Welcome to the latest ITIL® 4 certification training stream and credential: ITIL Practice Manager (PM)!
Released in May of 2023, ITIL Practice Manager is geared toward operational managers and subject matter experts (SMEs) and serves as the long-awaited final step to unlocking the ITIL Master credential for those who have already completed the Managing Professional (MP) and Strategic Leader (SL) certification streams.
This new certification is both similar to, and divergent from, the existing MP and SL tracks. In this article, we’ll dig into those details and explain how PM fits into the existing ITIL certification ecosystem.
The Original ITIL 4 Certification Scheme
Before we jump into the details of PM, let’s take a moment to get situated within the pre-existing certification structure. Axelos began rolling out the original ITIL 4 certification scheme back in 2019, with all of the courses in the initial batch becoming available by 2021. (Fun fact: ITIL Digital & IT Strategy (DITS), which we at Beyond20 co-authored and lead edited, was the last course to come online.)
The original scheme consisted of ITIL 4 Foundation (which is quite different than ITIL v3 Foundation) and five advanced classes, reflected in Figure 1 below. ITIL Foundation certification was the prerequisite for all of the advanced courses, a combination of which led to either the Managing Professional credential, Strategic Leader credential, or both. This has not changed with the introduction of ITIL PM.
While each advanced course can be taken as a stand-alone, there is some overlapping content and there are references between them. That said, a single class may be just what you need for your role, with no need for the larger certification. For instance, if you are in an environment that sees dozens or even hundreds of changes every day and you work as a cloud architect, DevOps engineer/architect, project, program, or portfolio manager, business analyst or within a Scrum team, the ITIL High Velocity IT (HVIT) class may be all that you need. You can take any of the advanced courses in any order you’d like.
The New ITIL 4 Certification Scheme
Notice in Figure 2 above how the new diagram has been reworked to better call out the advanced courses that apply to multiple certification streams. Carrying over from the original scheme, you can see that ITIL Direct, Plan, & Improve (DPI) sits in both MP and SL columns indicating the earn-it-once, count-it-twice nature of that course. Now, ITIL Create, Deliver, & Support (CDS) performs the same function across PM and MP. (PM/MP: This is bound to be a great source of confusion right from the start. Now imagine holding both of these and a PMP!)
Surely you noticed immediately how different the PM column looks as compared to MP and SL. This is because PM is based on a collection of five individual practices plus the shared conventional CDS course. As I mentioned at the top, the PM certification is particularly well suited for operational managers, people who manage people, and the SMEs that make things happen. Therefore, rather than the more tactical- and/or strategy-focused courses in MP or SL, PM concentrates on the operations-level practices (more on these below) and the people who staff them.
There are lots of moving parts here – lots of ways to earn the certification as well. So, let’s dissect this certification and see what is inside.
How to Earn the ITIL Practice Manager Certification
Each of the 15 boxes pictured ITIL PM stream (isolated above in Figure 3) represents a core ITIL 4 practice. While ITIL 4 defines 34 practices in total, only 15 are considered core and are covered at a high level in ITIL Foundation. These same 15 practices comprise the PM track. If you are looking for some good news about PM, however, it would be this: it only takes five practices to earn the certification.
ITIL 4 defines a practice as set of organizational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective.
The requirements for earning PM are really quite simple. You need to take a course and pass exams for:
- ITIL 4 Foundation
- Create, Deliver & Support (CDS)
- Any five of the practice-specific courses
If you already have those first two criteria knocked out, here are the two ways you can claim the five practices.
PeopleCert/Axelos have already shuffled these 15 cards into five preconfigured hands, illustrated by the three rows in Figure 3. At the time of this writing, Monitor, Support and Fulfill (MSF) is the first package of practices that is ready and available. Plan, Implement and Control (PIC) and Collaborate, Assure and Improve (CAI) practice bundles are coming soon.
Along with your ITIL 4 Foundation and CDS class, attending any one of these practice bundle classes and passing the requisite exam earns you the PM certification. In this format, one three-day class bundles five pre-selected practices. The three bundled courses are:
MSF: Monitor, Support and Fulfill
- SD: Service Desk
- INM: Incident Management
- PRM: Problem Management
- SRM: Service Request Management
- MEM: Monitoring & Event Management
PIC: Plan, Implement and Fulfill
- CE: Change Enablement
- RM: Release Management
- SCM: Service Configuration Management
- DM: Deployment Management
- ITAM: IT Asset Management
CAI: Collaborate, Assure and Improve
- CI: Continual Improvement
- SLM: Service Level Management
- RSM: Relationship Management
- ISM: Information Security Management
- SM: Supplier Management
While, nothing is stopping you from sitting in all three practice bundle courses and writing three different exams for the sake of knowledge and self-fulfillment, sadly, you can earn the PM certification only once.
As with all other ITIL 4 certification exams, the exams for these bundled classes will be scheduled through PeopleCert. You have 90 minutes to answer 60 questions with a passing score of 65% or better. PeopleCert draws the 60 questions equitably from across the five practice areas covered in the class.
Mix & Match
Let’s say you have unique needs and none of these three pre-configured courses cover the exact list of practices you want. That is OK. Eventually all of these practices will be available as their own, one-day class. Following an individual practice class, you will schedule a 30-minute exam with PeopleCert that covers 20 questions. A score of 65% or better will see you passing this exam.
Do this five times (with five different practices each with its own certification exam) and you, too, earn the PM, so long as you already have the ITIL 4 Foundation and CDS classes and exams under your belt. While this is a more time and resource-intensive way to go about the PM, it is certainly a viable alternative.
The Much-Vaunted ITIL Master
From the first moments after Axelos dropped the certification scheme for ITIL 4, the ITSM water cooler has been privy to all kinds of rumor, speculation, and horror stories about whatever the ITIL Master certification was going to be when it grew up. Some said it would be like ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt programs with a project attached. Others I know thought maybe it would be the crowning achievement after defending a major dissertation of some sort. Whatever it was to be, I decided I was going to be the first kid on my block to earn one. Well, now we know.
Look at ITIL Master as an umbrella certification covering the three other umbrellas. You can see the PM, MP and SL certifications as umbrellas, each certification covering its own respective content. Attend all the classes and pass the exams contained within each silo and you will automatically obtain the PM, MP, or SL certification. Now, when you earn all three major certifications, PeopleCert/Axelos will automatically confer the title of ITIL Master for that achievement.
The PM focuses on the practices themselves and what makes them tick. For the professional without many other ITIL certifications hanging on the wall this is a wonderful way to dive deeply into the nuts and bolts of ITIL. For these reasons, it is a great certification for line managers and SMEs.
If, on the other hand, you already have your MP and SL, then this is the track you need to obtain your ITIL Master. One single three-day course and exam and you earn the highest possible certification in the entire ITIL realm. Either way, ITIL’s new Practice Manager certainly deserves your consideration.