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What Is ITIL?

ITIL is a widely recognised source of best practice for IT service management (ITSM). It was originally developed by the UK government in the 1980s, with the goal of improving the quality of IT-enabled services and IT projects. Nowadays it is adopted by many organizations globally, both in the public and private sectors. [1]

ITIL does not say what must be done in a service provider organization. Instead, it is a framework that organizations can adopt and adapt to improve the way they deliver their IT-enabled services. Organizations can adopt and adapt the elements of ITIL that work for them and their customers. That means that ITIL can be adopted by all types and sizes of organizations. [1]

Evolution of ITIL

The earliest versions of ITIL were focused on service support and service delivery. In 2011 an update to version 3 was published – this was based around a service lifecycle that included service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement.

The newest version, ITIL 4 (released in 2019), has evolved to a value system focused approach – organizations must concentrate more on how to co-create value with internal/external customers, instead of concentrating only on technology. An important aspect of ITIL 4 is also that it can be integrated with other management practices and ways of working, such as Agile and DevOps. [1]

Main Components of ITIL 4

The key components of the ITIL 4 framework are the ITIL service value system (SVS) and the four dimensions model. [2] Below you can find a high-level description of these key components.

ITIL Service Value System (SVS)

The ITIL service value system describes how all the components and activities of the organization work together as a system, enabling value creation. It defines six key components:

Core components

  • Service value chain: plan, improve, engage, design and transition, obtain/build, deliver and support.
  • Key inputs to the service value system and its output. The key inputs to the service value system are opportunities to add value and demand. Value, in turn, is the outcome.

Supporting and enabling components

  • The ITIL guiding principles. Adjustable set of eight guiding principles, for example ‘Focus on value’ or ‘Think and work holistically’.
  • Continual improvement. A simple and practical improvement model which applies to all components of the service value system.
  • Governance. Governance refers to the means by which an organization is directed and controlled.
  • Practices. The ITIL service value system includes 34 practices (see the section ‘ITIL Management Practices’ below).

Four Dimensions of Service Management

Each component of the service value system above (and all services being managed), should be considered from the point of view of the following four dimensions:

  • Organizations and people. The roles, responsibilities, and systems of authority and communication etc. should be well defined and support the overall strategy.
  • Information and technology. The information and knowledge necessary for the management of services and the technologies required.
  • Partners and suppliers. The organization’s relationships with other organizations and contracts and other agreements between the organization and its partners and suppliers.
  • Value streams and processes. ITIL provides an adjustable operating model, the ITIL value chain, that covers all the key activities required to manage products and services effectively (see the section ‘The ITIL Service Value System’ above).

External Factors

The four dimensions above are constrained or influenced by several external factors. To analyse these factors, frameworks such as the PESTLE model (political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental factors) can be used.

ITIL Management Practices

One component of the ITIL Service Value System (SVS) described above was Practices. These are devided in three groups:

14 general management practices have been adopted and adapted from general business management domains.

  • Architecture management
  • Continual improvement
  • Information security management
  • Knowledge management
  • Measurement and reporting
  • Organizational change management
  • Portfolio management
  • Project management
  • Relationship management
  • Risk management
  • Service financial management
  • Strategy management
  • Supplier management
  • Workforce and talent management

17 service management practices have been developed in service management and IT service management industries.

  • Availability management
  • Business analysis
  • Capacity and performance management
  • Change control
  • Incident management
  • IT asset management
  • Monitoring and event management
  • Problem management
  • Release management
  • Service catalogue management
  • Service configuration management
  • Service continuity management
  • Service design
  • Service desk
  • Service level management
  • Service request management
  • Service validation and testing

3 technical management practices have been adapted from technology management domains.

  • Deployment management
  • Infrastructure and platform management
  • Software development and management

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  • Agutter, Claire (2020). ITIL® 4 Essentials: Your Essential Guide for the ITIL 4 Foundation Exam and Beyond (Second Edition). IT Governance Publishing.
  • Axelos (2019). ITIL® Foundation ITIL 4 Edition.