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.

Tackling the Remainder of the ITIL Intermediate Stream

One of the big decisions you need to make is whether you are going to go primarily down the LIFECYCLE stream or the CAPABILITIES stream.  Ok, it’s not that big of a decision.  Not like buying a car or which ice cream you are going to order.  Well, it is a little less costly – barely – than buying a car; and more life affecting than choosing your ice cream flavor [side note: I tried Pumpkin ice cream the other day – pretty good!].

Covered in another post and podcast [to be attached here soon], the ITIL certification schema has layers.  All must do the Foundations and the Managing Across the Lifecycle exams.  But in the middle it is a little more squishy.  More squishy if you eat a lot of ice cream.

You must gain 15 intermediate credits.  Many place themselves in one of the 2 camps: Lifecycle or Capabilities.  You don’t have place yourself strictly in one camp or the other. You may pick and choose.  Although, I did.  I am firmly placed in one camp.

The different streams are based on different mindsets or purposes, if you will.  They represent a different approach.  A different angle to the ITIL framework.  Lifecycle’s path more ‘management’ focused.  Capabilities more ‘practitioner’ focused.

I am in the management mind.  I am collecting the certifications under the lifecycle stream: SS, SD, ST, SO, and CSI.  Means I must do all 5 (if I don’t cross over) to acquire my full 15 Intermediate credits.  My intentions are to continue viewing IT Service management and ITIL practices in the more holistic views.  Seeing the picture.  Seeing where it is best applied.

Coming from a more strategic, business, and project management background, this was an easy choice for me.  You may have a tougher choice.  Depending on where you have been and where you wish to go.  If you want to be the ones executing the best practices and have background in the trenches, go capabilities.  If you see yourself defining strategy, determining broader applications, go lifecycle.

In any case, they all meet up again in the MALC capstone exam.  See you at the top

Another Go at CSI

Tomorrow, I retake my CSI Intermediate ITIL exam.  As posted earlier, my previous attempt missed by 1 point.  Time to give it another go.

Not certain what else I can do to prepare at this time.  My plan is strictly to re-read the core CSI publication once more.  Having taken the exam once already –  not to mention the other Lifecylce Modules: Service Operations (SO), Service Transition (ST), and Service Strategy (SS).  I am familiar with the question types.  Familiar with the topic.  Now it is making certain I align it with their thinking.

With luck, this time I will not have a repeated scenario with an unaligned question.

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

Taking the CSI Intermediate ITIL Exam: Take 1

Alright, got the disappointment off my chest.  Now to give you more beneficial feedback on taking the ITIL v3 Continual Service Improvement Exam.

Cold, rainy Seattle morning.  Time was set to take the CSI Exam at the local community college.  Don’t think I spent enough time preparing.  At least not like I prepared for the other exams.  Overconfidence – maybe.  Hell, I have already banged out 3 other ITIL Intermediate exams over the course of the last 3 weeks – how hard could it be?  Harder than I thought.

Continual Service Improvement intertwines with all the other core publications of ITIL.  It is the quality and betterment that drives the entire IT service lifecycle.  Although the shortest core publication; it is the farthest reaching.  Mainly due to the fact that it extends even beyond the core publication and the foundational knowledge found within the other core books.

I found this exam to pull from outside best practices and references more than the other exams.  CMMI, COBIT, ISO standards, Quality Management, PRINCE2 and other project management practices, etc seemed to seep in this exam.  They don’t inform you that you must be proficient in these other knowledge areas, but it definitely helps.

Many of the questions seemed to seek your ‘next best action’ or ‘best course of action’ or ‘where do you start’.  Subjectivity is nothing new to these exams.  It is only ‘best practices’ after all.  And it is whatever best practices or mode of action the authors of the exam feel it is best.  Granted, there is a lot of supporting evidence -primarily what is written in the official manuals – but everyone’s experiences and perspectives are different.  So take this as caution when you take the exam.  Understand what you think they want you to do.  Not necessarily what may be the case in your niche workplace.  They are looking for application to the scenario at hand.

My final word of advice would be to take this exam last, if you are pursuing the certifications on the Lifecycle Module path.  If you are mixing and matching between modules, just skip it

This post was originally entered on my previous blog.