ITIL, The Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is part of a suite of best-practice publications that explain the IT Service Management Framework (ITSM) — how to deliver and manage IT services in an organization in a way that best meets the expectations of the business and the customer.
ITIL stresses "Best Practice" in delivering IT services. "Best Practice" is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to consistently and reliably lead to a desired result — hence its use as a benchmark. ITIL checks all the boxes when it comes to ITSM, with more than 25 years of extensive investment in understanding and improving on the best methods, processes and ideas for the delivery of IT services.
Originally developed in the late 1980s, ITIL was an initiative of the government of the United Kingdom. The Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) — since renamed Office of Government Commerce (OGC) — was tasked with investigating how the government could address the lack of quality in procured IT services, as well as manage associated costs.
Four iterations later, the current version of ITIL (2011) was born. In 2013, OGC went into partnership with Capita plc to form AXELOS, a joint venture to market and manage the best practice portfolio on behalf of OGC.
The ITIL framework provides guidance on IT service delivery based on five stages of the service lifecycle, set forth in five core publications:
- ITIL Service Strategy
- ITIL Service Design
- ITIL Service Transition
- ITIL Service Operation
- ITIL Continual Service Improvement
Under these lifecycle stages, ITIL describes 26 processes and four functions which go into detail about how IT service providers can deliver and manage IT services with regard to purpose, objectives, value to business, policies and principles, activities, triggers, inputs and outputs, challenges, risks, roles and responsibilities.
ITIL is the world's most widely used ITSM framework. It provides guidance to service providers on the provision of quality IT services, and on the processes, functions and other capabilities needed to support them.
Practitioners utilize the techniques, processes and functions described in ITIL publications to discover and implement the best ways to organize IT structures and deliver IT services. Utilizing ITIL's best-practices enables an entity to reap the benefits of high-service availability and performance, improved customer satisfaction, better cost management and faster time to deliver new services.
Benefits of ITIL
ITIL's main takeaway is that IT service providers should view their offerings from a customer or user's perspective. They should always ask how these services can best be delivered to meet customer and user requirements in order to achieve their desired outcomes. There are many benefits to utilizing ITIL. The more prominent ones include:
- Alignment of IT with the current and future business needs
- Ability to negotiate realistic service levels at acceptable costs
- Ability to develop predictable and consistent processes
- Ability to achieve greater efficiency via well-defined processes and documented accountability
- Ability to measure and track the improvement of services and processes
- Ability to develop maintain and share a common language of terms
ITIL's "adopt and adapt" policy means that the best practices described can be contextualized to any organization based on its size, needs and capabilities. A company shouldn't be seeking to implement ITIL for what it is, but rather implement ITSM using ITIL guidance in a manner that meets their needs and desired outcomes.
Thousands of companies of all sizes, and across all industries, currently utilize ITIL. These companies include technology firms, retail giants, entertainment conglomerates, financial services firms, and manufacturers. As a framework, ITIL is easily adaptable to any organization as way to help it achieve desired outcomes.
ITIL training and certification qualifies individuals working for IT service providers to understand best-practices for strategizing, designing, transitioning, operating, and improving IT services that meet the needs of their organizations, users and customers. It also trains IT personnel to understand the need to work together to achieve business outcomes, by enabling business change, managing risk and optimizing customer experience.
An IT department that understands ITIL speaks a common language, understands interdependencies between teams and builds trust in the organization leading to higher probability of meeting goals and objectives.
ITIL training is structured in five certification levels:
Foundation — This is the entry level. It qualifies practitioners in the basics of ITIL elements, concepts, and terminology.
Practitioner — This newly available (as of this week) qualification is designed to improve an individual's ability to implement ITIL in their organizations.
Intermediate — This level is divided into two modules: Lifecycle and Capability. Each module has a different focus on ITSM and goes more in depth into ITIL aspects.
Expert — This qualification crosses the entire ITIL lifecycle. Credentialed individuals possess "well-rounded, superior knowledge and skills base in ITIL Best practices."
Master — This level is for individuals who have at least five years of experience in ITSM in leadership or managerial roles. Certification validates an individual's ability, based on the real-life experiences, to implement all ITIL concepts in an organization.
ITIL-related jobs and careers
As more companies of all sizes adopt and implement ITIL, job opportunities for certified individuals will continue to increase — as will salaries. Almost every job in today's IT world demands some knowledge in ITIL Foundation, due to the fact that it helps in the communication and understanding of IT processes.
Available jobs for ITIL-certified individuals include just about every IT service delivery position including: Service Desk and Change Management Analysts, System Administrators, Project Managers, Testers, Technical Support Analysts, Service and Business Relationship Managers, ITIL Process Managers, and CIOs. Apart from these roles, ITIL certification can also lead to other opportunities in IT Service Management training and consultancy.
ITIL-certified professional's typical work day
The single point of contact between providers and users of IT services is the Service Desk. A typical day for a Service Desk Analyst involves handling issues and requests raised by IT users.
ITIL certified professionals will most often be found designing, implementing and operating IT services. Typically they will deal with incidents and disasters as they arise while serving on project teams for new or changed services, or operations teams monitoring services.
Service or Process Managers are generally involved in analysing and reporting on the performance of the IT services or ITIL processes under their domain while Business Relationship Managers regularly liaison with customers to check if they are satisfied with IT services and relaying the same to IT personnel.
More popular outside the United States than inside
There continues to be significant growth in the uptake of ITIL worldwide. Thousands of multi-national organizations are utilizing ITIL including NASA, The Walt Disney Company, UNOPS, the Port of Rotterdam, HP, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, and the Australian national government, to name a few.
ITIL is currently more popular outside United States for one simple reason: It originated in the United Kingdom, and has since mostly been adopted by the English-speaking world where, not surprisingly, most U.K. companies have established subsidiaries.
A 2008 survey conducted by Dimension Data asked CIOs to give reasons for not implementing ITIL. The main barriers to wide-scale implementation were twofold: costs in time and money for training and certification, and the limited numbers of ITIL implementers. This seems to indicate that companies who want to follow global standards would most likely implement ITIL by the book. Stand-alone companies, or those working in a dynamic sector, want flexibility and will not look at ITIL because they view it more as instructional rather than as a business framework.
While ITIL hasn't been as strongly advocated in the United States, implementation is increasing. Although U.S. companies sometimes will not directly say they've adopted ITIL word-for-word, investigations show that some of ITIL's best-practice elements are being regularly implemented on a piecemeal basis. Amazon and eBay, for example, have both pursued this "adopt and adapt" approach.
A quick internet search reveals that an increasing number of American universities and private companies have implemented ITIL, as well as the U.S. Army, Navy and the Internal Revenue Service. It is anticipated that, over time, more U.S. companies will realize the benefits of adopting ITIL for their operations.
ITIL = Work smarter, not harder
ITIL is an internationally recognized set of ITSM best practices, guidelines applicable and adaptable for any organization's ITSM delivery in a way that best meets business and customer needs.
It's been said that, "A fool with a tool is still a fool." Without proper processes, an IT department can buy high-end computing infrastructure and systems, and still fail to help the business meet its objectives. They fail because of a lack of understanding of outcomes and needs, or simply by not working together to deliver proper services.
ITIL solves these problems by enabling certified professionals and departments to see and understand IT needs and requirements from an organizational and customer perspective.