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What's the value of ITIL foundation certification?

The ITIL foundation certification sets the baseline for understanding the move to an IT service management model. Whether it is required by your organization, for personal resume enhancement, or even to move into another type of IT role, an ITIL certification should be on your task list.

Many CIOs are moving their technology organizations into the role of internal service providers to assure the applications they provide to end users. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a framework based on industry best practices to apply IT service management business processes to IT management. For network administrators and other IT professionals, being able to implement ITIL could lead to more central and valued roles within their current organizations. The way to gain those skills may be through ITIL foundation certification.

What's more, unlike vendor-specific certifications, ITIL training is not limited to a given role within the IT organization or a particular technology, which makes it more of a no-brainer for network engineers.

"Adding the merit badge of the ITIL foundation to one's credentials has virtually no downside," said training and certification expert Ed Tittel. He noted that "the foundation classes and testing are relatively inexpensive, and many enterprises are either looking at a service management framework or are in the process of implementing one."

For additional information on ITIL and the benefits of IT service management:

Multiple tiers of ITIL certification

 ITIL Foundation Certificate: At the core of the certification process is the ITIL Foundation Certificate. Foundation coursework and certification testing are designed to offer an overall understanding of the ITIL framework and are prerequisites for the more advanced elements of ITIL certification.

Advanced level: This level breaks the coursework into two streams that focus on specific aspects of ITIL. The Lifecycle Stream contains five individual certifications that address the design and delivery of IT services. The Capabilities Stream includes four certifications that have an operational slant, including change management and operational support. The advanced level also includes a certification called Managing Across the Lifecycle, which aims to connect the other certifications at this level in a cohesive manner.

ITIL Expert designation: Above the advanced level is the ITIL Expert designation. Students who complete a mix of advanced-level coursework and achieve a certain number of credits for those courses are given this designation. The goal of the expert designation is to acknowledge an advanced understanding of the framework while enabling practitioners to specialize in focused areas of ITIL.

Master level: At the top of the ITIL certification pyramid is the Master level, which doesn't focus on testing, but rather on practical deployment knowledge. It is achieved by providing written documentation of a real-world ITIL implementation and by an oral examination.

Bridging options: Like the technology it supports, the ITIL framework is continually evolving, with updated versions being pushed every couple of years. The current version of ITIL, V3, was originally issued in 2007, and support for its predecessor V2 was withdrawn in 2009. To provide a path for those who have already achieved certification in the prior version, ITIL offers bridge certifications. Essentially coursework and tests that highlight the changes between versions, the bridge certifications enable those with existing Foundation, Advanced, or Expert designations to stay current without repeating the full process.

Getting a foundation in ITIL

IT staff might also receive ITIL foundation training as part of an enterprise's shift to an IT service management model. Giving the teams a baseline of understanding about ITIL and IT service management will help establish expectations and set the tone for an ITIL rollout.

BJ Havlik, president of SRC Technologies, a Green Bay, Wis.-based technology services and managed services firm, said: "Most IT professionals that take the ITIL foundation course have a moment where IT service management clicks for them … where they see how the work they do fits with the overall business processes and goals."

This was last published in August 2010

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