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I get a weekly email from George Spafford who is a co-author of Visible Ops and a Principle consultant for Pepperweed Consulting. His email has great articles and if you want to subscribe to it, email

Ok, now that I’ve given George his unsolicited plug, I read an article from his email that said the U.K.’s Office of Government Commerce (OCG) has officially created a framework to allow vendor products to achieve an “ITIL Certification”. The certification is decided by the following criteria.

The official OGC auditing program looks at two areas of compliance, functionality and product documentation. When auditing these products, it also looks for accurately represented processes and functions. The IT tools standard certifications are awarded in three tiers:

  • If the functionality and documentation pass required criteria, the tools receives a bronze.
  • If, on top of that, upon initial inspection at least three companies have implemented that particular version, a silver level of compliancy is awarded.
  • Finally, gold-level compliancy is given when three or more companies have implemented the tool and those customers have provided evidence in support of it.

Essentially, if a vendor can prove their product supports the ITIL framework and can find a whopping three customer’s to testify this they can get their verification/certification from OCG’s official accrediting agency, APM Group. One item that is left off is what is the cost for this certification, but similar verification’s from third party companies are $12,000.

Now, that the details of getting ITIL certified is out, I must ask the obvious question–How does buying a certified ITIL product help with the implementation of ITIL? I’ll give the simple answer–IT DOESN’T! ITIL is a best practices process framework and certifying that a product supports a framework in no way means that an organization will actually implement the framework correctly. There are so many products on the market that CAN support the ITIL framework and hopefully they can scrounge up three customers that this certification becomes pointless. Essentially, pay your money and you’re in! I would equate this to following scenario:

I have just moved from Atlanta to Boston and winter is quickly approaching. I know how to drive a car well and I have been doing so for many years. However, I have no experience driving in snow. I decided the solution to this problem is simply to buy a new tool for the car, namely snow tires. Now that I have snow tires on my car I can safely drive in the snow. Unfortunately during the first big snow, I skid off the side of the road and hit a sign. As I am talking with the tow truck driver, I explain that I have never driven on snow but I did buy snow tires so I cannot understand what went wrong. He laughs and says the tires are just part of the solution but I need to LEARN to drive on snow in addition to having the proper equipment.

My fear is that companies will buy these so called certified products thinking they have bought the magic bullet to solve their ITIL project but instead they’ll skip the hard part which is designing the processes for their organization. So instead of a magic bullet they’ll just shoot themselves in the foot with a real bullet.

ITIL isn’t about specific products but instead about putting in processes that bring efficiency to the organization. I fear that ITIL will be moved to an irrelevant framework in the US if organization do not get serious about implementing it correctly. I have been to many companies that say they are implementing ITIL but when I dig further I find out a few people have taken the initial certification class and that is about it. Now, these same people can go to their boss and say they are recommending a product for the ITIL initial and better yet–it’s CERTIFIED! Nine months later their boss is going to ask some serious questions about what went wrong with the ITIL project considering he signed several purchase orders for ITIL certified products.

I welcome any thoughts or feedback on this.