Explaining ITIL certifications–and how to teach ITIL Foundations

ITIL is a framework for IT service management. Fundamentally ITIL is a series of five books about how to select, plan, implement, maintain, and improve IT services.

ITIL is a complicated framework, and a while ago people figured out they could make a lot of money by certifying people. To these ends there are three basic types of ITIL certificates:

  • ITIL Foundations certificate
  • ITIL Intermediate certificates (of which there are many)
  • ITIL Expert certificate

Certificates are awarded after you pass exams.

If someone says “ITIL certified” they typically mean “ITIL Foundation certified.” Only individuals can be ITIL certified. ISO 20000 exists to certify organizations in IT Service Management.

If someone is ITIL Expert certified, they have earned 22 credits’ worth of ITIL certifications according to the ITIL® Credit Profiler. Essentially they have the Foundations certificate and 5 or 6 additional certificates.

Please see below for more information about both the ITIL Foundations exam and how to teach ITIL Foundations within your organization.

ITIL Foundations

ITIL Foundations is a three-day class: roughly two and a half days of lecture with a little discussion, followed by a 40-question multiple-choice exam. Note: this is the only certificate where you are allowed to sit for the exam without attending the class.

ITIL Foundations spends roughly two to three hours on each of the five phases of the Service Lifecycle. That breaks down to somewhere between 15 minutes and 45 minutes per ITIL process. So, you cover the entirety of Service Asset and Configuration Management (SACM), which is quite a complex topic, and then move on to Release Management etc.

Unfortunately, ITIL Foundations also often taught “to the test,” meaning you’ll skip over processes and content in the books but not on the class syllabus.

This class is overwhelming for most people. Few people leave with any understanding of how to implement ITIL concepts–that’s covered more in the intermediate classes.

Teaching ITIL Foundations

If you would like to teach ITIL classes within your organization, you need a couple of things:

  1. To work with an Accredited Training Organization (ATO)–either teaching directly on their behalf, or setting your organization up as an Accredited Training Associate (ATA).
  2. Become an Accredited Trainer, working through your ATO. You need something like 7.5 ITIL certificate credits (basically Foundations and two intermediate classes), plus whatever other requirements your ATO has. They may expect you to observe a class or teach under observation before you are allowed to teach on your own.
  3. Pay the annual ITIL trademark licensing fees. (Historically this has been denominated in GBP rather than USD. I kind of enjoyed sending a £200 bill to Accounts Payable.)
  4. Work with your ATO and/or Examination Institute (EI) to order exams for your classes.
  5. Identify an exam proctor–maybe someone else in your organization. Examination Institutes probably will want this proctor to go through a short virtual training session.