ITIL Practitioner: Thoughts on the experience so far

3623768629_955cfaedca_oDoes ITIL Practitioner live up to the hype? Having followed the teasers, blog posts, promotional videos and (some of the) discussions during 2015 I find the question difficult to answer, even after reading the book and taking the certification exam.

In fact, it might be stretching it to call it a hype, even though the press release stated that it was the “most significant evolution in the ITIL best practice framework since the launch of AXELOS”, and The IT Sceptic stated that even he “might even consider doing it”. A Google search on “ITIL Practitioner” today gives me slightly more than 90 000 hits, which is significantly less than “ITIL Foundation” (580 000 hits) and even “ITIL Expert” (350 000 hits). Compared to obvious IT hypes like “Big data” (54 million hits) ITIL Practitioner appears to be hardly noticeable. Nevertheless, my expectations were pretty high by the time I got my hands on some actual reading material.

In my experience, the syllabus is usually a good starting point for familiarizing oneself with new certifications, and this was no exception. The six learning objectives all began with “Be able to [do something]”, which did nothing to lower my expectations, and the assessment criteria filled them out very nicely. Time, then, to dig into the book.

Reading the book

Instant gratification!

Being impatient, I skipped the foreword and the presentation of the (quite impressing) team, and went straight for the good stuff. The introduction left me yearning for more. I loved the simple language, the examples and the down to earth approach. The description of a service strikes me as better than any I have seen in other ITIL books. If I could hand out the first chapter to ITIL Foundation course participants, I would. It really sums up the essence of ITSM in an easily understandable and well-formulated way.

If I should put my finger on anything in the introduction, it would be the presentation of efficiency and effectiveness as concepts. Personally, I would have preferred a little more focus and weight on effectiveness. Efficiency is running fast, effectiveness is choosing the smartest and quickest route. “Doing the right thing” should come before “doing the thing right”, or else you very quickly end up doing the wrong things very efficiently.

As I read on, the book continued to impress me. The easy language, the good examples, the references to other frameworks and methods, it all contributed to the overall great impression.

The guiding principles were very good, easy to follow and to agree with, and I especially liked the emphasis that they are not unique to ITIL or ITSM. I would have liked to see more on the interfaces between them, and how they interact with one another, but then again, they are guiding principles, not directing processes.

The many references to the Toolkit left me in an ambiguous state of mind. On the one hand, it was great to get tips of templates and tools, especially because they were placed close to descriptions of the activities they are meant to support. On the other hand, they had a tendency to break my concentration and flow because I felt I had to look them up immediately. I guess I’ll be less distracted by this the next time I read the book. The Toolkit itself was a great resource, with ample information and references.

In fact, references to other frameworks and methods such as Lean, Kanban, Scrum and agile were abundant throughout the book. Several pages at the end of chapter 7 was dedicated to describing these, and others. I found it very refreshing and appropriate, very much in line with my expectations. The only thing that gave me pause is that I found no mention of Kepner-Tregoe, which, in my opinion, would be a very relevant and useful tool for several topics.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the book, as I am sure most others will be too.

Passing the certification test

As with other comparable certifications, my exam preparations consisted mainly of working with the two sample exams I had at hand. The format was recognizable, with scenarios and multiple choice questions. Having taken a fair share of such exams, I entered into the task with my usual enthusiasm and optimism, both of which was soon put to the test.

ITIL Practitioner operates on Bloom’s level 3 and 4, same as the nine intermediate ITIL exams. Thus, the questions should test the candidates’ ability to effectively apply concepts, principles, methods and new information to concrete situations (level 3), and analyze situations, identify reasons and causes, and reach conclusions (level 4).

In my experience, both the mock exams and the actual certification test fall somewhat short of achieving this. I like scenario based tests; they feel more realistic and appropriate, but you need a certain amount of details to make it work. The intermediate exams handles this by limiting the number of questions, and so giving the candidate more time per question to handle the amount of information given, as well as using gradient style multiple choice.

The Practitioner exam is sort of a blend of the Foundation and the Intermediate type of exams, and ends up being a hybrid; more than Foundation, but not quite Intermediate. While this fits well with the announced placement in the ITIL hierarchy, I still feel that the test uses Blooms level 2 and 3 type of questions to test level 3 and 4 type of knowledge.

In summary, I think some of the questions are too open for interpretations, thus leaving the rationale open for doubt.

In fact, while I can agree with most of the answers and explanations in the rationale, I flat out disagree with a few of them. In my opinion, the rationales are the weakest part of the Practitioner experience so far, and I hope to see revised versions soon. Disagreeing with the rationale does not instill confidence before taking the actual certification test.

As for the test itself, the usual advices apply; read and understand all text, use the book actively, answer all questions. I am also looking forward to seeing some statistics on the pass rate.

In conclusion

So, does ITIL Practitioner live up to the hype? As mentioned, I don’t really think it is a hype yet, so I’ll leave that particular question unanswered.

Does it meet my expectations so far? I’m inclined to say yes. The important part, the book, is definitely worth the read, and that really is what matters most.



This article was contributed by Kristian Spilhaug of Sopra Steria . Kristian is a Norwegian instructor and senior consultant, delivering ITIL, PRINCE2 and Kepner-Tregoe courses and advice. He is usually denying the “senior” part, as there is still tons of stuff to learn. He is really enjoying delivering courses, though. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.


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