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What ITIL Certifications Mean to Your IT Management Practices

By Rich Hein, CIO
February 21, 2013 10:41 AM ET

CIO - If you've done your research into current IT certifications, you'll see that Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, is near the top of many lists. ITIL methods are designed to help companies identify areas where they need improvement, providing vendor-neutral guidelines on where to make specific changes to reduce costs and increase productivity.

[ALSO: How small companies can make a big impact with ITIL]

For example, you may use ITIL practices to reduce helpdesk traffic by implementing self-help sections on your company's website or you may use ITIL guidelines to decide whether something is done in-house or by a third-party.

Keep in mind: ITIL is not a tool but rather a set of best practices pertaining to IT service and lifecycle management.

The History of ITIL

Before we delve into whether you should implement ITIL methodologies, let's step back and look at its roots.

In the 1980s, the U.K.'s Government's Central Communications and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) formulated a set of recommendations that was designed to provide a "practical, no-nonsense framework for identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT services to the business."

ITIL began as a library consisting of books that discussed specific IT service management best practices, based on recommendations from the CCTA.

After its initial publication Version 1 of ITIL consisted of more than 30 volumes from 1986 to 1996. In 2000/2001, ITIL Version 2 was consolidated into eight sets of books that grouped related process guidelines for the various aspects of IT, namely services, applications and management. In April of 2001, the CCTA was merged into the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

The OGC announced ITIL Version 3--now known as the ITIL 2007 Edition--in May of 2007. It consisted of 26 processes and functions and contained in five core publications:

Service Strategy

Service Design

Service Transition

Service Operation

Continual Service Improvement

In July of 2011, ITIL was updated again. This update provided additional guidance with the definition of formal processes that were not previously well-defined, and corrected various errors and inconsistencies that had crept in over the years.

At this point, the OGC was no longer listed as the owner of ITIL, and it was consolidated into the Cabinet Office. The 2011 edition of ITIL is owned by the HM Government. As of January 31, 2012, ITIL certification exams have focused on the ITIL 2011 syllabus (the core principles of ITIL practices for Service Management), rather than that of the ITIL 2007 Edition.

The ITIL Qualification Scheme and Credit System

The ITIL Qualification Scheme uses a modular credit system called the ITIL Credit System. All ITIL and ITIL-related qualifications within the ITIL Credit System are assigned a specific credit value. As those credits are applied, the applicant qualifies to test for a higher level of certification. There are five levels of qualifications within the ITIL Qualification Scheme that include the following:

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