Checked Out GoGogh Yet?

If you have not checked out yet, then you should give a look.

Unlimited web based IT training for under $400.  Heck, I spent over $2800 for one project management class.  Then found that GoGogh’s $400 rate gives me that project management class AND any other one I want to take.

When you are not worried about additional costs, I took advantage of the freedom to explore other topics and material.  I would never take a C# or Oracle training class, but when it is included for Free, doesn’t hurt my curiosity to take a look around – and yes, still not too interested in those topics.

I did find some topics that I was very interested in.  Take Six Sigma for one.  Not too technical; yet very worthwhile and with diverse applications.  And while I was on it I thought, why not learn about Software Quality Assurance?  So I did.  And it still did not cost me anything extra!

Granted, the downside of not paying per usage, there is a little less ‘buy-in’ from you as the learner – shall we say.  It was easier for me to jump around the topics and take on another topic when it got too far over my head or I just lost interest.  Not issue for the topics that did interest me.  More an issue with my motivation.  But at least I can go back anytime I want.

Having the options of study has been really powerful in my quest for new employment.  On top of obtaining my ITIL V3 certifications, I know that in today’s workforce, having a diverse set of skills is important.  Even if I don’t know them fully, having basic comprehension is key. Especially in the interview.  Speaking the terms.  Knowing the terms when they are spoken to you.  Priceless.  A few GoGogh lessons gave me a quick brush up on SharePoint and Six Sigma.  Paving the way for a smooth interview.

In any case, explore for what is worth.  They do have an option for taking just one class.  That is $195.  Still dirt cheap.  But why not go with unlimited for $395?  As their catalog expands,  I am certain their prices will to.  Catch the wave as it is just taking off and you could save yourself a bundle.

Happy Learning!

Reading Kotter’s Change Book

As noted in another post, I failed to clear the Continual Service Improvement -CSI- of the the ITIL v3 Intermediate certification exams. The only one remaining in my goal to clear all the Intermediate Lifecycle modules. All the others I have passed. Not only passed; but with distinction. Alas, for some strange reason this CSI exam eludes me.

Determined to pass this one soon, I am trying to find inexpensive ways to enhance my preparation. Very little resources are out there to prepare oneself for the CSI exam. I have taken multiple practice exams (oddly have passed each one on the first attempt) and have read the CSI core publication. I will read the core book a little more closely once again and take extensive notes. In the meantime, I thought I might complement my studies with a side book.

The CSI book stresses the 8 Steps to Transforming Your Organization theorized by John Kotter. Hence, I thought: let’s read it straight from the source. Grabbed a copy of Kotter’s “ground-breaking” book Our Iceberg is Melting Sadly, this has been the lamest professional book I have read since… Who Moved My Cheese. Maybe because they take the same lame ass way of presenting the data. And yet people eat this stuff up. I think it belittles people’s intelligence. I guess I might be in the minority when I think professional books should be… more professional?

Only 147 pages. With pictures. Then add ample white space . And 16 point FONT! I think the entire book is no longer than my entire blog.

What was most annoying, was the feeble attempts at using an analogy, but not sticking with it. He went from penguin actions to human actions. If you are going to use an analogy, then stay in the analogy. This book was so disconnected. Î guess I should not be too harsh. I am working on an ITIL v3 Foundation book using an analogy/story. I might have to take other’s criticism.

But it is a short read. Don’t waste any money buying it. You can finish before you leave the bookstore. Keep the change. The lesson on the ‘change’ is worthy. Knowing the 8 steps is good. At least for those considering sitting for the CSI certification exam. I have also produced a GoGogh podcast/radio show on the topic. I will link it once it is up.

I have also received the new book by Chip and Dan Heath entitled, Swith. The topic is also change management. I have higher hopes for this. I really enjoyed their last book, Made to Stick. I’ll give you my review once I am finished.

Until then, I need to re-read the CSI publication in preparation for my exam Monday.

When Taking an ITIL Intermediate Exam – get it down to 2

There are only 4 choices on your Intermediate exam. You know that one is the distractor. Find it first and eliminate it! Search for the one that does not belong. Either because it contains an error or sticks out from the others.

There is often a pattern with the four answer choices. Two answers – or possibly 3- typically have common threads. Material may be identical, with point here or there being different. When the question was authored, the correct answer may have a few of the points or words altered – turning it into the “mostly correct” answer. Consequently, if you notice that 2 or 3 answers have the same core response and one that goes on a whole new path, the one on the off path is most likely the distractor.

Doing this first step at least guarantees you a point. Scoring any distractors – worth 0 points – hurts your score hard. Getting rid of the answer that does not belong cleared out from the start makes it a “best out of three” chance. From here, you can start weeding thru the points that are good and picking the best of what remains.

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.

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.

Moving over…

Deciding to switch over to a “titled” blog, instead of one named after myself, I have rebranded my blog with the name, “The ITIL Crowd”.  This is in homage to one of my favorite UK comedies, “The IT Crowd”.

Obviously, I plan to continue to announce and describe the experiences and trials in my ITIL certification attainment, as well as lessons to share.

More to come shortly.

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