"The ITIL certification opened some doors for me that otherwise would have been closed." By Sue Hildreth | January 2008 As you're jotting down your New Year's resolutions for 2008 - "Hire a help desk assistant," "Make decision on Vista," or simply "Get a new job" - don't forget one that could kick-start your career: Get ITIL certified. Though ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) has only become known in the past two years, it's increasingly seen as a competitive advantage for any and all IT professionals who want to land management jobs in large IT organizations, or simply advance their careers. Originally created by the Office of Governance Commerce for use by British agencies, it's been picked up by organizations and private companies throughout Europe and adopted in other parts of the world as the only comprehensive compendium of IT operational best practices. "The ITIL certification opened some doors for me that otherwise would have been closed," says Cecil Hauri, who quit his full-time IT consulting job in 2005 to earn his ITIL Service Manager certificate - the highest level of ITIL certification. He's since leveraged the certification to build his own consulting practice, Minneapolis-based Hauri IT Services. "The Manager's certification is now recognized in the industry as an important measure of IT knowledge and skill," he says. In fact, he believes having the certification has helped him land some major accounts. Lisa Schwartz, chief operating officer of the ITSM Academy, an accredited ITIL training firm in Fort Lauderdale, agrees the certification can be a door-opener. "We've had people take the Service Manager course in order to get jobs, and be very successful with it. I really haven't seen this kind of resume power since the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) certification first came out." Covering all aspects of IT operations - from incident reporting and problem management to configuration, change management and finance - ITIL has become a de facto standard for British, European and North American IT organizations. Brian Hoffman, IT recruiter at Winter Wyman in Waltham, Mass., predicts demand for the certifications will continue to rise over the next few years. "It shows signs of gathering momentum," he says, adding that the number of employers asking for ITIL in their job descriptions has doubled year-to-year since 2005. The ABCs of ITIL ITIL Version 2 includes three levels of certification: Foundation, Practitioner, and Service Manager.
  • The Foundation certification provides an overview of the ITIL framework and philosophy.
  • The two Practitioner certifications - Release & Control and Support & Restore - cover theoretical and practical knowledge of specific ITIL practices. Release & Control focuses on process change, configuration management and release management, while Support & Restore covers service desk operations, incident management and problem management.
  • Service Manager covers everything in ITIL, emphasizing higher-level theory, such as the aligning of IT with business needs.
Over the next few months, ITIL Version 3 will be phased in. It offers four levels: Foundation, Intermediate, Expert and Advanced. Although full details on Version 3 aren't yet available, holders of Version 2 certificates will be able to take bridge classes to earn the new certifications. Many training companies provide ITIL classes, but only a few are official ITIL Accredited Training Organizations (ATO), a designation which allows them to host certifying exams. The ITSM Academy is an ATO, and others can be found here. (You can also take a non-accredited class, or just buy the books and learn on your own.) Locations for some ITIL exams are here. Often, large employers will bring an ITIL trainer in-house. Allstate Insurance Co. in Northbrook, Ill., has had an internal ITIL program for several years. Since 2003, the company has trained several hundred employees at the ITIL Foundation level, more than 100 at the Practitioner level, and "a handful" at the Service Manager level, says Cathy Kirch, an Allstate process consultant who's a certified ITIL Service Manager herself. Allstate's training program was initially the idea of a small group of IT staffers who liked the practical nature of ITIL's guidelines and the fact that they were created by peers who understood real-world IT, Kirch says. Kevin Pugh, another Allstate process consultant and ITIL Service Manager, believes the training is valuable to both the employer and employee. "The training equips an individual to understand IT as a business in itself," he says. "These days, it's an important investment, like an MBA or leadership training class." Sue Hildreth is an IT writer based in Waltham, Mass.