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ITIL training essential part of IT and business integration

As IT functions become more fully integrated into an organization's business objectives, the need for training across IT disciplines has become more important. Investments in ITIL training and certification are helping IT organizations align themselves better with the business.

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) training, which has been around since the late '80s, has taken on new vitality as companies fully integrate IT into business processes, according to Hank Marquis, director of IT service management consulting at Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates.

"IT is no longer an art; it's a science," Marquis said. "There still is a need for great thinkers, but [IT] has to be done in a standard, defined way."

ITIL training

"Our ITIL training program is important to overall implementation and vital to provide a common language to operate in," noted Joe Lithgo, director of the operational excellence program in the North Carolina department of Information Technology Services (ITS). Since late 2004, the department has shifted from a technology-centric organization to one more focused on customers and processes, using the ITIL IT Service Management framework as a foundation.

ITIL training resources

Independent ITIL training
• ITSM Academy
• itSM Solutions
• New Horizons Computer Learning Centers
• Pink Elephant

ITIL training from vendors
• Computer Associates
• HP

Out of 450 department employees, 352 are certified in the Foundation methodology, 23 in Practitioner and two in Service Manager, Lithgo said. In state government overall, more than 600 workers are certified through some sort of ITIL training program.

"ITIL is the next wave of IT maturation," said Troy DuMoulin, director of product strategy at Pink Elephant, an IT service management and education company in Toronto. "The industry is evolving from a technology-focused management model to a service-oriented management model."

The ITIL curricula are being rewritten and should be released later this spring, reducing the current library of nine books to five: service strategies, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement. However, Marquis said he believes the overall volume of changes will be minor and new teaching materials probably won't be available for another year or so. "If you need to [start ITIL training and certification] now, you should go ahead," Marquis advised.

ITIL certification levels

The basic ITIL certification is Foundation, which, as the name implies, tests the 10 rudimentary processes of ITIL. Most people prepare for this test by taking a two-day "exam-cram" session or the more leisurely three-day program, which takes participants beyond the basics into real-world applications through case studies with role-playing components, according to Marquis. Costs for this ITIL training course range from $700 to $1,500.

Moving further into the ITIL process is Practitioner, a course that offers a deep-dive into key processes. Practitioner exams are around four clusters: support and restore (service desk), release and control (back-office functions), agree and define (service-level and financial management) and plan and improve (availability, capacity and continuity management). These ITIL training courses generally last five days and cost $2,500 or so.

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Service Manager is the pinnacle of ITIL certification. Courses can run 10-15 days, including two days of testing, Marquis said. Costs can range from $8,000 to $12,000. This highest certification is aimed at project managers and others who will lead ITIL initiatives in their organizations.

"What we're seeing is ITIL adoption just about to tip over the edge," Marquis said. "With increased regulation and legislation, having this control over IT is going to become a requirement -- not an option."

Lithgo said the current initiative around ITIL in North Carolina's ITS department stemmed from the realization that "heroics aren't enough -- they don't scale."

"Just like you don't build a house without a certified electrician, you can't build world-class systems without certified professionals," Lithgo said. "Historic investments have been in hardware and software. ITIL is an investment in people, and those investments pay dividends in a measurable way."

Matt Bolch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. He can be reached [email protected].

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