Is ITIL training for you?

* There's a lot of buzz surrounding ITIL, but is it in your future?

A couple of newsletters ago, I pointed you to a story in Network World about the career pressures network execs are faced with today. The article says there are many advances that net execs find unpalatable, including outsourcing, automation, increased regulatory requirements and emphasis on formalized processes such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library. However, some execs could turn ITIL into a career advantage by adding it to their skills arsenal.

Developed by the U.K.'s Office of Government Commerce (OGC), ITIL is a set of rules for how to deliver IT services more efficiently by improving management processes across IT departments that support networks, applications, databases and systems (see Network World's full definition here). Already a recognized framework in the United Kingdom, ITIL is the subject of much buzz this side of the pond. U.S. firms adopting ITIL include DHL, General Motors and Procter & Gamble.

In some regions, the demand for IT execs with ITIL skills is on the rise - particularly in Europe and Canada, where it is getting harder to find a job that doesn't require ITIL knowledge, says Hank Marquis, CTO at ITSM Solutions, an ITIL training company. According to ITJobsWatch.co.uk, there was a 21% increase in ITIL job ads in the United Kingdom for the three-months ending July 27, compared to the same period last year. And salaries for those jobs rose 5.11% over the same period.

A quick search of our job-search aggregator, powered by Indeed, netted some 3,000 returns for ITIL jobs in the United States.

Some of these jobs call for ITIL certification. There are three levels of training and certifications for ITIL: Foundation, Practitioner and Service Manager. According to Marquis, the content for ITIL certification programs are accredited by either the Dutch foundation Exameninstituut voor Informatica (EXIN), or the U.K.'s Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB). These organizations work closely with the OGC and the Information Technology Systems Management Forum (itSMF).

The Foundation level is aimed at anyone in IT as well as end users. Students learn the basic concepts of ITIL, its processes and the relationships between them. They also learn the importance of IT service management and the IT infrastructure. Students take a one-hour test that consists of 40 multiple-choice questions.

The Practitioner certification is aimed at IT pros with between four to six years work experience and currently working in a supervisory role, such as a team leader, supervisor or manager. A Foundation-level certification is a prerequisite to this course and students learn about managing, organizing and optimizing the ITIL processes. Students spend 40 hours in the classroom, with 40% of that time focused on theory and 60% of the time working on team-based assignments. Students are also expected to spend at least 20 hours of self-study in order to pass the Practitioner certification test, Marquis explains.

The highest-level ITIL certification is the Service Manager, also known by its previous name of Masters, and is aimed at managers, senior managers and directors. Students spend at least 80 hours in the classroom; 40 hours focused on service support, and the second 40 hours on service delivery. Most individuals will spend at least another 240 hours preparing for the Service Manager exam, says Marquis.

Students learn how to design an organizational structure, analyze IT service management processes within an organization, assess and audit such processes, and learn about reporting and management skills. Part of the exam is conducted during the class through individual and team-based exercises, which students must pass before sitting the Service Manager examination.

The Service Manager exam is quite tough and has a pass rate of 50% on the first try, says Marquis. The exam also requires the student to write an essay of between 20 to 30 pages - written in long hand (who can do that, these days?).

Marquis says the learning curve is quite steep initially, since the ITIL has its own vocabulary, so it's like learning a new language. Also, the training doesn't come cheap. A Web-based Foundation course could be found for less than $1,000 and the price goes up to $2,000 for a full on-site class. For the Service Manager certification, training can cost as much as $8,000 or $12,000, which has to cover the cost of hiring two qualified instructors per class.

As for whether any of these certification are worth you pursuing, it depends on your career goals. Analysts at Enterprise Management Associates, which specializes in IT management, say that aside from the Service Manager certification, being ITIL certified will not really help individuals looking for work or higher pay.

EMA analyst, Chris Matney, says: "The main reason for this is that the certification takes a couple of days of coursework and an exam - not a very high barrier to entry. Also, there is not a huge demand by IT management to have ITIL-certification across the staff. Most managers will prefer real-world experience to ITIL certification every time."

He adds: "The one caveat to this might be ITIL Masters who can land a job advising CTOs and execs on corporate ITIL strategy. This obviously requires more than just training, but ITIL Masters is probably critical here."

* For more about ITIL and the companies that are adopting it, check out this package of Network World stories.

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