Just who are ITIL V3 certification and accreditation for?

APMG have released ITIL Master certification. The ITIL certification edifice grows higher and heavier. As with accreditation (prISM), I'm left wondering who they build these huge structures for.

Things I like about ITIL Master certification:

  • They've acknowledged that it requires "written submission and candidate interview": multi-choice isn't going to cut it (nor should it for ITIL Expert but that's another debate)
  • It tests the higher levels of learning: "the candidate must be able to explain and justify how they selected and individually applied a range of knowledge, principles, methods and techniques"
  • A requirement is "Have worked in IT service management for at least five years in leadership, managerial, or higher management advisory levels"


It's all a bit much. I commented some time ago that either (a) the priSM institute is over-the-top for professional accreditation of just ITSM or (b) itSMF is the wrong owner for an all-of-IT accreditation. prISM is just off the scale. An ISACA-style accreditation would have made more sense. I feel the same way looking at the current ITIL certification scheme. Achieving ITIL Expert certification looks to me to be a poor investment for most people: going for ITIL Master looks just nutty. Only a tiny number of people can justify being that deeply certified in one subject unless - as i said regarding prISM - you are a major consulting vendor who wants to differentiate for the Fortune 500 market and to justify the nose-bleed fees you sell your top consultants for. Who the hell else is it all for?

What's more, ITIL V3 certification assumes you aim to do it all. The pathway through the exams is structured as if you want to climb the pyramid to ITIL Expert and now ITIL Master certification. How about this use case? Personally I just want to do the Managing Across the Lifecycle course on its own because I am a generalist - it is the logical next step for me after Foundation. But I can't: I'm not allowed to without first doing the requisite number of Intermediate points.

And now we hear

The Official ITIL Accreditor is pleased to announce the completion of the ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC) qualification review. Candidates studying in English for the MALC qualification can use the new guidance and take an updated version of the examination from today.
This review was conducted ...to ensure the qualification meets its intent as the final stage to ITIL Expert certification.
The new MALC qualification ...has a higher level of difficulty than the Intermediate qualifications. [Oooh don't you wish you had got around to it sooner eh?]
Maggie Kneller, MALC project manager, said: "...It has been our aim to produce a MALC syllabus and examination which is deserving of its position as the final 'capstone' leading to the prestigious ITIL Expert certification.”

Clearly MALC is seen solely as a gateway qualification to ITIL Expert and Master, not an end in its own right.

If you want narrow specialisation, you can do one of the Intermediate certifications. If you want entry to the exclusive ITSM Brethren you can do Expert and Master. But if you just want to certify a higher general knowledge of ITIL, you can't do MALC: you have to start collecting the set of badges.

I've argued elsewhere that the ITIL books are widely applicable and useful, but when it comes to ITIL certification (Master) and accreditation (prISM), I really don't think they have much relevance to the world's millions of ITSM practitioners.


Certifications are for customers

Realistically, customers who have not much experience with IT Service Management don't have any real way of distinguishing between a good consultant with real experience, a consultant that's worked for a company that's seen only one thing, and those that have really done the whole thing from end-to-end and can really help the company achieve their goals.

There are lots of folks out there with a bunch of really good powerpoint that can do some training-like activities.

There aren't many who can actually talk with the customer and help them achieve real results.

Roughly 60% of projects fail totally. Half those fail to achieve the original goals. Part of it is poor consulting. Part of it is poor management. Most of it is poorly set expectations.

Just today I got a call from a customer that got a really good discount on their software with just a few seats. They want a consultant to take them from no people, no processes and no software to fully audit-ready software asset management and compliance. In six weeks. Because the sales guy told them that consulting costs should equal software costs. They just don't know. And, they trust the sales guy from the really big company.
I told 'em 20 weeks would be cutting it really thin. I'm sure they'll find someone who will tell them they can do it in 6, and then change order them to death.

Certifications are to help buyers winnow out the total losers, based upon an assumption that by taking a set of classes the consultant will, magically, turn to competent.
Caveat Emptor.

I shared this news with the

I shared this news with the delegates from our Expert program - there are a few who are interested but the number one question I got back was "how much is it?"


All true

By the numbers, and ignoring the V2 bridge numbers, we know about 668,000 individuals have certified at the Foundation level, and of them about 3,850 have become ITIL V3 Experts. Of Intermediate exams, about 64,600 certificates have been issued in both tracks. That would involve between 9,800 and 49,200 unique individuals, depending their average number of Intermediate certificates.

In summary about 5% of V3 Foundation certificate holders will earn an Intermediate certificate, and another order of magnitude fewer become an Expert. These numbers will rise (perhaps to 10% and 1% respectively), but this is indeed a niche specialty and will remain so. It makes me wonder how many Master certificates will be issued in 2 years: maybe 300.


On one hand, this is a drop in the bucket. On the other hand there is continued opportunity for growth for consultants and trainers in the ITSM industry and for continued growth of the various levels of ITIL certifications. There is also plenty of wiggle room for competitive and complementary frameworks such as COBIT5.

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