Training for knowledge vs. training for a certification

When an organization decides to spend the money on ITIL training, it’s typically because something is broken, and improvements need to be made. Ideally, these improvements need to be made quickly, since the person footing the training bill wants to see the training ROI stat. In an ITIL V3 Foundation class, we have 32 topics to cover: 28 ITIL processes and four functions (as of Summer, 2011), not to mention the five aspects of service design, the business value of all service lifecycle phases, lots of vocabulary, yadda yadda yadda– all in 3 days’ time (leaving a half-day for exam stuff). Is it any wonder that students are only learning how to cram for an exam, and aren’t actually internalizing the information?

If your goal is to get another certification under your belt, a live, instructor-led training class is the only way to go, in my humble opinion. (Online training and self-paced CBTs are great, but only for the most disciplined among us. Good luck not checking ESPN.com when you’re sitting through a stimulating lecture on strategic assets.)

But if process improvement, organizational change, and operational efficiency are your goals, I propose you think outside the ITIL Foundation cookie-cutter training box, and ask your training provider for alternate options.

Mulling over these questions first may help:

  • Is the certification important, or is the knowledge transfer and improvement the actual goal?
  • Will the students pay attention if there isn’t a certification exam at the end?
  • What is causing your organization the most pain right now? Customer/user dissatisfaction with IT? Unmanaged and uncoordinated changes b0rking things up? Users demanding ridiculous things, and your desktop team is running ragged because your SLAs are unenforced/non-existent?
  • Will my training provider cut me a break on the pricing if the exam isn’t included?
  • What training options does my training provider offer? One-size-fits-all Foundation classes only, or can they work with you to create a custom class to help the concepts stick?
  • Would you be willing to sit through a four-day Foundation course which includes the certification exam, but also allows the time to get deeper into the material so students can apply it to their lives?
  • Would it be beneficial to have your students take the standard three-day V3 Foundation course with exam, but then schedule a follow-up session with an ITSM/ITIL consultant to help answer the inevitable question of “OK, now we’re certified. Now what do we do?”
  • Does my training company also have consultants available? Can my instructor answer implementation-type questions?
  • Is ITIL even the best fit for my organization, or would another framework (or a hybrid approach) make more sense? (What about FITS, MOF, and COBIT?)
  • Would a longer class duration be a better fit?
  • How might I engage my instructor also as a consultant to help my organization on our ITIL path? Is there a way to integrate training and consulting? (YES!)

As a freelance ITIL trainer and consultant who often teaches as a subcontractor, I don’t have very much skin in this game. I’m not trying to push any particular agenda or change your mind; I just want you to spend your training dollars in a way that will earn you the most bang for your buck.


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