The ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a strategic approach or guidance geared towards improving overall organization services by focusing on improving IT capabilities, co-creating business values, and solving business problems. ITIL’s systematic approach to IT service management (ITSM) can enable businesses to build robust IT environments for growth, scale, and change. In addition, ITIL helps businesses strengthen customer relations, establish cost-effective practices and manage risks.
What is ITIL?
IT infrastructure library (ITIL) is documentation that describes a framework designed to standardize the planning, selection, execution or delivery, and maintenance of IT services within a business organization. The framework aims to improve operational efficiency and achieve quality service delivery by enabling IT administrators to be business service partners rather than back-end support.
Started in 1980 by the United Kingdom’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), now the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). The framework has, over time, been transformed through various levels of iteration to meet the challenges of modern ITSM.
ITIL v1: The first iteration was released by Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management (GITIM) in 1989. ITIL v1 provides organizations an overview of how to streamline IT services. This enables admins to start thinking about best practices.
ITIL v2: This second iteration was released by OGC in 2000. It offers a more uniform and applicable service delivery structure and support. In addition, it introduces actual processes for organizations to follow.
ITIL v3: Released in 2007, this third iteration provides a broader perspective on IT service delivery with relevant guidelines and continuous service improvement. Its framework of core concept publications encompasses best practices in each key phase of the ITSM. Some of the core concepts are:
- Service strategy: Details how to align business goals and customer requirements
- Service design: Outline best practices for creating IT policies, architecture, and documentation.
- Service transition: Give insight into change management and release practices.
- Service operations: Details how to properly manage daily, monthly, or yearly IT operations
- Continual service improvement: Discusses the best approach to improvement or updates.
ITIL 4: This is the latest iteration and was released in 2019 by Axelos—a global best practice company currently overseeing the development of ITIL. It is designed to help admins navigate the fourth industrial revolution by providing precise and well-defined guidance on IT management’s role in the service economy.
Features and how ITIL works
At its core, the ITIL framework is designed to ensure businesses optimize IT service delivery to the best of their capabilities.
Each certification level in an iteration is broken down into modules which are further broken down into more minor phases. Each phase is then broken down into processes that may also contain smaller steps. The latest iteration of the framework—ITIL 4—is focused on creating and managing IT products and services within an environment of continuous improvement.
To achieve this goal, the framework takes a comprehensive overview of modern IT service management (ITSM), encompassing key elements like digital transformation, IT governance, cloud systems, value streams, and more.
The ITIL 4 is an improvement on how ITIL v3 functions with few updates and replacements. For instance, the ITIL Service Management Lifecycle (SML) was replaced with the ITIL Service Value System (SVS)—a model designed to facilitate the creation, delivery, and continual improvement of IT services. The primary component of the SVS is the ITIL Service Value Chain (SVC) which delivers services through six key activities:
- Obtain and Build
- Design and Transition
- Deliver and Support
The SVS facilitates the creation of streams suitable for specific purposes. Each stream contains guidelines designed to produce specific or desirable results. Nevertheless, the system is non-prescriptive and can be adapted to suit different organizations, input or output.
ITIL’s Four Dimensions helps balance the key SVS elements taking into consideration the multiple elements of modern ITSM, instead of just focusing on technical aspects alone. These dimensions are flexible, enabling organizations to drive seamless improvements. They include:
- Organization and people
- Information and technology
- Partners and suppliers
- Value streams and processes
Despite its broad approach, the ITIL framework remains very flexible and adaptable to suit the operational requirements of various organizations. For example, ITIL 4 supports newer approaches or frameworks like Agile, DevOps, Containers, Cloud, Lean, etc. It also emphasizes IT service management integration with other business aspects.
Who uses ITIL?
Any organization that provides an IT service management (ITSM) product or service can leverage ITIL to enjoy benefits like reduced costs, faster service delivery, and more.
ITIL is employed by various global organizations encompassing government parastatals, non-governmental organizations, small, medium, and mega-corporations, and more.
Some organizations that use ITIL and the specific industries they serve include:
- Municipal, local, and state government, e.g., The City of Pittsburg.
- Federal government agencies, e.g., Internal Revenue Services (IRS), Department of Interior, etc.
- Insurance and financial service sectors, e.g., Mercantile banks, LV, etc.
- Universities, colleges, and other learning institutions, e.g., Newcastle University, University of Oxford, and more.
- Media and entertainment industries, e.g., Walt Disney, Spotify, etc.
- Energy, e.g., Calpine Corporations, Equinor, etc.
- Healthcare sectors, e.g., Cincinnati Children’s Medical Hospital and more.
- Research institutes, e.g., CERN.
- Telecommunication industries, e.g., Vodafone.
- Defense, e.g., BAE Systems and Royal Navy.
- Business service providers and communication, e.g., Amadeus, Intrinsic, etc.
- Computer system providers, e.g., Aquila Hollywood.
Benefits of ITIL
ITIL benefits businesses in the following ways:
- Provides a service environment that is flexible and adaptable to changes
- Makes for an improved, efficient and professional service delivery which enhances customers satisfaction
- Enables maximum resource utilization, thereby reducing operational costs and improving efficiency
- Streamlines service disruption response and management
- Offers improved IT services at reduced cost using proven best practice processes
- Boosts productivity.
For the employees and any other ITIL certificate holder:
- Makes for improved uses of skills and experience. In addition, it increases your competitive advantage in the labor market since companies are more likely to recruit ITIL certificate holders.
Tips to remember before adopting ITIL
If you’re planning to adopt the ITIL framework, take note of the following.
- Understand that the framework is a means to an end and not an end by itself. That is, the framework should be viewed from a theoretical perspective rather than a best practice or a goal.
- Avoid diving right into the theories. Your everyday practice is a good starting point. For each stage of the framework, employ practical problems when applying them.
- Be decisive and definitive of the processes you need and set priorities accordingly.
- Additionally, understanding that low priorities don’t imply that a process is irrelevant. For instance, setting low priority for service catalog in the service design lifecycle phase is less important.
- Avoid overestimating your organization’s maturity. There is always room for improvement, even in apex organizations. Rather than rushing to implement ITIL, you can focus on those areas that need improvement.