ITIL Practitioner: Finally the ITIL Certification we actually wanted!

With the upcoming February launch of the new ITIL Practitioner certification, we finally have the answer to the most frequently asked questions about ITIL.

  • What do I do to get started?
  • What should I focus on first?
  • What is the “next class” after Foundations?

ITIL Foundations has enormous scope; from strategic planning to continual improvement, from service architectures to operational support, from knowledge management to portfolios. As a 3-day class (and usually as two and a half), it is designed to provide persons new to service management with an extraordinary amount of information in a short time, much of which is new and outside the immediate scope of the work that person performs on a daily basis. In many ways it begins a journey of awareness of how IT organizations as service providers create value for customers, and how each of the stages of the service lifecycle drives and improves the value to the business.

But then the proverbial question…what do we DO now that we know all this?

ITIL Practitioner is fundamentally different than all of the other ITIL credentials. It is intended specifically to address “how-to” ; what exactly should we DO to start the ITIL journey successfully in our work, our teams, and our organizations? It is grounded in 9 key principles broadly shared with agile and other continual improvement models, and backed with specific tools and techniques to get started. It focuses on helping to instill continual improvement and leverages industry best practices in organizational change. It reinforces the need for strong metrics and measures to meaningfully assess, for better or for worse, “where are we now” so we can work to build meaningful and demonstrable improvements.

The 9 principles are broadly outlined here

  • Start where you are – Virtually none of us are working in greenfield environments, or with no existing processes or tools. Start your journey practically by looking at existing practices and working to improve them, as opposed to rip and replace.
  • Focus on Value – Many organizations become consumed by implementing new policies, processes, and especially ITSM software tools. The focus instead must be on the value to the customer; how do these things help us improve efficiency and effectiveness, reduce costs, and improve results?
  • Work Holistically – Service at its most basic means thinking end-to-end. How do all of the hardware, software, people, and other resources and capabilities make and support outcomes customers want? For many organizations one of the first steps in the ITIL journey must be to start “thinking in service,” instead of in technology components. This raises issues about coordination across technical/functional teams.
  • Keep it Simple – There are lots of potential places to begin service management improvements, and many improvements to choose from. Eventually success is driven by keeping your approach simple and straightforward, and focus on how specific, simple improvements to processes, tools, and teams can enable meaningful value for your customer.
  • Be Transparent – There are lots of “political layer” issues that can derail improvement initiatives in any organization…what’s the “real” reason for the change? Transparency demonstrates to the organization that we are committed to delivering the best that we can, and also demonstrates to stakeholders the very real constraints that we face. Rather than overpromising and underdelivering, transparent practices enable clarity of understanding across stakeholders and facilitate prioritization of efforts to improve value.
  • Collaborate – Most service provider organizations consist of a number of very smart, talented, and diverse individuals, with different levels of background and experience that can be brought to bear to improve services and processes. Creating effective collaboration models enables better solutions, improves buy-in, and demonstrates that this is a “team game.”
  • Progress iteratively – All of your processes and practices got to their current state through small, iterative changes over time. While many managers seek “zero-to-hero” improvements, iterative and consumable improvements are demonstrably better at creating lasting change, as anyone who has been able to lose weight AND keep it off will attest.
  • Observe directly – People often tend to look exclusively at reports and make important strategic decisions without direct engagement with many of the key stakeholders. Whether we’re trying to improve a business process, or facilitate operational improvements at a service desk, direct observation of the work will help us to better understand the processes in question (and find gaps in the process documentation!) This will help us to prescribe satisfying solutions that deliver the intended benefits, with the direct inputs of the key stakeholders improving buy-in and commitment.
  • Design for Experience – Many services “work” in the sense that they tick a list of requirements boxes, but don’t take into account the unique needs of the users of the system to successfully execute business process workflows. Service designs must take into account not only what a system must do, but what people must do, and how real people use the system to deliver value. This means a much greater focus on use and use models, and development approaches like Scrum or XP that focus on whole slices of solution based on a business and user need, not just a feature list.

One of the key benefits of the new guidance is specific tools and templates your team can adopt and adapt for immediate use to get started. These include templates for business case development, CSI tools, CSF and KPI development, assessment tools, communications tools, stakeholder management, and much more. Training programs for ITIL Practitioner focus on teaching your teams how to use these tools for immediate value.

I do like to think of the ITIL Practitioner credential as the ITIL certification many of us have been seeking for a long time, especially in the enterprise. I recommend this program for ALL ITIL candidates. While it is suitable for students fresh out of Foundations, the scope of the credential is so different and the approach so practical and useful that I strongly recommend it for all of my ITIL-credentialed students, up to and including ITIL Expert and even Master. I’m genuinely excited about what this will do for all of our customers trying to “get past talking” about ITSM and get demonstrable results. Good luck and reach out to us if you have any questions at all about this or any other ITIL issue.