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.


The Godfather

In-between consulting gigs I find myself delivering ITIL Education. One of the challenges that students have during an ITIL Foundation course is remembering all of the processes from the different phases of the lifecycle. In particular, the 8 processes within Service Design are troublesome for a lot of students. I use an analogy that many of my students find helpful.

iStock_000012863800XSmall copyI tell my students to think about Service Level Management (1) process as “The Godfather” process. The godfather is accountable to sit down with the customer and negotiate. “Lets talk about what my ‘organization’ can do for you”.

The Godfather can’t possibly understand everything that the ‘organization’ is capable of.  So he brings his entourage with him. This trench coat clad group consists of experts that are intimately aware of the capabilities of the internal organization and how those capabilities translate into something of value for the customer. They represent Availability (2), Capacity (3), Information Security (4) and IT Service Continuity (5). This entourage is respectfully known as the Warrantors”.

The warrantors are a special group. They are in a sense – translators! They are capable of translating the language of the business to the language of the ‘organization’ (geek-speak). Availability Management for example would take the availability capability within the organization (servers, network, desktop, etc) and translate that into availability from the business perspective. The other members of the entourage perform similar translations for their domains as well. (Capacity, Information Security and IT Service Continuity). These specialists give the godfather confidence that the organization can live up to its end of any arrangements he enters into.

A very special translator is required to manage the unique requirements that come into play when the ‘organization’ needs to collaborate with another ‘organization’ in order to provide services to the customer. This translator must be able to speak the language of legalese. Representing Supplier Management (6) – this Councilor will make sure that due diligence is practiced to ensure everyone understands their boundaries and responsibilities. Everyone knows that there must be a very clear understanding between these ‘organizations’ or things can get really messy.

By now – the relationship between the customer and the ‘organization’ is getting quite complex. The godfather is in need of a bookkeeper. This bookkeeper represents Service Catalogue Management (7). The bookkeeper is accountable to record everything related to the service as the definition of the services are agreed. The godfather will hold this bookkeeper accountable to make sure that the services that are being provided by the ‘organization’ and agreed to with the ‘customer’ are accurately documented. Of course it is important that we don’t get this book keeper confused with the bookkeeper who is accountable for managing finances. The focus here is on the definition of services.

One remaining challenge exists within our “Service Design” world we have created. We have been talking about one relationship between the ‘organization’ and one ‘customer’. In reality, we have to balance our capabilities and resources across numerous customers and a variety of design activity. Someone must take the big picture in mind. The Consigliere represents Design Coordination (8). The Consigliere is often referred to as the “elder”. With oversight, this role will ensure that all activities are managed and coordinated.


  • The Godfather represents Service Level Management
  • The Entourage of “Translators” represent Availability, Capacity, information Security and IT Service Continuity Management (The warranty processes)
  • The Councillor represents Supplier Management
  • The Bookkeeper represents Service Catalogue Management
  • The Consigliere represents  Design Coordination

In summary, the Service Level Manager represents the organization’s capabilities and is accountable for negotiating agreed levels of service throughout the design phase. The expert “warrantors” are the subject matter experts that help give the Service Level Manager confidence that we can live up to our commitments. They translate capabilities from geek speak to business speak. Service Catalogue Management is busy documenting the details of the service and Design Coordination has oversight, making sure all activities are managed and coordinated.We also need to recognize that this is a high level description the focus of these processes during the Design phase of the service lifecycle.  All of these processes are responsible for many other activities in the other phases of the lifecycle.


For more information download our free ITIL Foundation Overview guide here