What’s a fair price for a PMP or ITIL class?

Reading a new book by William Poundstone titled “Priceless” It is really a great read.  That is if you are interested in the psychology of pricing and spending.

This has made me ponder the true value of ITIL v3 and PMP certification classes, as well as the other general training courses I conduct.  I have conducted these certification courses in person (CBT), online instructor led sessions, and pre-recorded self-paced online courses.  Each time the price is/was different.  Same instructor.  Often times the same material.  Maybe a different delivery method.  Maybe a different location.  But same general content.  Yet different prices.

I have seen the full spectrum of training costs.  Some astronomical.  Reaching many thousands for a day or two.  There are PMP, PRINCE2, and ITIL classes out there selling for $3,500 for 4 days without batting an eyelash.  It must sell.  They hold the classes and don’t offer much in the form of discounts.  At least when I tried.

Then I have seen training classes for as little as $350.  That’s one less zero!  Pretty big jump.

Makes me wonder, is the $3,500 class 10x better than the cheap session?  I am certain there are levels of quality, organization, and intangibles between the offerings.  Ten times?!  Maybe not that drastic.

The format and presentation of the material is a definite distinguisher.  Alas, I have seen student course material from a $2,600 course that was nothing more than a binder with screenshots of the presenter’s powerpoint and a bunch of lines underneath.  And the Powerpoint were nothing more than bullet points!  Obviously – at least to me and others with instructional design educations – this was an ‘expert’ telling you whenever s/he knows and what is already covered in the books.  Sure, they add personal ‘war stories’, but is that worth extra $1,000?  It’s rhetorical; don’t answer that.  Just amazed that this form of “instruction” is so prevalent – especially in IT.

With so many options out there, it can definitely be overwhelming for those seeking a good training option.  Prices and options and offerings run the gamut.  The services revolve around the same general objective – to get you to pass a certification exam or learn something new.  Telling which one is better. Or which one best fits your needs.  Or most importantly, knowing the ‘value’ equals the ‘price’.  Not an easy task.

Judging by the decrease in many course offers over the recent years, the inflated prices at the top of the spectrum are becoming more reasonable.  Although, the ‘cheap’ options may be too cheap to successfully run a training operation.  Then again, it might be right-pricing the whole PMP, Prince2, ITIL, etc playground.

What I plan to try out for the ITIL Crowd is maybe opening the door for people to name their own price.  Making it a price that more closely matches the true value.  I will start this only for corporate clients for the moment. Got a budget or price in mind – run it past me: neal@theitilcrowd.com.  Name your price. You never know, the price may be right.

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PRINCE2, SCRUM, CPLP – certifications, oh my!

As a Project Management Professional – PMP® – I am curious about the other certifications for project management recognized worldwide.  I have gathered a few of the materials for PRINCE2 and CompTia Project+.  Both seem fairly close to the PMBOK® (which I was a contributor for) and the PMP Exam items.  Although, I am not too surprised, since they are all based on generally accepted practices.

Naturally in job searches and in presenting myself/courseware, the more verification via certification the better.  Although, I am pondering whether or not gathering more certification revolving around the same basic concept is worth pursuing.  Does more = better?  Diversity valued?  Overload?  Extensive  knowledge about all approaches better than one (or none) with track record of work experience?

I am leaning on the side of “knowledge is power”.  Although, this verification of knowledge is costly.  Counting the THOUSANDS of dollars spent on acquiring PMP and 6 ITIL certifications, do I really need to cough up more?  Haven’t I spent enough?

Yes, it is a costly game played.  Alas, so is formal education.  I certainly spent a great deal more in my undergraduate and Masters degrees.  I spent many more thousands just in my first quarter of my Doctoral work at Seattle Pacific University than I spent achieving various certifications.  Maybe that is something to be said for certifications – cheaper, faster, and often more relative.  Certainly more cost effective.  I enjoyed pursing my Doctorate.  But the sticker shock was too great.  No student loans.  No short term pay back period.  No reason for me to continue my formal studies.

Consequently, that brings me back to my original point – do I pile on the certifications?  Potentially adding the proverbial alphabet soup after my name.  Adding related certifications is a lot like learning a new language.  The first one is the most difficult.  The ensuing one gets assimilated  faster and with more ease.  And the pattern continues; save for occasionally interchanging a wrong term or syntax from time-to-time.

Once I claim my ITIL v3 Expert designation – as soon as I clear the MACL capstone exam – I plan to tackle more certs.  The practice CompTia Project+ exam I took was a breeze.  It was so similar to the PMP.  The PRINCE2 does not seem much of a stretch.  Especially considering the language comparisons with ITIL.  Add on the M_o_R – seemingly another reasonable certification with my production and research of Risk Management topics.  Hm, but where from there?  SCRUM?  CBAP? PMP-Risk? 6 Sigma? COBIT? MOF?  CPLP? Doesn’t matter.  There are certainly enough to keep me busy!  I’ll do my best to document my travels.

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 Service Strategy Exam

“Show up when you want. Start the exam at any time.” Those were the instructions I received from the community college that was proctoring my ITIL v3 Intermediate Service Strategy exam. I like this arrangement very much. I am very pleased that I have this arrangement for each of my ITIL exams.

Taking exams encompasses a lot of stress. The more you prepare and the more you relax, the better off you are. All of us though take on some stress when taking an exam. Some more. Some less. Anything to be done to reduce the stress level, the better off we all are. Having the exam time be up to my own choosing the day of was a definite stress reducer.

Coming from the project management certification circus, I was very accustomed to highly structured and highly stressful exam environments. Having taken, and subsequently preparing hundreds of others sit for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam, I was used to a highly controlled environment. At least compared to the other exams happening all around you. When taking the PMP exam – at least here in the US – you are often in a room with other exam takers. Rarely are any of those other exam takers dealing with the 4 hour mental anguish of the PMP. You can tell. They are done sooner. Generally more relaxed. And not taking breaks during their exam. But the rules and restrictions on you seem to be more intense – I even had a student come back to me and explain that a proctor accused her of cheating because she took off her sweater. Time spent worrying about your surroundings is less concentration on your exam – where it needs to be. Fortunately, the ITIL test environment is not that stressful.

The ITIL Intermediate exams are 90 minutes. Less than the PMP marathon or Six Sigma. Nonetheless, greater than the Foundations and some other certification exams. But unlike the vast amount of extra time given to you on the Foundation exam, you most likely will need all 90 minutes for your Intermediate exam. I have averaged about 80 minutes for each of mine.

Only 8 questions. Only 4 possible answers for each question. Seems simple right? Not really. Because to some degree, each question has 3 right answers! Only one can safely be classified as a wrong answer. Key on the word ‘degree’ when I stated that there are 3 ‘right’ answers. There is a ‘right’ answer; a ‘more right’ answer; and the ‘best or slightly better than all others right’ answer. You get points on level of ‘right’ you pick.

Starting with 0 points for wrong. One point for an answer with a touch of merit. Then 3 points for the mostly right. And finally, 5 points for the most correct answer. Splitting the hairs between the first and second answer is where you find most of your time being sapped away.

All eight questions are given to you in Scenario format. Each scenario is about 1-2 pages in length. Each answer choice is typically a paragraph of varying length.

You have 90 minutes – or 11 minutes per question – to read the story, read the answer options, re-reading the story, eliminating possible answers, bouncing back and forth between your finalists, poking around back in the story, slapping your forehead in hopes of enlightenment, and then picking an answer (at least your answer for the moment).

In the end, you must score 25 points to pass. 40 is the maximum, with all 8 answers with the best choice (I almost did this in my SO exam). In my first exam, I scored a reassuring 33 points. The results are displayed instantly. Your attitude changes instantly too.

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