The Intermediate Level of ITIL® certification contains a number of educational modules that candidates are able to choose from, depending on their individual requirements. The intermediate modules are categorized into two main sections; Service Lifecycle, which involves a high level management focus across several ITIL® processes, and Service Capability, which gives the candidate specialized, process-level knowledge in one or more ITIL® processes.

A very common question many people have in their minds after doing their ITIL® V3 Foundation is which stream and which intermediate exam should they choose from? Should it be the Lifecycle Stream or Capability Stream? The next question that comes to one’s mind is “what’s the difference between the two Intermediate streams?” In other words, what are the differentiating factors of the two streams that one should consider while pursuing the intermediate level certification?

Let us find out in detail what the primary differences between the Lifecycle and the Capability Modules are. Let's begin with the Capability courses. The four Capability courses focus on executing and improving existing related processes. The syllabus is more prescriptive and covers a detailed view of the inputs, metrics, concepts, activities and outputs of each process. The target audience includes process managers, line managers and anyone who will execute the daily activities of one or more process. Capability courses are essentially upgraded equivalents to V2 Practitioner courses

• Operational Support and Analysis (OSA) = Support and Restore (IPSR) (Incident, Problem, Request, Event, Access, Functions) • Release, Control and Validation (RCV) = Release and Control (IPRC) (Change, Release, Configuration, Evaluation, Validation, Knowledge) • Service Offerings and Agreements (SOA) = Agree and Define (IPAD) (Service Portfolio, Service Level, Service Catalog, Financial, Supplier, Demand) • Planning, Protection and Optimization (PPO) = Plan and Improve (IPPI) (Security, Availability, Capacity, Continuity, Risk)

The five Lifecycle (Service Manager) modules are more strategic in nature and focus on implementing an entire stage of the Service Lifecycle. Lifecycle courses emphasize stage and process relationships, roles, responsibilities and implementation considerations. There is very little time spent on process activities. The target audience includes process owners, Lifecycle stage managers, ITSM implementation teams, consultants, stakeholders and anyone else involved in an ITSM project. The big advantage of the Lifecycle stream is that it is modular. In V2, the only option for advanced implementation certification is within the Service Manager course. However, with the modular Lifecycle stream, your business can get JIT or ‘just-in-time’ implementation education and certification while building credits towards the ITIL® Expert. So, if you have plans to implement Service Operation and Service Transition this year, your project stakeholders can take the Service Operation and Service Transition courses. It may be better that at least one individual from each organization take all of the Lifecycle courses in order to gain a ‘big picture’ view of the entire Service Lifecycle.

Both the Lifecycle as well as the Capability streams culminate in Managing Across the Lifecycle (MALC). The MALC certification exam is the final step to achieving ITIL® Expert. MALC looks at the dynamics of the Service Lifecycle with a strong emphasis on organizational change. The Difference between Lifecycle and the Capability Modules, point-wise:

The Lifecycle Stream
• It consists of Five Certifications; wherein each certification is based on one Service Lifecycle phase i.e. Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation & Continual Service Improvement.
• Lifecycle stream focuses on executing and implementing a complete stage of Service Lifecycle. Lifecycle lays emphasis on the phase, process relationships, roles, responsibilities and implementation considerations but it pays less attention to the processes.
• Lifecycle modules are meant for those who are responsible for ITSM implementation. If one’s role is more of strategic nature i.e., setting policies, managing the processes, and organizing for processes. The target audience for Lifecycle stream includes: CIOs, CTOs, Managers, Supervisory Staff, Team Leaders, Designers, Architects, Planners, IT Consultants, IT Audit Managers, IT Security Managers and ITSM trainers involved in the ongoing management, coordination and integration of operation activities within the Service Lifecycle.

The Capability Stream
• It consists of Four Certifications, which are process oriented and provide a deep understanding of the ITIL® processes and functions, how they are applied and how they act together.
• Capability stream focuses on improving & implementing existing related processes.
• The syllabus is more prescriptive and covers a detailed view of the inputs, activities, concepts, metrics and outputs of each process.
• Capability modules are meant for those that work “in” the processes and are responsible in carrying out the daily process activities. The target audience for Capability stream includes: Business Process Owners, Business Managers, and Operational Staff in Service Portfolio Management; Service Catalogue Management; Service Level Management; Demand Management; Supplier Management; Financial Management and Business Relationship Management.

Can you mix and match courses from both streams to earn enough credits for the ITIL® Expert? Yes that is possible, but if you are interested in achieving ITIL® Expert, you will need to ensure sufficient broad-based knowledge to succeed in MALC.

So, the choice between Lifecycle and Capability courses really depends on where you are in your ITSM journey and what you are trying to achieve in the short term.

In summary, Lifecycle courses are for those individuals working ‘on’ ITSM implementation and Capability courses are for those individuals working ‘in’ the daily process activities.