E-Learning… Axelos has it right!.. Almost

On Nov 19, 2013 Axelos issued a press release outlining their  12 month strategy for the development of  PPM and ITIL®.  In that release they made the following statement:

“AXELOS research shows that standard e-learning is not sufficient to deliver good outcomes, so we will focus on experiential learning methods such as gaming and simulation.”

I know in the past I have been an visible opponent of e-learning in general as an approach to ITIL training. I still feel if you could look at “value” delivered in the industry by e-learning and measure it against the “value” delivered in the industry by instructor led training, e-learning would pale in comparison. However, I recognize that this does not do justice to the industry to generalize like this. That being said, I have 2 issues with AXELOS’ statement.

My first issue is that AXELOS decided to limit this statement to e-learning. I attest that “certification” is not sufficient to deliver good outcomes. Singling out e-learning as the problem that needs to be addressed was wrong. My second issue is that AXELOS does not make it clear what “good outcomes” are.

If the ultimate “good outcome” is improved Service Management capabilities within the organization, then certification means very little. It is at best a rudimentary  measurement of the progression through the knowledge spectrum. While knowledge is an essential requirement on our journey to improved capabilities, experience is the key ingredient. Experiential Learning will move people a little further along this path but nothing will replace experience.

Bottom line is that for organizations to achieve good outcomes, they need to commit to the pain needed to implement improvements. They need to recognize that culture will resist, organization structures will need to be changed, policies will need to be updated, tools will have to be modified, measurements will need to be put in place, management practices will need to be changed, and yes, people will need new knowledge.


Where is the COBIT Kool-Aid?


I have delivered numerous COBIT 5 Foundation Training Courses since it was introduced earlier this year and I recently had the opportunity to speak about COBIT 5 at the APMG Showcase 2013 conference in May of this year.

It was during that showcase that I was asked by another Governance consultant why I thought that COBIT training hasn’t “taken off” the way that ITIL has. My simple response was that ITIL has the Kool-Aid factor. Once a student has sipped the Kool-aid, they actively promote it to others.

When ITIL V3 was released in 2007, ITIL was centred around the Service Lifecycle (I will save the argument as to whether it really is a lifecycle – for another time). This lifecycle view made it relatively easy for ITIL converts (people who recently drank the ITIL Kool-aid) to make it relevant to all the stakeholders and to spread the message quickly. The message became the marketing. The ITIL training industry went into overdrive!

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of ITIL. ITIL paints a picture of the prettiest Utopian IT world you could ever imagine.  It is the best toolkit out there for that purpose. Bringing in all the loose elements and painting a picture to show others a “better way”. It focuses on how IT needs to stay in alignment with the business. The problem comes when people try to use ITIL prescriptively. To be successful in IT Governance and IT Management, you need a lot of tools, not just the paintbrush.

COBIT has been a very practical toolkit for a number of years but it lacked the “Kool-aid” factor. It lacked a thread that we can all hang onto. Maybe it was unfair to expect this “pry-bar” to be as exciting as the ITIL “paintbrush”. COBIT struggled to make its value obvious and was only of interest to a small community. It achieved its modest success in the realm of the Auditor. There were some organizations using COBIT as guidance for assurance and control over critical processes but that was certainly not the norm.

With ISACA’s release of COBIT 5, we see a move to a more holistic and consolidated view of the governance and management of IT. This framework is now as relevant to a process manager as it is to a functional leader, a CIO or an Auditor. It is still difficult to pick out one central focal point (Like ITIL’s Service Lifecycle) but it certainly is better connected than ever before.  You kind of need to look at cobit from 2 perspectives to get the whole picture.

The first perspective is the Goals Cascade. The Goals Cascade gives the user guidance on how to take high level stakeholder needs and translate them into Enabler Goals (For the purpose of this conversation lets say that Enabler goals = Process Goals, In a moment I will explain the other enablers). This detailed mapping creates a transparent picture of how the work we are doing in IT lines up to your stakeholders needs. The Goals cascade is not new to COBIT5 and was in fact, part of the Cobit 4.1 Implementors course. Most of my students and customers feel that it is one of the most valuable elements of COBIT. Making it part of the foundations course was a brilliant decision by ISACA.

The second perspective is that governance and management must be considered across all 7 of the enablers.  COBIT 5 defines these enablers as:

  1. Principles, Policies and Frameworks
  2. Processes
  3. Organizational Structures
  4. Culture, Ethics & Behaviour
  5. Information
  6. Services, Infrastructure and Applications
  7. People, Skills and Competencies

This holistic perspective helps shed light on the interdependencies within IT. For example, in order for a Process to deliver benefits in the organization, you may need to adjust Policies based on the Culture in your organization and then you may need to adjust the required Skills sets of the People executing the process.

Setting and managing to the goals for all 7 of these enablers, in line with the Goals Cascade previously discussed, is the fundamental premise behind COBIT 5. We are starting to see this message propagate throughout our client community.  Our clients are actively spreading the word. We have seen a massive rise in COBIT 5 training and a broadening in interest from Auditors to Leaders, Managers and IT Staff in general..  COBIT 5 has the Kool-aid factor!

Click here to obtain a free copy of our COBIT 5 and ITIL Foundation Overviews