The 2010 ITIL Certification Process Awards Gold - but is anybody watching?

In 2010, the world has come to Vancouver, Canada to compete in individual and team athletic pursuits.  And, by most reports I have seen, TV ratings are up for the XXI Olympic Games.  Over the past ten months, several ITSM software vendors, including HP, have come (not physically, but you get the idea) to Buckinghamshire, UK to try their luck and skill in an ITIL certification process for the chance of winning recognition at the Gold, Silver or Bronze level.  But do customers really care?


I recently spent several weeks managing HP’s effort to have HP Service Manager 7.1 evaluated through the U.K. Office of Government Commerce (OGC) ITIL certification process.  After all of the hard work, I can’t help but wonder, where’s the customer benefit if all ITSM vendors don’t agree to be measured by the same yardstick? 


To be sure, this particular yardstick is world-class.  OGC created the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) more than 20 years ago, and has officially endorsed this particular compliance framework to audit vendor products, documentation and processes.  There are some other well-known ITSM vendors (e.g. BMC, CA and IBM) who have also gone through this certification process, but many have not, and have no intention of doing so.


So what did it take for HP to win OGC Gold-level certification in four processes:  Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, and Service Asset & Configuration Management?  Well, Gold status indicates that, above and beyond passing the standard certification requirements, multiple companies provided clear written evidence that they have implemented and are actively using HP Service Manager 7.1 in their production environment, to facilitate and automate the particular ITIL process being assessed.  I am talking about formal correspondence on company letterhead containing screenshots and report examples as proof of usage. In a phrase, no smoke and mirrors allowed.


 While some organizations, such as Pink Elephant and Gartner, have offered informal ITSM verification services for years, the OGC endorsement program gives vendors of IT Service Management products a single official standard to meet (by the developers of ITIL themselves).   PinkVERIFY has always looked at the functionality, process automation and intent in terms of ITIL compatibility, whereas OGC appears to be looking at the ITIL compliance of software functionality (and self-documenting, to boot), process integration and automation “by the (ITIL) book”. 


 The OGC certification process also included comprehensive questionnaires with questions covering terminology, workflow/automation, functionality and integration.  At every turn, the accreditor assessed our compliance with ITIL v3 principles.  My team conducted remote software demonstrations (using HP Virtual Rooms) that highlighted HP Service Manager’s functionality, integrations, and documentation (both on-screen documentation and online Help Server documentation).  This is where the out-of-the-box capability of our ITIL v3 best practices really helped because it generated a wealth of “in-context” help messages and “context-specific” drop-down selections.  Obviously the OGC people are tired of ITSM software demos in which the help documentation is on another part of the installation CD, not really integrated with the tool itself.


 Now the OGC is flashing the four Gold medals HP received (more than any other vendor) on its website, but do customers really notice?  I certainly hope they do.  The official OGC auditing program looks at two areas of compliance – functionality (with a specific focus on how it supports ITIL process integration) and product documentation.  It also looks for accurately represented processes and functions.  It is based on the premise that successful ITSM needs more than a point tool that supports a single ITIL process.  ITSM requires a comprehensive solution that automates the service as a whole by integrating across its important underpinning ITIL processes.  It’s more like a 4-person bobsled team and less like the luge individual event.


 In the end, are certifications considered good grades in school and nothing more?  If a customer makes their software and implementation selections based on a criteria that is not dependent on the use of a standard yardstick, will they have any higher risk of obtaining an incorrect “fit” to their needs?  Is certification the price of admission to reach “world-class status” as an ITSM vendor?  On the other hand, is casual word of mouth from a colleague down the street a stronger influence than rigorous functionality evaluation conducted by an independent accredited third party?


 My perspective is that customers will be able to compare offerings more easily if they have all been vetted against the same IT tools standard.  Having a single standard for ITSM vendors to audit against gives customers a single point of reference and will make their purchase decisions easier and more informed with less subjective debate.







Q: What do you think? Should ITSM vendors keep striving to find a place on the awards podium? 



Click on the following link and to learn more about what Pink Elephant is saying about HP Service Manager software : http://pinkelephant.com/AboutPink/PinkNews/030110.htm


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About the Author
A 25+ year veteran of HP, Yvonne is currently a Senior Product Manager of HP ITSM software including HP Service Anywhere and HP Service Man...
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