ITIL® FAQs: Understanding the certification and job opportunities

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How do you know if  pursuing an ITIL® certification, the most popular IT project management credential, is right for you? As an ITIL® V3 expert, I get questions like this all the time, and I hope to answer some of them for you. Let's start with the most basic.

What is ITIL®?

ITIL® stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It is an IT service management framework which provides the boundaries, pillars and necessary guidance to set up an IT service management framework. It takes care of an IT service from inception until it gets to the point where it can be improved, enhanced and optimized on a regular basis.

ITIL® is not a standard, meaning it is not a mandate on what you need to do. Instead, it points you in the right direction, so that you can utilize the best practices of ITIL® and customize it for your needs.

The latest ITIL® version is called  ITIL® 2011, which is an updated version of the previous one, ITIL® V3.

What ITIL® certifications can I attempt?

ITIL® offers various certifications based on your experience. The certification for beginners, ITIL® 2011 Foundation, tests basic concepts.

After Foundation comes the ITIL® Intermediate certifications, which are a set of 4-5 certifications, depending on the path you choose. Each intermediate certifications goes deeper into various parts of ITIL®.

Managing Across a Lifecycle (MALC) certification is the final hurdle before you can get your hands on ITIL® 2011 Expert certification.

While most people would be content with the Expert certification, some people may want to move  towards the pinnacle of ITIL®. The highest certification is the ITIL 2011 Masters certificate. The exam is expensive and involves a lot of research and subjective answering to pass it. At the time of writing, there are only 35 people across the globe who have this certification.

I don't have an IT background. Can I still do ITIL®?

If you are asking me if you can take the ITIL® exam, yes, you definitely can. If you are asking me if you can pass the exam, yes, you can if you understand the concepts and follow the methodology. If you are asking me if you would succeed professionally, I doubt it.

ITIL®, as the abbreviation specifies, is all about IT. If you do not have prior IT experience, you will not have enough foundational knowledge. IT knowledge, at least semi-technical, is necessary for an individual to make a career out of it.

I have witnessed ITIL® coordinators struggle due to their lack of technical knowledge. They are unable to discern and evaluate the data that is presented to them. ITIL® defines the process for gathering data, information, knowledge and wisdom as knowledge management. Wisdom is gained through experience, and IT managers are placed in the best position to use it. To be able to apply wisdom to your work, you need IT experience to inform your decisions.

I work in software management. Is ITIL® for me?

It depends. There are two distinct fields in software: software development and software maintenance.

Software development utilizes project management methodology for planning and developing new applications. Once new applications are developed, they are handed over to software maintenance, which is responsible for up-keeping the software through business-as-usual. This is where ITIL® plays a major role on the software side. The concepts applied to IT hardware are similar to what you would leverage in the software maintenance field.

How many years of experience should I have before getting ITIL® certified?

You can jump into ITIL® anytime. Depending on your professional maturity, ITIL® will offer you various results.

I have hired entry-level-certified employees for ITIL® teams, and they have performed very well in an environment that asks for simple and repeated activities. The onus is on them to understand technology as they do their routine activities. If they work efficiently, they mature into becoming senior coordinators and process managers.

I have also hired people who have good technical knowledge but no ITIL® awareness. Most of them were able to pick up ITIL® concepts quickly, and reflect upon their prior experience to learn the nitty-gritty much quicker than junior employees. Within a matter of months, they were comfortable enough to suggest process flow changes and develop new KPIs.

In short, people with varying experiences can get into ITIL®. But, years of back-breaking IT work will land you in an appropriate spot in the ITIL® maze of hierarchy.

Having said that, it is not uncommon to see people with over 20 years of IT experience still breaking sweat while performing process coordination duties. Not everyone is built to be process minded.

What jobs could I get after becoming ITIL® certified?

This is a common question I get asked during seminars. A lot depends on your professional background, experience, the speed at which you understand ITIL® and the interest you have in IT processes.

If you are entry-level or have a couple of years of IT experience, you can expect to be hired as a process coordinator. A process coordinator ensures that the administrative activities in a process are carried out as designed. Incident coordinator, change coordinator and configuration analyst are some of the coordinator roles available in ITIL®-based IT service management.

At a mid-management level, with a minimum of eight years of experience, you may be asked to manage processes end to end. You will have coordinators reporting to you, and you would be accountable for ensuring that activities in service management are compliant to the processes. Problem manager, release manager and service desk manager are some of the managerial roles.

If you want to get into an ITIL® consulting role, you need to be wired a different way. You should be someone who automatically notices inconsistencies in processes and thinks about optimization. Let's take a non-IT scenario for example. In a restaurant, a hostess seats you. A waiter takes the order. A food runner transports food, and the busser clears the table. None of these roles can be done in isolation. When you visit a restaurant, do you observe this process? Do you notice changes and think about what works, what doesn't? If you see and think in this manner, you could very well excel in a process consultant/process developer role. Process consultants typically have an excess of 10 years of experience and love to dig their hands deep into all activities, inside ITIL® and out. It is a highly respectable job in the industry, but you have to love documenting processes and creating flow charts.

Last but not the least, you could be an ITIL® trainer. With ITIL® in huge demand by employers, many job seekers are going the ITIL® way. If you want to be a trainer, study every ITIL® process in detail. An ITIL® trainer will need to put on the hat of an academic to better train students on the art of ITIL®.

More questions?

I know that I have not covered all the possible questions you might have about ITIL®. Ask  your questions in the comments section below, and I will answer them.

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Contributor

Abhinav Kaiser

is a veteran in service and in project managements. He advises businesses, organizations and enterprises on how to build service management framework and deliver value. He is currently penning a book on communication in organizations, specifically aimed at IT departments. He holds PMP, ITIL© V3 Expert and Cobit 5.0 certifications and is an accredited ITIL© trainer.