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New Complementary Qualifications Scheme Benefits Murky

The Complementary Qualifications Scheme does open up the ITIL qualification playing field but can make the your ITIL Expert award a bit suspect.
Dec 10, 2010

Elizabeth Harrin

There is now a new set of certifications available to support ITIL v3. The Complementary Qualifications Scheme (CQS) allows any licensed exam institute to develop their own certifications. Experts at the International Qualifications and Certifications Committee (IQCC) assess each one. If they pass the rigorous test they are recognised as ‘Complementary Qualifications’. That means the exam institute can award ITIL credits for these certifications – and you can count them towards your ITIL Expert award.

As long as the certificates meet the criteria of relevance and supplementary content, anything could be fair game. More options for qualifications should make it easier to work your way up the ITIL hierarchy and rack up the credits.

But, does it dilute the credibility of the existing portfolio of qualifications?

More choice for ITIL candidates

Richard Pharro, CEO, The APM Group, doesn’t think so. “Qualifications which help further promote specialised knowledge from within ITIL practices are a welcome addition to the overall certification scheme,” he said. “We are pleased that the professionalization of service management continues to expand and we can offer more choices for ITIL certification.”

Jeff Payne, director of Best Practice at QA, agrees. He believes that the new qualifications demonstrate how ITIL v3 is maturing and also how organisations are embracing it, but looking for more practical application of its guidance related to their staff roles.

“ITIL has been rapidly adopted,” he said, “and there has been continuous demand to extend the core offerings to broaden the value of ITIL V3 to the business. QA has always been a key driving force behind ITIL training and adoption, and we're proud to be here again, right at the launch of an exciting new range of ITIL training.”

QA is one of the first providers to offer new certifications in conjunction with BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. They have launched Complementary Qualifications in Service Desk and Incident Management, and Change Management, with Service Level Management, Problem Management, Supplier Management and Business Relationship Management in the pipeline.

Michiel van der Voort, director, International and Professional Development at the Institute, said that the new exams are a reflection of the fact that service management is growing.

“In response to the growth in IT service management we have worked closely with our accredited training partners and examiners to develop a set of qualifications that directly support the skills development of service management professionals worldwide,” he said. “They provide industry recognition of specialist skills and knowledge and will help individuals and organisations gain the credit they deserve.”

Will the path to ITIL Expert be too narrow?

This approach does make some paths to ITIL Expert rather narrow. Each of the complementary qualifications launched by BCS are worth 1.5 credits towards the ITIL Expert award. The ICT Infrastructure Management certificate awarded by ISEB/BCS is worth 3.5 credits. As more qualifications are launched, candidates could pick and choose the ones that offer them the easiest route to ITIL Intermediate or ITIL Expert, and not the ones that would give them a broad grounding in service management.

And as the providers can develop their own certification, we have to rely on the IQCC to ensure there is no overlap between the certificates offered by multiple training companies. If there is no oversight, candidates could hop from one provider to another, taking the Service Desk Management qualification for example, at each one, and never learning anything new. Equally, providers could offer courses that are considered "complementary" but don’t actually add any technical service delivery knowledge, like "Managing a Team," or other general management topics.

There is no indication that either of these scenarios will happen. We have to have confidence that the IQCC will assess each proposed qualification against the existing portfolio of certificates from every vendor to avoid overlap. We also have to assume that they will provide guidance to candidates to ensure that they select the most relevant qualifications. The new qualification scheme should allow candidates to focus much more on creating a role-based profile from their selection of ITIL modules, and to tailor their experience of ITIL to their current or dream job. Another limiting factor is that only 6 credits awarded from Complementary Qualifications can count towards ITIL Expert.

Make your ITIL experience role-based

The qualifications allow for different flavours of ITIL that provide a focus specific to a particular job. So, if you are an expert in Service Levels, there is one for you. The idea behind it, the providers said, is to allow people to build on or develop a specialism. The core qualifications provide a limited choice for those people who are qualified to ITIL Foundation level and wish to specialise in a particular area of service management. The new qualifications are supposed to be able to fill in the gaps and provide a more comprehensive range of role-based training.

You could, for example, build your experience in Service Catalogue. “Our experience and client feedback confirms that the Service Catalogue is the cornerstone of any ITIL initiative,” said Troy DuMoulin, AVP of Product Strategy at Pink Elephant, who have initiated the qualification along with newScale and APMG. “We’re encouraged by this exciting development in the professionalism of Service Management.”

The Service Catalogue qualification looks at new ways to control demand, publish and track service pricing and cost, and automate service request management and fulfilment, as well as reducing cycle time. Better management in this area can save a lot of time, and that means team members can spend their time on more strategic initiatives.

The idea of being able to draw on a range of qualifications that make most sense for the job you do sounds good in practice. This might, however, not be so useful or appropriate if you change jobs. It will make it difficult to assess one ITIL Expert against another if they have taken wildly different paths to get there.

More options also makes it more difficult to recruit and to understand the value that ITIL qualifications can potentially bring an organisation.

The CQS is still in its early days. We’ll have to wait and see how it develops and how candidates, employers and recruiters respond to the concept of making ITIL more role-based.

Payne believes that the success of ITIL and the role-based range of qualifications is driven by the simple desire to “understand and learn from the experience of others, adopting best practice through the ITIL framework. This saves money by doing things right the first time which is critical to cost effective, service orientated, efficient operations.”

Elizabeth Harrin is Computer Weekly's IT Blogger of the Year 2010. She is also director of The Otobos Group The Otobos Group, a business writing consultancy specializing in IT and project management. She's the author of "Social Media for Project Managers " and "Project Management in the Real World". She has a decade of experience in IT and business change functions in healthcare and financial services, and is ITIL v3 Foundation certified.

certification, ITIL, ITSM, ITIL Expert

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