The real deal on ITIL

Gaining your ITIL certification is a major investment.  To pass your first ITIL exam and gain your ITIL Foundations (2011) certification, you or your company will likely pay course fees and exam fees, and you will have to spend a few days away from the client in the process.  To further your education and to become certified in specific lifecycle or capability areas, you’ll need even more credits, incurring further fees.  Becoming an ITIL Expert could be compared to the investment you spent on your first year or two of college at an average, in-state university. (See the image below from AXELOS, the accrediting body of ITIL, for a visual of their credit system.)


What do you get from all this hard work and investment?

ITIL offices are popping up all over the place in the Government.  As an on-site project manager at a federal agency, I rarely go a day without seeing an ITIL process map on the wall of someone’s cube or hearing leadership mention ITIL in a meeting.  More and more commonly, government leadership is encouraging their staff (employees and contractors) to become ITIL certified, stressing the importance of following the best practices outlined in ITIL.  The government values ITIL certified individuals.

For those of you that are new to ITIL, it stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, was created by the Brits and provides guidance to those who practice IT Service Management (ITSM) through proven activities (best practices) from a whole host of sources, supported by frameworks, standards, academic research, training and experience.  It focuses on aligning  the services being provided with the needs of the customer (or business)   A whole ITIL philosophy has grown up around the advice contained within the five core volumes of ITIL (Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement).  ITIL is complementary guidance to other frameworks like PMBOK and CMMI, and it’s leveraged by hundreds of organizations (and government agencies) around the world.

eMentum has recognized the importance of being ITIL certified for years. The majority of our staff are certified in at least the ITIL foundation (2011) practices because it’s important to our clients, so it’s important to us.  There’s a reason it’s important to our clients – it’s actually useful when managing ITI services.  Seriously.  ITIL takes all the best practices from industry and government and provides us with beneficial processes for managing the services being provided, as well as models (defined steps) for those processes.  If an agency or company takes implementing ITIL seriously, they are pretty much guaranteed to improve the quality of their IT service and increase the value to their customer.  That sounds great!  Sign me up…

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  We should recognize that just because someone is “ITIL certified” does not necessary make them an expert in ITSM or qualified in implementing IT service management.  It means they understood the ITIL processes and lifecycle well enough to pass an exam.  What makes ITIL valuable to IT organization is having the ability to actually apply the concepts in real life situations.  This takes years of ITSM experience to see beyond the surface of a problem or existing process and solve it through the application of ITIL practices.

What I’ve taken away from becoming ITIL certified has been the ability to speak with my clients in the same language.  I find myself using standardized language like “SLAs”, “Service Providers”, or “CI” (Configuration Item) much more often now when speaking to them and can see an immediate reaction to sharing that understanding.  I often consider which ITIL lifecycle phase I am currently in and pull from those service areas within the phase to add value to the customer.  If I’m discussing protecting the business (or Service Transition), I consider topics such as Change Management and any existing Change Advisory Board structures currently in place and how that process can be improved.  If I’m discussing day-to-day operations (Service Operations), I think about ways to improve Access Management or how Incidents are managed based on what I’ve learned from my ITIL training.  Right now, the PMO that I support is in the process of documenting our Service Portfolio and outlining ways to further improve our Department’s knowledge management.  Having a clear understanding of these outputs and the purpose behind them makes my job easier.

As a professional, you can always learn something new and applying some concepts gathered by the world of ITIL can only help your ability to provide value to your customers.  I’d love to hear your experiences with the ITIL qualification scheme or practicing ITIL concepts on the job.  Please comment and let’s talk about how ITIL has been useful (or not!)

Thanks for reading!  Do Good.  Have Fun.  Add Value.



John Carr

John B. Carr, PMP, CSM, ITIL, is a senior project manager, scrum master, and strategic consultant who enjoys exploring creative solutions to resolve those complex, “wicked” problems of the federal government using empathy and agile approaches. He is the author of several white papers including “Innovating IT Solutions Using Human-Centered Design” and “Implementing Attribute Based Access Control in the Federal Arena” found here. Feel free to contact him at

3 thoughts on “The real deal on ITIL

  1. This is a great summary of the ITIL functionality as well as its benefits.. A good read that brings to bear how to use ITIL in the real world of Enterprise IT is The Phoenix Project. Is written in a narrative style that has examples of ITIL utilization on every page.. Great job..

    1. Linda, thanks so much for the suggested reading! I’ve already placed my order on Amazon! From reviewing the first few pages, I agree, I absolutely love the narrative style and should be an easy read. Perhaps we will pull together a blog post in the near future to discuss an aspect of the book in more detail.

  2. This is a great explanation of ITIL and how companies and customers can benefit from it. Good points made on how just being ITIL Certified does not mean that one is expert at ITSM. That can only come after gaining a lot of real world experience. This was a great read , thanks for sharing!

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