Certification & Compliance in a Nutshell: What is ITIL?


This report, the second in our series on certification and compliance, looks at ITIL, formerly known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library:

  • Introduction
  • History
  • Qualifications & Credits
  • Additional Qualifications
  • Conclusion


ITIL methodology is intended to allow firms to determine areas that are struggling, with objective third-party advice for how to make adjustments that are cost-effective and optimize efficiency. Rich Hein of CIO notes instances in which it may be valuable: “[You] may use ITIL practices to reduce helpdesk traffic by implementing self-help sections on your company’s website or…to decide whether something is done in-house or by a third-party.”

IT, then, is not focused on your equipment or virtual systems but on your technological processes: computing service and lifecycle management. Let’s look at Hein’s discussion of the history and qualifications of ITIL.


During the 80s, the United Kingdom’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) came up with a number of guidelines that were intended as a structure to organize and simplify IT strategy, delivery, and support.

ITIL is no longer called by its original name because it is no longer a library, but it started as one. When it was first formed, ITIL was a series of books that provided overviews of various service management elements.

Following its original publication between 1986 and 1996, ITIL contained 30 volumes. The second edition, completed in 2001, streamlined the collection of information into just eight books. These new books provided a more user-friendly overarching approach, separating the discussion into services, applications, and management. That same year, the CCTA was drawn under the umbrella of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

The OGC published the third edition of the ITIL in 2007. This version was again downsized to just five primary volumes, focused on the following topics:

  • Strategy
  • Design
  • Transition
  • Operation
  • Improvement.

In 2011, the ITIL fourth edition was published. This version represented an improvement in two major ways, says Hein, by “[providing] additional guidance with the definition of formal processes that were not previously well-defined, and correcting various errors and inconsistencies that had crept in over the years.”

By 2011, the ITIL was owned by the UK Cabinet Office. ITIL certification testing started using the new edition as its basis on January 31, 2012.

Qualifications & Credits

The ITIL qualification model uses a credit system that is broken up into sections. Qualifications fall under the various headings of the credit system, each bearing a certain value. The five levels of qualification are as follows:

  1. Foundation – This test, worth 2 credits, is composed of 40 multiple-choice problems. It is the entry-level test and can be taken by anyone.
  2. Intermediate – This level of tests, each worth 15-16 credits, requires Foundation as a prerequisite. You must take a course in any of several different areas, either the lifecycle topics discussed regarding the 2007 edition above (bullet list) or topics related to Service Capability: Operational Support and Analysis; Planning Protection and Optimization; Release Control and Validation; or Service Offerings and Agreements.
  3. Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC), worth 5 credits, requires both Foundation and Intermediate exam completion; in other words, 17 credits are needed in order to take this course.
  4. Expert – In order to take this test, an individual must have earned 22 credits from the above exams.
  5. Master – You must successfully complete an Expert test as a prerequisite. This test, in the form of an essay, requires the individual to “explain and justify how they selected and individually applied a range of knowledge, principles, methods and techniques… to achieve desired business outcomes.”

Each of the five levels is in turn broken up into sections with each yield a certain quantity of credits. For those just starting out in IT office tasks, however, the ITIL certification would be out of their area of expertise. Beginning with a fundamental course such as the COMPTIA A+ (see comptia a+ practice test here) can prove more beneficial to improve or upskill in an IT job. For higher, company-level IT client deliverables, however, the ITIL certification should be appropriate.

Additional Qualifications

You can also accrue credits through an ancillary qualification system, which includes certifications such as the following:

  • Problem Analyst, which provides guidelines on safeguarding against problems, earns 1.5 credits.
  • Lean IT instructs participants on the development of a customer-focused, waste-free environment. It is worth 0.5 credits.
  • ISO/IEC 20000, allowing firms to show that they have instituted management best practices, carries 1.5 credits.
  • Service Catalogue, for those who already earned their Foundation credits, focuses on monitoring demand, analyzing the price and cost of service, and automating service for both the supply and demand side. This certificate earns 1.5 credits.
  • Service Management Foundation uses ISO/IEC 20000 as its basis. Centered on the basic parameters of a strong management approach, it yields 1 credit.
  • Certified Process Design Engineer (CPDE) proves the ability of an individual to review, conceive, enact, integrate and control from a management level. It yields 1.5 credits.


Do you think your company is ready for ITIL certification? You don’t necessarily need to take these courses in order to profit from the expertise they teach and test. Benefit from the comprehensive knowledge of our ITIL certified staff today.

By Kent Roberts