the value of ITIL certification

ITSM Portal raises the question of the value of ITIL certifications. To me they aren't worth much.

ITSM Portal said

ITSM Portal's LinkedIn group "ITIL & ITSM Certified Experts" shows an interesting thread on this topic.
Opinions range from "Training is never a waste of time and personal effort" and a realistic "Most organisation are only working based on ITIL V2", up to " I am both an ITIL Expert on the V3 certification path and a Service Manager on the V2 path. I can tell you which one I am prouder of. Hands down - it's the V2 path.".

Apparently folk are wondering if V3 devalues V2 certification and the 2011 update devalues V3 certification. I don't think they were worth that much to begin with, so I'd not be worrying. (I also wonder how many potential employers even know the difference between the various ITIL versions).

To be accredited in other professions you need a three or four year tertiary qualification, and possibly an internship after that (e.g engineer, lawyer, doctor...).

To be an "ITIL Expert" you need to do as little as 15 days training and a few multi-choice exams. Never mind what it cost you, I don't think it is worth much. I wouldn't let someone wire my house just because they did a three-week polytechnic course, let alone "rewire" my IT operations. The ITIL V2 Master was harder but not that much harder compared to an MBA or a B.Eng.

I look forward to the day when we require real tertiary qualifications and real professional accreditation before we let people start hacking at an IT department. (Yes yes I know about priSM. I've commented before: I think it is way too heavy for ITSM and the wrong owner for a more generic IT professional.)

In the meantime prospective employers should check out the actual results delivered by a prospective employee or consultant... but they won't; they'll take the shortcut of recognising an ITIL Expert ticket instead. Caveat emptor.



The value of ITIL certification for me is that I learn something by taking the classes. The certifications come with the class (provided I pass the exam). "Certification" means 1) I will pay attention in class because I have an arbitrary standard to perform to, 2) I can demonstrate that I learned *something*, and 3) my employer will pay for the training. I suppose they'd pay for a class that didn't include a certification exam at the end. But ITIL is what I want to learn, and ITIL class comes with ITIL exam.

Seems like y'all spend a lot of unnecessary time on this "what's it worth" discussion.

Your attitude is exemplary,

Your attitude is exemplary, Todd, and surely what certification is for. Sadly itil has become a meal ticket and that is the primary focus of the millions sitting certification. As a result, most trainers train to the exam. They'll vehemently deny that but get consistent feedback from trainees that that is the case.

ITILv3 Foundation certification

Hi friends,

I am facing a dilemma right now with the introduction of the new books, updated course and structure.
I had procured the previous ITILv3 books for my preparation and taken an online training course for the v3 Foundation certification. I then had to take off time for a while and had not given the exam. Now the examination pattern too has changed and so has all the preparation material.

My question is, can I go ahead and give the exam if I am absolutely clear on the previous course content or I have to buy the new books and go through the entire content again.

Thanks in anticipation,
Exasperated ITIL aspirant

If only Experts were re-wiring IT...

Whatever you think of the title given to ITIL Expert, there are a lot of places where they expect someone with a Foundation certificate to re-wire the house (ahem, I mean IT).

The funny thing is of course sometimes someone with the Foundation certificate may be more suitable for the job than an Expert - which is the point of the post, of course: you would need other qualifications/qualities to be able to effect change.

But that, for me, does not mean an ITIL qualification is meaningless. I do think context is important, though: most people in the western world have a lot of choices to make and they don't just have week(s) to invest in ITIL training just because they feel like it - when they do, they are typically already in IT for a while anyway. It seems to be somewhat different in some other parts of the world - I do see a lot of people claiming to be ITIL Experts especially in APAC displaying lower level of knowledge/understanding than I would expect (then again, I have no way of validating if some of these have indeed obtained the certificate), and the largest % of companies with ISO20000 certification are also in the APAC region that might indicate a higher level of obsession with badges and certificates for the accolade's sake than elsewhere. For example, I am currently working on a huge multi-year IT modernisation programme in a multinational that includes a complete rewiring of its IT around ITIL V3 and ITSM: yet within its considerable budget there is nothing about ITIL training or mention of ISO20000 as a goal. In other words, it is not about badges, it is about the intended result. Would we be helped if there were more people in the organisation ITIL certified? I don't know, but we certainly would make faster progress if there were more knowledgeable people around the concepts...

To a certain degree though, ITIL certification is now one of (but should not be the only) criteria when you (we) post a position out for interview. It is not the only requirement at all, but it helps filter the large number of applicants. That for sure is worth something.

If you use ITIL certs as a

If you use ITIL certs as a filter for job applicants, then by your own argument you are filtering out perfectly good people. And if it is only Foundation you require, that seems a trivial thing to filter on - they could get it while applying or you could send a good person after hiring them. Don't filter on certifications.

Certifications are misleading often


I agree with you here. Filtering candidates based on their certifications can not only get you a inadequate pool to choose from, it can even make you lose some good candidates who have real skills and experience (but undofortunately didnt have the certifications). I have written some time back on my blog: ( regarding my experience with the certified people and their knowledge levels too

btw , as David metioned above, I too make a living out of the trainings!.

The sad fact is, while training and certifications are supposed to only enhance the knowledge (to Level 2 as David indicated), the way trainings and certifications are conducted these days (not all, but a significant portion of the training community) - even the knowledge gained is way below expectations. Blame it on excessive focus on certifications than trainings - not only from the candidates/training organizations, but also from the industry. here are couple of scenarios that I came across:
- A few big IT Organizations in India has stopped providing (or reimbursing the cost for) trainings for their employees and pay only for certifications. All employees are interested to take only exams - They go for self-study (read: dumps!) and only exam.
- Another global IT giant has been using ITIL foundation as a filter of resumes (the exact point you were highlighting) for technical support candidates. A few came to us, to help them achieve certification (they dont want training, just want exam prep and certification).

So, the point of concern is not just whether Certification indicates any significant skill/expereince or not. The major concern is the certifications don't even represent the level of knowledge!! It just indicates their 'performance' in "a particular" exam!


Unlearn ITIL

Yes, a sad story. The certification business has gone beyond all reason. This links to the other discussion here about process maturity. One sees all the time ITIL referred as a "standard" or as "globally accepted best practice" while we know that the failure rate is high and there are "best practices" that nobody has even tried to apply. ITIL has value but it is not a solid ground for this certification business and nobody knows if a fully mature ITIL service unit would even survive.

I have pushed the "Unlearn ITIL" slogan in the hope that if it would catch, it might wake some people to think about what they are doing.


Learn it in the right way!


I dont think people need to 'unlearn' ITIL (as many haven't learned it properly yet!) - many have to correct their misinterpretations and learn in the correct way. Then they can choose what to choose and reject/unlearn while implementing the practices.


Give me just an ITIL bit more

I don't think it's so much about unlearning ITIL as learning its place. The very term 'ITIL Implementation' makes me disproportionately irritated.

Filtering is sometimes necessary

Depends on the position of course. When you have many perfectly good candidates applying for a position, what is wrong with using ITIL qualification as a filtering criteria? You may filter out good candidates but many other perfectly good candidates still remain. Otherwise you can end up interviewing over 100 people (been there), if you are not applying various filters using the same logic.

This does not apply in every situation for every role but there are valid situations I believe. There are no absolutes.

Finding Nemo

True but depends what you're looking for. If you're looking for ITSM consultants you might expect to see an ITIL award listed somewhere among their achievements I guess, although 'been there, done it in the real world ' is another decent test; probably you're looking for the latter accredited by the former.

If you're looking to fill IT positions, experience of working in mature service environments might be much more valuable than the piece of paper.

I've met plenty of people with ITIL Foundation but not a clue what ITIL really means. Some of them ITSM consultants...

open market

Yeah i hear ya, been there too.

Off topic now, but lateral thinking suggests don't hire off the open market then, as you are effectively only randomly sampling the pool, and hence not going to get the optimal candidate anyway. Better to exercise staff networks to find someone on referral. One past employer of mine used to pay a finder's fee, and I was very conscious of not referring anyone unless i was willing to stand by the referral since I'd be stuck with working with them.

ITIL Certification Only Validates "Learning" - Not "Results"

ITIL certifications are not intended to establish you as a fully qualified IT professional. They are a means towards helping you understand how ITSM can work according to ITIL. The Foundation giving you a decent all-round knowledge of the main concepts, definitions & relationships, etc. And the more advanced (Intermediates) giving you a deeper understanding of what's involved if you want to go back and start applying this new knowledge.

Last week at Pink12 I discussed this very subject in my presentation (you can find a copy of all the slides I used right here:

In a nutshell, what I said was this ....

According to Kirkpatrick, there are 4 levels of training effectiveness:

Level 1. The training generated a positive REACTION from the student (all very well, but not the reason I'd pay for one of my staff to go on a training course!)

Level 2. Something useful was LEARNED. Testing (certification) being the classic tool used to validate that someone learned something via training.

Level 3. New attitudes and BEHAVIOURS were actually applied back at work after training. (Now we're getting somewhere! We teach people new knowledge not because we need them to pass a test, but because we need them to do something different when they return to work).

Level 4. The organization sees pre-determined valuable outcomes being generated as RESULTS of the application of new behaviours. (Let's hope the workplace is "primed" and ready to receive the enlightened individuals!)

Unfortunately many IT folks are simply striving for a Level 2 Kirkpatrick experience. I have no problem enabling IT professionals to enhance their resume/cv with certifications that are "valuable" to them (disclaimer: I make a living from this!) - but I really want to see the organization get Level 3 & 4 benefits too! After all, who was it who likely paid for the training & certification?

In the world of ITSM, if the employer pays, then certification should not be the end, just a means.


Hmm, your last sentence makes me wonder how many organisations imagine ITIL Expert automatically delivers them Level 4, especially when recruiting (or looking for consultants).

The V2 Manager's at least made you think about application; harder to pass without some experience I think. V3 much less so. The much-vaunted but ne'er seen ITIL Master might have been a step towards something more tangible, but would it ever do proper qualitative explorations of submitted projects? Doubtful it's even feasible.

Rich Pemberton


Hi David
Agreed, the value of training is learning. Folk need to stop valuing - and using - ITIL as a meal ticket and see it as what it is: just knowledge. That's why ITIL Expert is such a dreadful name.

Expert is Oversold

Speaking as a Certified ITIL Expert (v3), I think "Expert" was a poor choice for this certification level. Although I know volumes more about ITIL than most people in IT, and even though I've put numerous ITIL processes into everyday practice at a notably sized company, I do not consider myself an expert. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being where I want to be, I'm between a 5 and 6.

10 is expert.

But they sold expert... so we're stuck with it until Version 4.

Multiple-choice Experts

Agreed. I don't see the value in it either. Real experts gain accreditation and status by field experience, not in multiple-choice tests.

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