ITIL 4 is the future of IT Service Management (ITSM)
Posted on
April 10, 2019
How much do you know about the newest version of the popular ITIL framework, ITIL 4? Would you like to know more?

In November 2017, AXELOS announced plans to update ITIL following a consultation period with hundreds of experts in the IT and IT Service Management communities. Our aim was to build on the existing strengths of the ITIL framework and at the same time make it more responsive, transparent, and agile, all attributes essential to succeeding in the digital business landscape.

For about 18 months we worked with more than 2,800 experts from all around the world (and across a variety of industries) to raise the ITIL framework to a new level. On Feb. 28, we finally launched ITIL 4 Foundation as the first step in our ITIL 4 journey.

Why update ITIL?

It was very clear to us that in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with its fast-paced environment and disruptions that affected every sector, changes to ITIL were necessary. Because what applies to organizations and individuals — be more agile, be ready to adopt to new ways of working — applies to ITIL as well.

In addition, our research showed challenges our users faced in adopting the guidance and shaping their learning journeys. One of the core principles we have adopted in the update program is to make ITIL 4 lean — to only include necessary information in core guidance, and to simplify the certification structure and learning journey.

What is new?

We haven't reinvented the wheel, but we have considered the impact technology is having on business. This means we have kept those elements from previous ITIL versions that are still relevant and fundamental while making it more explicit how the framework integrates with approaches such as Agile and DevOps.

In addition, as part of the evolving digital economy, the idea of providing an ongoing service rather than a one-off product delivery is becoming more and more prevalent. This requires recognition of the needs of multiple stakeholders. ITIL 4 therefore promotes the concept of the co-creation of value between service provider and diverse stakeholders such as regulators, suppliers, or even (in some cases) society at large.

We have also expanded the framework and put service management into a strategic context. This means that ITIL 4 looks at ITSM, Development, Operations, business relationships and governance in a holistic way and, by doing so, brings the functions together. ITIL 4 is therefore providing a new digital operating model to support digital transformation.

At the same time, ITIL 4 has a number of key elements that differentiate it from the previous version. These include the Service Value System, the four dimensions, the guiding principles, and the move from processes to practices. So, let's look at these key elements a bit closer.

Service value system — a key component

The service value system (SVS) is a key part of ITIL 4. Its purpose is to ensure that the organization continually creates value by working together with all stakeholders through its products and services.

The central element of the SVS is the service value chain. It defines six loosely-connected activities (or archetypes, to be more specific) and is an operating model for the creation, delivery and continual improvement of products and services.

The activities are synonymous for the steps an organization needs to take to create value. They are as follows:

  • Plan
  • Improve
  • Engage
  • Design and Transition
  • Obtain/Build
  • Deliver and Support.

As the service value chain activities are loosely connected, they can be configured and sequenced in different ways. This allows an organization to react to all forms of demand, as well as rapidly adapt to changing demands.

The four dimensions

ITIL 4 has defined four dimensions that are key for co-creating value for customers and other stakeholders. These dimensions can be viewed as resource types� or design considerations� depending on context. These are as follows:

Organizations and people: This dimension addresses considerations such as organizational culture, organizational design, workforce capacity and competency, etc.

Information and technology: This dimension considers the information and knowledge as well as the technologies required for the management of services.

Partners and suppliers: This dimension focuses on relationships with the role of  organizations (external to the service provider) on the creation, delivery, and support of products and services.

Value streams and processes: This dimension addresses the workflows, activities, and processes required to convert demand into value.

Organizations should give appropriate focus to each of these dimensions so that the SVS remains balanced and effective.

Guiding principles

Guiding principles are not new to ITIL. First introduced in ITIL Practitioner in 2016, the guiding principles have been refined and consolidated into seven key recommendations on how to manage work.

They are not specific to IT service management, but they are meant to help IT professionals make decisions as well as adopt and adapt the ITIL 4 framework to their needs.

The ITIL 4 guiding principles are:

  • Focus on value
  • Start where you are
  • Think and work holistically
  • Progress iteratively with feedback
  • Collaborate and promote visibility
  • Keep it simple and practical
  • Optimize and automate

Collaboration, automation, and keeping things simple are principles that can also be found in Agile, DevOps, and Lean approaches.

Practices — a fundamental part

How much do you know about the newest version of the popular ITIL framework, ITIL 4? Would you like to know more?

In previous versions, ITIL has used processes to manage IT services. ITIL 4 has expanded their scope and renamed them practices instead. The practices consider topics such as culture, technology, information and data management. This allows a much more holistic approach to the management of services.

There are 34 practices in ITIL 4 and are divided into three sets: general management practices, service management practices, and technical management practices. The modular architecture of ITIL allows for these practices to evolve over time as quickly or as slowly as required, reflecting the pace of change in the industry.

For example, practices like Incident Management have rapidly evolved in the last three years (and continue to do so), but a practice like Service Catalogue Management has remained more or less unchanged over the same period.

So, why do ITIL 4?

Staying ahead of the game is becoming more and more important for all of us. Getting qualified in ITIL 4, or getting reaccredited from ITIL v3, will help IT professionals to compete in the complex and fast-paced work environment that is the result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

To be successful it's now essential to demonstrate digital skills, to invest in lifelong learning and in individual career goals. ITIL 4 is thus a big step for your career.

Welcome to the Future of ITIL

About the Author

Akshay Anand, product ambassador for ITSM, joined AXELOS in September 2016 with nearly 20 years' global experience in designing and implementing ITSM and managing IT Services. He has implemented challenging IT Service Management projects and transformations in diverse industries such as pharmaceuticals, publishing, insurance and financial services.

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