When it comes to IT service management, few frameworks or standards can boast as much renown and widespread usage as ITIL. Formerly known as the ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library’, ITIL has been built up over several decades to offer a top-tier ITSM certification path. Certified ITIL practitioners and project managers can be found working in every industry from marketing to animation, and there is no shortage of new and prospective students.
AXELOS Limited caused a huge stir back in 2017 when it finally announced the upcoming release of ‘ITIL 4’. This would not just be an update to ITIL V3, however; this version of the framework would feature a great deal of new examinable content, as well as a restructured ITIL certification path.
Many of these updates were designed to address the most common hang-ups that IT professionals tend to have with ITIL. The development was also community-driven, with practitioners and students from around the world being invited to contribute to the new framework. However, it also raised a number of questions, especially among those already qualified in the previous iteration of the ITIL standard.
Luckily for ITIL V3 certification holders, AXELOS was quick to point out that such qualifications would remain valid even after the upcoming release. Current ITIL certification path courses and their exams would also remain valid until June 2020. That said, changes to the ITIL certification path would ensure that those currently studying V3 would not simply be able to transfer over to ITIL 4 without having to jump through a few small hoops.
So, what do you need to know about the ITIL certification path, and which training courses offer the best route to becoming an ITIL Master?
The ITIL 4 certification path
Looking at the certifications and modules that are available with ITIL 4 (often misnamed as ‘ITIL v4), you will quickly notice how much simpler this version seems. For one, the number of exams has been reduced from 12 to just six, but still, does this necessarily make things easier for students?
The ITIL Foundation certification module remains the starting point, giving students an introduction to the concepts and methodologies behind ITIL. It also offers a rundown of the stages of the ITIL Lifecycle, along with new key elements such as the Service Value Chain (SVC).
After this point, users can go in one of two directions. The first is the ‘ITIL Managing Professional (MP)’ stream, which contains four modules:
- ITIL Specialist: Create, Deliver & Support (CDS)
- ITIL Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value (DSV)
- ITIL Specialist: High Velocity IT (HVIT)
- ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan & Improve (DPI)
The second possible path is ‘ITIL Strategic Leader (SL)’, the modules for which are:
- ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan & Improve (DPI)
- ITIL Leader: Digital & IT Strategy (DITS)
As you can see, the ‘ITIL Strategist – Direct, Plan & Improve’ module is universal, being relevant to both the MP and SL streams. Students are not required to collect credits in order to sit higher-level examinations, though they must still pass the ITIL 4 Foundation exam before moving on to MP or SL modules.
Once a student achieves both the Managing Professional and Strategic Leader designations, they will then be eligible to move towards the level of ‘ITIL Master’. Further details on the ITIL 4 Master designation are set to be released at a later date.
The ITIL 4 Extension Modules
More recently, AXELOS announced two new modules for ITIL 4:
- ITIL 4 Specialist: Sustainability in Digital & IT
- ITIL 4 Specialist: Acquiring & Managing Cloud Services
According to AXELOS, these modules are designed to prepare candidates for the “challenges of the future.” Indeed, both sustainability and cloud services are huge topics in business and IT, with organizations striving to not only tackle the challenges they bring but also take full advantage of them as opportunities.
Notably, candidates do not actually need to pass the ITIL 4 Foundation exam before taking an extension exam. The modules also upskill candidates on ITIL’s guidance and essential concepts, equipping them to contribute towards teams even if they do not opt to follow the rest of the certification path.
The ITIL V3 certification path
The path to gaining ITIL V3 certifications works according to a credit system. Students pursuing ITIL training start with the ITIL V3 Foundation module, which is worth two credits, before moving on to ITIL Intermediate modules of their choice. Each module is worth a certain number of credits, and once a student has collected 17 or more, they are then able to take the ‘ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC)’ module.
While collecting these credits may appear tedious, it actually gives students a great deal of freedom. The ITIL Intermediate modules are quite varied:
- ITIL Service Strategy (SS) – 3 credits
- ITIL Service Design (SD) – 3 credits
- ITIL Service Transition (ST) – 3 credits
- ITIL Service Operation (SO) – 3 credits
- ITIL Continual Service Improvement (CSI) – 3 credits
- ITIL Planning, Protection & Optimization (PPO) – 4 credits
- ITIL Service Offerings & Agreements (SOA) – 4 credits
- ITIL Release, Control & Validation (RCA) – 4 credits
- ITIL Operational Support & Analysis (OSA) – 4 credits
The MALC module itself is worth five credits. Students who pass the exam and have a total of 22 credits or more will achieve the rank of ‘ITIL Expert’. They can then begin working towards the rank of ‘ITIL Master’.
Note: At this point in time, ITIL v3 exams have been officially discontinued by AXELOS. Candidates can book the ITIL 4 Managing Professional Transition exam, though it is set to be discontinued in 1st July 2022.
Which version is better?
While certifications for ITIL V3 will still remain valid, those who are studying the older framework will no doubt wonder whether it is worth continuing. Certified practitioners are also dubious about the need to update their qualifications, given that they have already paid to take the older ITIL certification exams.
The truth is that the ITIL V3 certification scheme still has a few advantages over ITIL 4. Most of these are related to students being able to focus their studies on modules that are relevant to their work specifically. While modules for ITIL V3 are fairly niche, the new version groups its topics more tightly, which can be frustrating for anyone seeking more focused training.
That being said, ITIL 4 is far from being an inferior version overall. Its development was largely community-driven, with thousands of practitioners assisting AXELOS in creating a version that would address some of the most common criticisms that professionals have with ITIL.
Some of the most notable changes for ITIL 4 include:
- Greater integration with other popular ITSM practices, including Agile, DevOps and Lean
- A wider focus on the context of customer experience
- A community-driven focus to make the framework more flexible, dynamic and quick to evolve with new developments in IT
In short, while the new ITIL may have less of a niche focus, its content is still highly relevant for ITSM practitioners. Even the Foundation module requires an updated ITIL exam due to the amount of new examinable material. In other words, it is definitely worth it for ITIL V3-certified professionals to consider making the transition to ITIL 4.
Transitioning from ITIL V3 to ITIL 4
Luckily, making the move from the older version of ITIL to ITIL 4 is fairly simple. AXELOS itself has even specified the best options for ITIL V3 students and practitioners, depending on how far along they are with their training.
Those who have already reached the level of ITIL Expert in V3, or have collected at least 17 ITIL credits, will have the option of taking the ITIL 4 Managing Professional (MP) Transition module once it is released. This will allow them to reach the level of ITIL Managing Professional (MP) with just one exam. After this, they will simply need to take the ITIL Leader Digital & IT Strategy (DITS) module to also achieve the ITIL Strategic Leader (SL) designation. At this point, they will be eligible to start moving towards the level of ITIL Master.
However, things will be a bit trickier for anyone currently studying the Intermediate-level modules of ITIL V3. Those who have collected at least six credits beyond ITIL Foundation are advised to continue their studies, simply because starting again from scratch will put their previous efforts to waste. It is worth pointing out that the MP Transition module will not be released until March 2020, giving students plenty of time to collect V3 credits. ITIL V3 certifications will also still remain valid, even if students choose not to make the transition.
In contrast, those who have only achieved the ITIL V3 Foundation certification, or have collected up to six additional credits, are advised to start again with ITIL 4 Foundation. A good deal of new examinable material has been introduced with the new version, even at Foundation level. As such, it will be better for these students to restart from scratch, ensuring that their knowledge is completely up to date and in line with the new curriculum.
When will the new version of ITIL be released?
The courses for the new ITIL certification levels are being released throughout 2019 and 2020:
- ITIL 4 Foundation
- ITIL 4 Strategist: Direct, Plan & Improve
- ITIL 4 Specialist: Create, Deliver & Support
- ITIL 4 Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value
- ITIL 4 Specialist: High-Velocity IT
- ITIL 4: Managing Professional (MP) Transition
Those studying ITIL V3 intermediate modules still have a fair amount of time to increase their credits. Gaining at least 17 will allow them to take the Managing Professional (MP) Transition module. As for those who have not yet begun their studies of the ITIL framework, the best option will almost certainly be to start with the new ITIL 4 Foundation module.
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