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ITIL 4 for undergraduates: developing tomorrow’s IT professionals

Undergraduates studying in a library

University graduates going into IT need to be better prepared than they’ve ever been before, with a different understanding of IT and technology management.

The further we go down the path of cloud and IT maturity, the less important technical skills are. Instead, service management is the common factor for companies delivering services and this is why it’s smart that ITIL® 4 has broadened the framework to make an explicit connection with service, value and the customer.

Students studying ITIL 4 Foundation – as they do now at Texas A&M University (TAMU) – come away having both technical skills and knowing how to talk to customers, sponsors and how to frame strategy and manage vendors.

Before we incorporated ITIL into our Technology Management Programme, our graduates would be technically competent but then they’d need to get additional training later. So, having it as part of the curriculum is now an advantage for them in the job market.

So, recognizing the value of ITIL certification at undergraduate level is not about becoming a trade school but preparing students for their future jobs.

Studying IT at university – then and now

For a long time, US universities have taught technology management primarily as the functional disciplines of IT. What they haven’t focused on were the non-technical elements necessary for success, including customer service, product development and service/strategy development.

There is a disconnect between IT as an academic pursuit and the reality of the situation in business.

In my 30 years as an IT manager, I learned about ITIL best practices as the missing piece – the “secret sauce” – for being successful in IT. So, when the faculty approached me about how to ensure our Technology Management programme was more in touch with what graduates need to get employment, I thought “IT service management and ITIL”.

After we introduced ITSM and ITIL to the faculty a lightbulb went on and this led us to incorporate ITIL 4 certification into the curriculum for the first time.

For comprehensiveness, ITIL is the leader in this area but that doesn’t mean we don’t look at other topics, such as DevOps and Lean, which are also incorporated in ITIL 4.

Practical application of ITIL 4 guidance

Along with studying and certifying in ITIL 4 during our programme’s final course (known as the Capstone course), we set up a project-based learning experience to give our students an opportunity to solve a real IT problem.

As CIO for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute with connections to IT professionals across our university system, I solicit process and practice improvement projects for students to help with. These cover ITIL practices such as incident, problem, change, asset, and business relationship management.

This offers students a project-based learning experience and takes inspiration from the Lean Six Sigma DMAIC process for improvement: documenting a process as it is, then analyzing it and making recommendations based on ITIL best practices to improve the process.

It’s a win-win situation, for both the students and the IT organizations getting free help for a particular area.

Working in IT = customer service

Introducing ITIL 4 at TAMU has infused its best practices in our institution.

There are now enquiries from practising IT professionals across the TAMU system to take the certification themselves.

For our students, studying ITIL 4 is giving them an edge over other new graduates and the preliminary data about employability outcomes is already looking promising.

The first thing they have now is a common vocabulary with IT professionals, making them immediately easier to work with. And they also understand that their role is not just about technology skills, but their relationship with customers. We’re really in the customer service business and ITIL helps focus them on that.

Current rating: 5 (3 ratings)


4 May 2021 David Barrow CITP MBCS
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Dr David, this is a fantastic article and so true.

I also agree on ITSM being the 'secret sauce' I've often referred to it as the glue that brings things together - however, I'll use 'sauce' as an analogy from now on as it's a great way to introduce continual improvement :-).

Thanks for a great article.
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