Getting APMG Accreditation for ITIL V3 Foundations Course

After many months of development, testing, designing, editing, and more editing, my ITIL v3 Foundations course is nearing accreditation!  For those seeking out an ITIL course, I am seeing the value of attending one that holds the official stamp-of-approval.

With ITIL certification exam courses, there are actually a few accreditation organizations out there.  Project Management Professional (PMP) is controlled exclusively by the Project Management Institute (PMI).  They own the certification.  They control the accreditation – which the lucky HUNDREDS have paid to get (called Registered Education Provider (REP)).  They control the exam and publications.

ITIL is a little different.  For better or worse – that is your decision.

ITIL as a brand name is owned and monitored by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in the UK.  The exams and certification paperwork is created and handled by various organizations worldwide.  There is EXIN, CSME, and APMG to name a few.  (Full List Here)

On the good side, it provides competition; unlike PMI’s monopoly.  (Even though PMI is listed as “non-profit” they are surely making a killing.  $555 exam fee is only the start of people pay to be associated with them)

On the bad side, it provides some ambiguity and non-consistent standards.

In my quest to get accreditation and proper recognition, I have investigated the various accreditation organizations.  And I must say that APMG-US is the better choice.  Unfortunately for me, they are most expensive.  Alas, you get what you pay for.

APMG-US has been wonderful to work with.  They have guided us thru the process.  Been very responsive to our inquires and needs.  And most importantly, are making certain that the material is the best representation.  Having evaluated some of the ITIL Foundation programs out there, I had the impression that it only took some of them to copy the books onto presentation slides and call it good.  Glad APMG is being a little more thorough.  I have gone to great lengths to make certain my materials were not boring slides “telling” the learner what they are to know.  But to make it more dynamic, yet concrete; simple, yet complete.

The material should be thru complete review and approval within a month.  At that point I will be able to offer my coursework officially to all that wish to take on the IT Service Management certification schema known as ITIL v3!

The Strategy for Getting Ready for Strategy

One month ago, I started my trek into the world of ITIL Intermediate exams. First up: Service Strategy, a.k.a. SS.

Being a month elapsed, I may not recall every detail. But I hope to share with you some insight to this and the other exams.

January 13. Sunny skies in Seattle. Stars aligned? Best day to take my first exam? You bet!

Now many of you may purchase a packaged deal – requisite training and proctored exam bundled in. I choose a different path. A cheaper path. Many classroom based trainings are upwards of $2000 to $3000. Each! And with 5 to do, that is costly. I found it easier to purchase online training, get the core publications, and purchase the exams individually from APMG.

My cost breakdown:
Online course: $550
ITIL books: $80 (online only- 1 yr subscription) for all 5; about $16 each
APMG exam: $400
Being certified: Priceless – haha just kidding

Total: $966
That is a cheaper path than sitting in a class. Especially since most prep classes are not in the Seattle area. Requiring travel costs, hotel, food, and other expenditures.

Although, there is a lot to be said about being in a class. Being fully immersed in the session. Immediate feedback and clarification. Discussion with like-minded colleagues. And most importantly – blocks on distractions. If the class is being held on-site at your workplace, that advantage is typically wiped away. Unless you have a very disciplined workplace that respects your training time.

When taking online sessions, there is only you to decide the start/end times. Only your inner voice telling you to pay attention and ignore the call of the fridge, email, or TV. Ergo, online courses are not for everyone. You must be disciplined. You must schedule blocks of time as if you were IN-CLASS. Your email must remind people that you are in training and that their little needs are of no concerns to you – for the next few hours at least. It is too easy to procrastinate or get distracted online. You must treat it like an in person class. Even if it is a class of one.

Working from home, diving into an online class was easier for me. I have an environment that supported “lock-down” study sessions.

In the end, I saved approximately $1,000 (give or take; probably more give). And remember, this is just the 1st of 5!

Next post: About the actual exam that sunny morning in January.

My Strategy – Start with Service Strategy

My strategy.  Not necessarily one that is best for others.  Not certain retrospectively if it was the best for me.  But it worked.

Taking on the lifecycle path within the ITIL certification schema, I figured I needed to start somewhere. Staring at 5 choices. No set place required to start. But having to start somewhere, I selected the big picture first – and first on the list. Developing most management experience from the business side of IT, Service Strategy seemed the most logical.

Those in the trenches, I would recommend starting with the Service Operations exam. When I took that exam, it felt like a breeze. Could it have been because I had already completed 2 other certifications by then? Certainly. All the topics revolve around the same thing: IT Service Management. They all relate. The management on one area depends in part to the management of the others. After all, the first chapter of each core publication is practically the same.

Which ever topic you select to tackle first, it will most likely be the most difficult. Getting comfortable with the format and topic is one of the first hurdles. Then you build momentum. By far, the Service Strategy exam is the one that I studied for the most. Thoroughly reading the core publication on top of hours of online instruction took many hours over many weeks. In all, I think I spent 30-40 hours in study prep. But considering by syllabus, ITIL v3 Intermediate Service Strategy classroom based training sessions are 24 hours. Granted, that often includes the exam and breaks. Although, I imagine most attending a class spend near that time to reading and completing any other side work.

Subsequent study prep times were less.

My strategy for starting with Service Strategy paid off. Not only did I pass on the first attempt – I passed with Distinction. That was quite a relief.

Starting with the Foundations

If I am going to share my experiences and help you on your path to ITIL v. 3 certification, I might as well get you up to speed on how I got here.

Let’s lay the foundation – pun intended.

Yes, all ITIL certification journeys start with the Foundation exam.  My exposure was a bit serendipitous.  I had never heard of ITIL before it was presented to me.  No clue what it stood for or what it meant.  Do now 🙂

I was a Project Manager Professional instructing courses on PMP exam prep and the multitude of project management and general management course topics out there.  Noticeably, a lot of my participants were in the IT field or technical in nature.  Few had mentioned this ITIL thing.  Then my company had someone who was an ITIL Expert brought in.  He wanted to advice and support.  He did not want to instructionally design entire courseware and subsequently teach it.  That was to be my job.

It was late January, 2009.  Version 3 was still relatively new.  Did not matter, I did not know version 2.  I was busy updating my PMP material to the newly announced 4th edition PMBOK (which coincidentally I am a contributor).

I flew to our corporate offices. He presented some ad hoc powerpoints laying out the ITIL topics and concepts.

Sitting for the ITIL Foundation certification exam does not require any formal training.  This was definitely not formal in anyway.  My mind was swimming.  The management topics were easily digested.  Management best practices are fairly universal.  That is why the are ‘best’.  Slap a different title or purpose on somethings, it still works if done right.  The vast IT and ITIL terms where the bitch.

So many terms.  So many disconnections (ok that had to do a lot on how it was presented to me).  And so much to memorize.  Alas, 2 days in a board meeting room and many more hours of reading whatever I could find – which was limited and mainly the reason I put to together this blog, so you don’t have to search everywhere for advice and learning help [note: I plan to post lessons and excerpts from my training and publications].

A few weeks I sat for the exam.  Hard exam, in a way.  It was because it definitely was not written by English majors. The language and verbiage was horrendous!  I took it thru EXIN from a Prometric proctored site.  Not sure if it was the Dutch that wrote it or someone technical that never wrote an exam before.  Knowing the answers is one thing; not even knowing what the heck they are asking is a different story.  Fortunately the Intermediate exams are better written – or maybe because I am going thru APMG instead.  It may boil down to better quality control than anything else.

Anyway, I passed on my first attempt.  Which was a relief.  Did not feel like paying another $165 to try again.

This post was originally posted on my previous blog