able to download.

It boils down the concepts covered in the course, as well as the focus on applying the case, and packs a lot in to 80 pages.

Calling it a report really does not do it justice – it is the course material in its own right – showcase it as such, and maybe make this a core part of the ITIL Lite branding.

All in all this is a great introduction to ITIL for people thinking about certification, or getting people up to speed with the terminology.

Back to Basics: Why DO the ITIL Foundation Certification?

I was actually asked this question recently by a former colleague working in the IT Asset Management arena, in the context of whether the certification would help them in terms of IT contracting.

I had to think long and hard about my answer, and having learned the hard way in previously trying to get contract work, it does tend to be something that recruiters expect contractors to have, particularly in the ITSM arena.

What’s the real value of ITIL Foundation Certification

I decided to track down the trainer who got me through my Foundation to get his views.

Neil Wilson is an ITIL expert and accredited trainer.  He says:

“The harsh reality is that organisations want it [ITIL], want to start practicing it, but don’t necessarily want to pay for it.

“They can choose who they want.

“It’s a foot in the door, and it gets you on the shortlist.”

He went on to give examples of recent class attendees who have spent many years in the IT industry, but who have never formalised their experience, and have found themselves having to face the prospect of studying.

“Whether we agree with the game, we have to have bits of paper and qualifications.”

I’m too old for this learning lark

This was the crux of my discussion with my colleague – and I am not going to lie, to cram all that stuff in for the Multiple-choice test on top of life, and in my advancing years was not a pleasant prospect.

But in my class, there were several people like me who had faced the spectre of redundancy and saw this as something necessary to help at least get your CV through the first set of scans.

Neil Wilson explains the basics.

“My advice for people who are worried about it – there is no short cut around it.

“You just have to get your head around it, whether that be classroom based or via self-study.”

It culminates in a one hour exam, 40 multiple choice questions, with 26 or more to pass.

“There is an argument for having this format as an appropriate way of testing people’s knowledge and understanding.

“The qualification gets this broad perspective of what the issues are – how do you test that?  With an exam.”

Yoda: "You must unlearn what you have learned"

Unlearn what you have learned

While it sounds a little Yoda™ -like in utterance, it is a valid piece of advice.

Most professionals working in or on the periphery of ITSM/ITAM will have an understanding of the basics in terms of terminology and basic process flow.

And so they should – remember we are talking best practice, here – not quantum physics.

BUT – to get through the exam you perhaps need to put aside what you know of real world situations and just learn what you need to PASS the exam.

Look at it like re-taking your driving test once you have established all those bad habits after you initially passed (we ALL have them!)

Isn’t that a bit defeatist?

Well not really – the Foundation Certificate is just that.  It gives the candidate a good grounding in the terminology and the concepts of ITIL, and at all times it constantly emphasises the fact that you go on a journey, and the need to adapt what you are learning to your own environment.

Is there anything I need to do beforehand?

There are some decent materials out there that can at least give you a ready reference for terminology – which in most cases is half the battle for the exam.

One of the things I found was at The ITIL Training Zone – where they offer ITIL Mind Maps and, more recently, ITIL on a Page.

I was able to catch up with their Head of Online Education, Claire Agutter at the Service Desk and IT Support Show 2012 to learn more.

She explained:

 “The mind maps were something that I found useful and we made freely available, as an effort to build up a trusted training brand.”

“People tell us they take these with them on courses!”

So is it worth it?

There are a couple of ways to look at this:

  • ITSM Credibility

For anyone working in the ITSM arena, there is little doubt in my mind that having a good understanding of the ITIL basics is going to help the team as a whole.

There are alternatives for companies who might balk at putting teams through the certification process.

Remember to balance the theory with common sense and practice.

  • Marketability

At the risk of sounding mercenary – anything, these days, that edges you closer to the start line in the race for jobs/better positions is a good thing.

Let’s be realistic – we work to make money to live.  If having at least the certification means you might be able to negotiate a better starting rate on contracts, or puts you in the frame to move up through the ITSM job structure in your organisation, then it is no bad thing.

  • Choose what works for you.  Classroom learning is an expense and takes up time, but it puts you in an environment where you have no choice but to soak it all in.  Self-study will give you a little more flexibility to study in your own time, but can be equally stressful when it comes to putting the time aside to focus on it.  If you have no self-discipline to do that, then be honest with yourself from the start!

Has it helped me?

For me, gaining my ITIL certification meant I could approach a change in role in terms of process consultancy with a little more comfort.

In my previous roles I could get by with my versions of the books and some background knowledge, happy in the knowledge we had Process Implementation Managers who handled all that other stuff.  I just needed to argue my case for the tool vs process.

But for my next role it was roles reversed – the focus was on process consultancy, with my technical expertise then helping us to develop the tool accordingly – the deeper dive into the basic foundation of ITIL gave me that balance.

I personally think it is worth the 3 days and a couple of nights of pain (if you do a typical course) to have the certification under your belt.

What you do with it afterwards, or more importantly what it can do for you…?  Well that’s another story.

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