Should CIOs be certified?

A Canadian consulting firm wants to turn a well-known set of IT best practices into an industry-standard training program that would become a common certification requirement for chief information officers.

Pink Elephant,

based in Burlington, Ont., is in the process of rolling out the second level in its IT Executive Management Certification Program, which was launched last year in conjunction with the IT Executive Forum in Toronto. The courses are based on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which were developed by the United Kingdom’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency in the mid-1980s. ITIL, which is maintained and developed by Netherlands-based National Exam Institute for Informatics, is composed of several books on which the Pink Elephant program has been developed. These include The Business Perspective, Understanding and Improving in Times of Change and Surviving IT Infrastructure Change. The four-level program, which ends with an IT Executive Management Masters Certification, also draws upon university professors, guest lecturers and Pink Elephant’s own findings or case studies.

“”More and more, there is a growing trend towards CIO certification in general, and there are very few programs available out there,”” says Lou Cino, the company’s vice-president and CFO. “”We need to gain a lot more awareness in the industry. It’s very similar when ITIL was introduced into North America. It was a very new concept in the market.””

Bill Chestnutt, director of information management at Edmonton-based continuing health-care provider Good Samaritan Society, is among the approximately 100 people to pass Level One of the Pink Elephant Program. A former engineer, Chestnutt says he was surprised by the lack of certification and standardization of processes when he entered IT.

“”Every time you hired a different consultant, you were dealing with a different methodology,”” he says. “”You have to learn new terminology and new processes. Now that we’re developing our own internal organization and our own staff, we’re hiring people that have been trained in those different methodologies.””

Chestnutt has just recruited two business systems analysts. As part of the process he asked them before the interview if they had ITIL awareness or training. Either way, he told them they should be prepared to answer questions about it.

“”If we can adopt it as an industry, it can eventually reduce my training costs,”” he says.

Level One of the Pink Elephant program is a three-day course with an exam at the end. Level Two is a little more intensive: a seven-day residential at an off-site venue that would include comprehensive group and individual assignments. Level three and four include more individual assignments where students have to conduct an analysis of processes within their own organizations and then have Pink Elephant consultants audit that work.

Despite the time commitment involved, Cino says CIOs and senior IT managers will gain a broader understanding of the links between IT and corporate strategy while developing or enhancing their executive leadership skills.

“”IT, I think, traditionally has been looked upon as a back room function,”” he says. “”There is a heightened awareness on the need of a strong IT department and a strong IT department or CIO.””

Chestnutt says the program has helped him realize ITIL is not suited solely for large organizations. Already, he says, using common terminology based on ITIL has improved service levels and reduced duplication of effort. People within the Good Samaritan Society no longer refer to IT “”problems,”” which suggests something fundamentally wrong with the system, but “”incidents,”” where the system can merely be improved. IT staff are also keeping better track of incidents, he adds, and not merely responding to tasks scrawled on the department’s white boards.

“”The yellow stickies were creeping in,”” he said, referring to Post-It Notes. “”I’m on the phone, I write out on a yellow sticker, I stick it on the white board, it drops off and gets picked up by the vacuum. It sounds silly, but that must have happened to a couple of things, because the job wasn’t done.””

Cino said it would probably take more than a year to complete all four levels of the program. Pink Elephant plans to roll out Level Two by the end of the third quarter of this year, with the final levels offered sometime next year.


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