What is ITIL? Uses, Versions, Certifications and More

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What Is ITIL?

ITIL or Information Technology Infrastructure Library can be described as a library or a repository of volumes that describe a standard framework of best practices for delivering IT services. It includes a set of detailed practices for IT-related activities such as IT asset management and IT service management (ITSM) with the focus on aligning IT services with the business strategy and customer needs. The main goal of ITIL is to gain optimal value from IT services through better efficient and predictable service delivery.

What Is ITIL Used For?

ITIL is basically a set of practices that are used as a guide by groups to enhance the value of their services by solving business problems and adding business value instead of just focusing on improving IT capabilities. ITIL is a framework that is used by organizations of all sizes and missions. By equipping the service provider with a clear capability model, it helps align their efforts to changing business strategies and customer needs.

What Is the Main Goal of ITIL?

The ITIL framework typically consists of detailed methodologies, activities and standards. Digital-based enterprises have high expectations from their IT departments. By adopting ITIL procedures and practices across their service value chain, businesses can efficiently meet the unique needs of a digital-first workplace.

Where Did ITIL Come From?

The inception of ITIL dates back to the end of the 1980s when a government agency in Great Britain called Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) introduced the framework. CCTA was commissioned to combat the problem of poor-quality IT services being procured by the British Government. There was a need to find a methodology that could help achieve better quality at a lower cost.

As such, the CCTA developed a set of recommendations to ensure effective and efficient provisioning of IT services for a fraction of the cost. These recommendations transformed into a catalog of best practices (which is known today as ITIL) that IT organizations started making efficient use of.

Before the advent of ITIL, IT organizations were mostly driven by a focus on hardware, software and other technologies, rather than by the needs of their customers. That said, the major premise behind ITIL is that a company should align its IT services with the needs of the clients and that the company should have explicit agreement on the services being delivered to their customers. There should be clearly defined responsibilities and effective processes to ensure service provision within the organization.

While doing its research on the subject, the CCTA discovered that the primary requirements of all businesses, regardless of their industry sector or size, were mostly similar to one another. As such, the recommendations in the ITIL are applicable to organizations of all sizes and types.

How Many Versions of ITIL Are There?

Now that we know when ITIL came into existence, let’s take a look at the various stages it underwent and how it evolved through the decades to what it is today.

ITIL – As noted above, the first version of ITIL came into being at the end of the 1980s. It was then referred to as the GITIM or Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management. With the focus of offering better delivery and support, ITIL was widely adopted across both government and private sector organizations across Europe. ITIL comprised a catalog of 30 volumes aimed at providing IT best practices. By the early 1990s, ITIL was already on its way to transform the face of IT in the UK, Europe and across countries around the world.

ITIL v2 – In 2000, the first major change occurred in ITIL and Microsoft adopted ITIL as the foundation for their Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF). ITIL was now ITIL v2, which was more driven towards making ITIL more accessible to the masses. The 30-volume catalog was now segregated into nine categories. Over the next couple of years, ITIL graduated into the most widely used ITSM tool in the world.

ITIL v3 – To make ITIL more user-friendly, the ITIL Glossary was introduced in 2006. The third version of ITIL, called ITIL v3, was published in 2007. This version emphasized IT business integration around the concept of service lifestyle structure. In the third version of ITIL, 26 processes/functions were condensed into five volumes. In 2011, a revised version of the ITIL 2007 version was again released by AXELOS Ltd. with the aim to resolve the inconsistencies and errors with v3.

ITIL 4 – Finally, the version that is widely used today, ITIL 4, launched in 2019. This version is more focused on providing practical guidance on the usage of ITIL, specifically in collaborative environments. As such, it is easier for companies to align ITIL 4 with Agile, DevOps and Lean work methods. The ITIL 4 is more inclusive for modern digital environments.

Who Uses ITIL?

ITIL is designed in such as way that it can benefit any organization that provides ITSM services or products irrespective of its size and industry. More and more organizations will be adopting ITIL 4 in 2021. ITIL finds widespread application across various industries and sectors across the globe including:

  • Small, medium and large companies
  • Educational institutions and universities
  • Local, state and national governments
  • Non-governmental organizations

Why Is ITIL Popular?

For more than three decades, ITIL has grown in popularity and has been widely adopted by organizations worldwide. Here are some of the reasons why companies of all sizes follow the ITIL framework:

  • Because ITIL processes and procedures form a proven and established framework, businesses find it reliable and less risky while applying it to their IT processes. This widely accepted approach helps businesses mitigate and manage risks while driving growth and innovation.
  • Following the ITIL framework helps businesses attain IT stability. This results in fewer business disruptions for the team and also the company. In the event of the IT team facing any hurdles, the procedures and processes outlined in the ITIL framework can be very useful in resolving issues. In addition, the ITIL framework helps IT professionals plan better and maintain a healthy level of accountability and transparency in their day-to-day activities.
  • Hiring ITIL-certified professionals can be a lucrative prospect for businesses in the long run. A specialized professional can guarantee a sustainable fix to your IT problems and help reduce the probability of potential downtime owing to recurring IT issues.

What Percentage of Companies Use ITIL?

A study by ITSM Tools reveals that nearly 53% of companies have either already adopted or are adopting parts of ITIL, or are planning to adopt parts of it in the near future.

What Is ITIL Certification?

ITIL certification typically comprises a series of qualifications that are aimed to provide an individual with an understanding of the different ITIL best practices to various degrees of detail and depth of knowledge. ITIL certification offers a tiered qualification structure with optimum flexibility to learn the various disciplines of ITIL depending on areas of interest. Professionals with ITIL certifications are deemed to be well-versed in ITSM best practices and can help businesses optimize IT, save time, avoid re-work and reduce waste.

Who Needs ITIL Certification?

Over the years, ITIL has emerged as the leading framework for ITSM. That said, IT practitioners around the world continue to enroll for ITIL certification programs in a bid to improve their career prospects through an in-depth understanding of driving business value with IT best practices. ITIL certification helps professionals not only develop a comprehensive understanding of the ITIL framework and global ITSM standards but also acquire a strong skill set that makes them more desirable in the employment market.

Do ITIL Certifications Expire?

ITIL certifications do not expire. This implies that once acquired, the ITIL certification stays valid throughout the lifetime of the certificate holder.

ITIL v3 vs. ITIL 4

Over time ITIL has evolved and added facets to its framework, but these days it’s all about ITIL v3 and the new ITIL 4 standard. In order to better understand the two versions, let’s discuss some of the key differences between ITIL v3 and ITIL 4.

Service Lifecycle vs. Service Value System

A fundamental difference between ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 is that while the former is characterized by the service lifecycle, the latter is based on the service value system. The processes included in ITIL v3 are dispersed across the five stages of the service lifecycle, namely:

  • Service Design
  • Service Strategy
  • Service Operation
  • Service Transition
  • Continual Service Improvement

On the other hand, ITIL 4 is based on the service value system that makes it more geared towards practical value and productivity as compared to the third version’s service-centered approach.

Processes vs. Practices

ITIL v3 was built around 26 documented processes that fell within the five stages of the service lifecycle listed above. ITIL 4 is built around 34 practices that fall under 3 categories of ITIL Management Practices (listed below).

ITIL v3 processes are basically a set of activities that flow along with information regarding metrics, suggested roles and other process-related information. Here is a table to outline the 26 documented processes of ITIL v3.

5 Stages of Service Lifecycle  ITIL v3 Processes 
Service Strategy
  • Strategy Management
  • Demand Management
  • Service Portfolio Management
  • Financial Management
  • Business Relationship Management
Service Design
  • Service Catalog Management
  • Availability Management
  • Information Security Management
  • Service Level Management
  • Capacity Management
  • Design Coordination
  • Supplier Management
  • IT Service Continuity Management
Service Transition
  • Transition Planning and Support
  • Change Management
  • Change Evaluation
  • Release and Deployment Management
  • Service Assets & Configuration Management
  • Service Validation and Testing
  • Knowledge Management
Service Operation
  • Access Management
  • Event Management
  • Service Request Fulfillment
  • Incident Management
  • Problem Management
Continual Service Improvement The Seven-Step Improvement

On the other hand, ITIL 4 comprises of practices that refer to something that you can perform with the right resources at hand.

As opposed to ITIL v3 processes that were focused only on managing IT services, the management practices of ITIL 4 are more expansive in their focus and include other aspects such as data management, technology and culture as well. The ITIL 4 practices stem from the understanding that today’s organizations are more diverse and dynamic in nature. The practices of ITIL 4 are categorized as:

  • General management practices
  • Service management practices
  • Technical management practices

This table highlights the various ITIL 4 practices.

Categories of Practices  ITIL 4 Practices 
General Management Practices
  • 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
Service Management Practices
  • Availability Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Capacity and Performance Management
  • Change Control
  • Incident Management
  • IT Asset Management
  • Monitoring and Event Management
  • Problem Management
  • Release Management
  • Service Catalog Management
  • Service Configuration Management
  • Service Continuity Management
  • Service Design
  • Service Desk
  • Service Level Management
  • Service Request Management
  • Service Validation and Testing
Technical Management Practices
  • Deployment Management
  • Infrastructure and Platform Management
  • Software Development and Management

4Ps vs. 4 Dimensions

The four provisions or 4Ps of service design in ITIL v3 are:

  • People
  • Process
  • Product
  • Partners

In ITIL 4, these four provisions were upgraded to four dimensions that outlined a more practical approach toward service management. The four dimensions of ITIL 4 are:

  • Organizations and people
  • Information and technology
  • Partners and suppliers
  • Value streams and processes

Certification Levels

There are five certification levels for ITIL v3.

  • ITIL v3 Foundation
  • ITIL Practitioner
  • ITIL Intermediate (Service Lifecycle and Service Capability categories)
  • ITIL Expert
  • ITIL Master

On the other hand, there are only four certification levels for ITIL 4.

  • ITIL Foundation
  • ITIL Managing Professional
  • ITIL Strategic Leader
  • ITIL Master

What Makes ITIL 4 More Viable?

As mentioned, ITIL 4 is an upgraded version of ITIL v3. As such, it comprises more enhanced strategic elements that are better aligned with the unique ITSM requirements of modern businesses. ITIL 4 helps in establishing more effective ITSM processes by providing an end-to-end operating model for the development, delivery and continuous improvement of technology-enabled services and products.

The 34 practices of ITIL 4 render it more straightforward and practical for businesses to adopt a flexible environment. Providing a holistic approach to service management, ITIL 4 is designed to fit the needs of modern businesses by supporting a slew of next-gen technologies such as automation, AI, biotechnology, and IoT.

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