ITIL Foundations Training: Can One Person Make a Difference?

September, 2005

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a powerful body of knowledge that has been built over the past two decades, and IS organizations are increasingly looking to ITIL as a framework for continuous improvement. However, in their zeal to implement ITIL, some organizations may be expecting too much too soon from the individuals that they choose to lead the effort.

ITIL contains an enormous amount of content. In fact, before narrowing the library to the eight books we know today, it once required 400 books to document ITIL best practices. Even though much of that body of knowledge has informally existed in IT organizations for years, it is not reasonable to expect an individual to master those best practices in a few days or even a few weeks. Therefore, IT executives should ensure that the ITIL implementation plan is reasonable if it is to be successful.

ITIL Training is Necessary But Not Sufficient
This lesson is reflected in a lunch conversation that I had with a student that attended our ITIL Foundations course. After completion of the coursework, he received the ITIL Foundations certification in IT Service Management, and his manager has now assigned him sole responsibility to implement ITIL throughout his company. With an obvious note of frustration he asked, “Is it reasonable for management to expect me to be able to implement ITIL enterprise-wide after ITIL Foundations training?”

My answer went something like this: Would a reasonably intelligent and experienced person with an MBA and some exposure to computer technology be capable of planning, designing, building, and implementing an enterprise-level business application, after taking a three-day intensive course in computer programming?  Most IT people would immediately answer, no way. And even those that might say it’s “possible” probably wouldn’t want that application running any of their critical business functions.

Of course, the intensive training would be valuable to this individual, who eventually would be able to build systems to support critical business functions. This process could be accelerated with additional training and the assistance of more experienced professionals.

Most experts agree that ITIL Foundations training is a necessary starting point for an enterprise-level ITIL project. However, just like the MBA attempting to build a mission-critical business application after a crash course in programming, it is just not reasonable to expect that an individual armed only with an ITIL Foundations certification will be capable of delivering a successful enterprise-level project. 

Resources to Ensure ITIL Success
Unfortunately, the question posed by my student is one that is asked often these days.  If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few things you should do.

  • Discuss with your manager the need for advanced ITIL training to run in parallel with implementation. Many of the front line managers and technical people will need ITIL Practitioner training, while architects and project managers will need ITIL Service Manager training.
  • When developing the list of resources you need, be sure to ask for an experienced ITIL Service Manager (commonly called an ITIL Master) and access to ITIL knowledge tools.
  • Get additional training and a resource assigned to the project with experience in Process Engineering. Systems and Process Engineering have some overlapping disciplines and aspects, but they are more different than similar, and the end results and expectations are vastly different. Make sure you request an experienced Process Engineering resource. 

It is possible that within a small IT organization the implementation of ITIL best practices can be driven and accomplished after ITIL Foundations training. However, it is not reasonable to expect individuals with only ITIL Foundations training and limited or no IT Service Management implementation experience to roll out an enterprise-wide or cross functional/departmental ITIL implementation.

Corporations desperately need technology managers who have greater mastery of IT management disciplines. ITIL training is an excellent first step. However, mastering a new discipline requires education, experience, and occasional outside assistance. It simply cannot be rushed.

As the adoption and maturity of ITIL continues to grow, its value to the business will also grow. IT managers would do well to recognize this need, understand the investments required in time, effort, and money, then begin hiring, training, and mentoring in a manner that reflects this changing reality. 

September 2005

Commentary by Charles Williams, a Contributing Research Analyst for Computer Economics. Charles is a senior IT professional with more than 20 years of experience as an IT Director and Consultant. Currently, he is a Managing Partner of KEDAR Information Technologies, an IT consulting firm serving the Fortune 1000. He has spoken at numerous industry conferences and seminars, and has written several articles and special reports on the IT industry.

Special Note: Computer Economics and KEDAR Information Technologies will be attending the upcoming ITSMF 2005 Conference and Expo in Chicago Sept. 19-23. You can visit Kedar at booth #725. ITSMF is the leading conference on IT Service Management and ITIL best practices.