ITSM Roadmap to become a Subject Matter Expert

ServiceNow is about “Making Work Flows”, which can also be described as optimisation of enterprise processes. Since it provides specialised solutions dedicated to specific business domains, it could make sense to select a matching specialisation for your own career.

This is the first a series of articles about valuable learning paths to grow or evolve your current position as a ServiceNow Specialist, and today we’re focussing on the specialisation roadmap for IT Service Management experts.

Defining some Vocabulary

There are many kinds of experts… A specialist is focusing in at least one domain. It doesn’t automatically mean that the person has extensive knowledge of it. Beginners can specialise, as everyone else.

An Expert is an experienced specialist, and for that person to be a good expert, he or she will need an history of successful projects.

Many of us have achieved ServiceNow certifications, like Certified ServiceNow Administrator, or one of the Implementation Specialists. Those certifications are nice tools to validate your technical knowledge, but they mostly ignore the business, or functional side of a domain.

This is why projects also need business specialists, who have knowledge relevant to the processes being implemented. The Process Owner is one of them.

Having both Business and Technical specialists is a requirement for successful ServiceNow implementations.

Having specialists, does not mean they are good. How can the Process Owner know that the proposed technical solution is optimal? How can an implementer assess the efficiency of the requested process?

The ideal solution would be to have someone who knows the technical aspects of the Now platform and combine that with relevant business experience. That kind of experts will bring tremendous value to projects. This is the definition of a Subject Matter Expert.

Take-Away Idea: To become a Subject Matter Expert in a domain, you need both Technical and Business knowledge.

SME will be able to challenge customers as consultant: they will understand the customer’s problems, suggest transformative solutions and communicate using concepts familiar to the customer.

A Subject Matter Expert is a full-stack specialist: Mastering the skills and knowledges, technical or not, that are relevant to the conduct of his trade. If required, the SME can replace most other specialists on a projects.

Why specialise?

You can choose to stay passive, and consider that you’ve reached the peak of your professional career, or you can apply the ITIL notion of Continuous Improvement to yourself. This is your decision. If you decide to learn more, then you can go wider or deeper.

In the “wider” approach, you try to add news skills to yours, and learn enough to become a wider generalist, going the jack-of-all-trades route.

In the “deeper” track, you increase your mastery of your skills collection, to become a better expert.

Both approaches are sound strategies to make yourself more attractive in a competitive market. You can also that an hybrid approach, like me, going wide, but keeping some deep areas of expertise. This article focus on the “deeper” track for IT Service Management specialists.

What is an Advanced Learning Path?

ServiceNow provides a dozen of specialized implementation certifications. Those cover some dedicated domains of the Now platform like IT Service Management, Human Resources, Financials and IT security operations… yet, they only cover technical aspects.

I want to present you how to pair those with business certifications, as to cover the missing half. Getting those certifications will help you increase your skillset and reach an expert level in the targeted domain.

Many of those new ServiceNow solutions suffer from a lack of experts in the market. Therefore, those specialisations and skills could be an ideal roadmap for your professional development.

Using Certifications as Milestones

In this article, you’ll see me frequently mentioning “certifications”… Please do not see them as standalone goals, but as easy knowledge milestones for your own career. Achieving those certifications is optional, and can be expensive, but you should aim for an equivalent level of knowledge.

Certified ServiceNow Administrator is the baseline to prove that you have a good basic understanding of the technical features of the Now Platform, therefore it should be considered as the first step to all of my ServiceNow specialised learning paths.

Each learning path will be presented in a logical order of progression, from the easiest to the hardest certifications, with a scale of 1 to 4. (⭐-⭐⭐⭐⭐)

I’ll focus on two kinds of certifications:
🛠️ Technical: Specific to the Now Platform
👔 Business: Specific to a functional domain

Let’s Start with CSA

Large parts of that article were created for a conference I gave during Knowledge 2020.

🛠️ ⭐ Certified ServiceNow Administrator (CSA) demonstrates that a successful candidate has the skills and essential knowledge to contribute to the configuration, implementation, and maintenance of the ServiceNow system. Successfully passing this Certification exam also establishes a set of skills necessary to continue in the ServiceNow Certification paths. It is a prerequisite for advanced courses. Ideally, 3-6 months of ServiceNow experience is suggested before taking this certification. To register for the exam, you can purchase the ServiceNow Fundamentals instructor-led 3 day course. Autodidacts should try the great on-demand version freely available at Now Learning.
This 90 minute exam contains 60 questions.

I’ll list typical classroom time, when available, not as a suggestion to enrol in a course, but to give you a raw approximation of the topic’s width.

Specialising in IT Service Management

The CSA certification focus purely the technical aspect of the Now platform, if you want to specialise in IT Service Management there are business certifications that focus on the functional aspect of that domain, focussing on processes, instead of tools and platforms.

The learning path that is already familiar to most ServiceNow technicians, is the ITSM. It’s also the only one where ServiceNow requires Certified Implementation Specialists to pass a third-party business certification: ITIL. ITSM is typically used by IT Service Desks, and it’s the historical core business of ServiceNow. The Now platform has been built with ITIL its in DNA.

👔 ⭐ ITIL Foundation v4 is a very common ITSM certification, often required for anyone working in a Service Desk. A typical classroom will take 2 days, but there a ton of cheap training material available online. The 1h exam contains 40 questions with a 65% passing score.

🛠️ ⭐⭐ CIS-ITSM is ServiceNow Certified Implementation Specialist for IT Service Management exam. A prior ITIL foundation certification is required (but not verified). Typical classroom will take 4 days, but low-cost alternatives are available on Udemy. The 1h30 exam contains 65 questions.
> I wrote a whole article dedicated to the CIS-ITSM exam.

👔 ⭐⭐ ITIL 4 Managing Professional is the first one that is not included in the ServiceNow learning path. ITIL Foundation was surface level knowledge, and now you’re aiming for a more detailed level of knowledge. It has been created for IT practitioners and provides practical and technical knowledge about how to run successful IT enabled services, teams and workflows. The certification requires 4 individual exams, each 60min with 40 questions.

🛠️ ⭐⭐⭐ ITSM Pro Suite certification is a collection of three micro-certifications dedicated to modern solution to advanced features: Predictive Intelligence, Performance Analytics & Virtual Agent. The courses are free, and it took me about three days to covers everything. The exams use task based, and they require you to configure each products in a simulated environments.

👔 ⭐⭐⭐ ITIL 4 Strategic Leader certification recognizes the value of ITIL, not just for IT operations, but for all digitally-enabled services. Becoming an ITIL 4 Strategic Leader demonstrates that the you have a clear understanding of how IT influences and directs business strategy. The certification requiers 2 individual exams, each 60min with 40 questions.

👔 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ITIL 4 Master is an advanced certification that encompasses the breadth and depth of ITIL processes and practices across all ITIL disciplines. This is the ultimate ITSM certification. The exam it is more like doing a thesis so you must be able to explain how and why your company has chosen to adopt, adapt and implement core ITIL concepts within the workplace across the entire service lifecycle.

Will you become a Subject Matter Expert? I certainly hope so!

I’m a ServiceNow Master Architect, and Security expert, but my curiosity made me explore quite a numbers of domains thru the years. I spent seven years as a teacher and this may explain why I’m passionate about knowledge transmission and continuous learning.

I’ve developed pre-sales and delivery experts, mentoring and training ServiceNow specialists across the world for since 2011. I’m the European Lead Architect for the Accenture Integrated Risk Management practice.

I’m currently growing an elite team of ServiceNow Subject Matter Experts dedicated to GRC, SecOps, Data Privacy, Business continuity and Operational resilience. The next article in this series will describe the relevants learning paths, but If you want to work with me, feel free to contact me via mail. To prove that you’re an human being, you’ll have to decipher my email from that picture.

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