ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)

ITIL is an internationally recognized and widespread de-facto standard for IT services management and administration, which was developed by OGC in the 1980s. ITIL comes from the best experiences (actually, it is a summary of the best practices), it represents the framework for handling the IT management in an organization, it deals with a complex of IT services, it focuses on a continual measurement and quality improvement of delivered IT services, both in terms of business and from a customer perspective. This orientation is the main cause of global ITIL success, and it contributed to the widespread use and the key benefits, gained by those organizations that have applied these techniques and processes in their structures. ITIL is not a standard, ITIL contains recommendations and best practices.: ITIL is used for setting and management of IT processes and services. Its practical applicability and extension have made it the de-facto standard for IT management over the entire range of responsibilities of the IT manager (CIO).[1]

ITIL Service Lifecycle[2]

The ITIL Service Lifecycle is split into 5 distinct lifecycle stages. Each stage relies on service principles, processes, roles, and performance measures, and each stage is dependent on the other lifecycle stages for inputs and feedback. A constant set of checks and balances throughout the Service Lifecycle ensures that as business demand change with business needs, the services can adapt and respond effectively to them.

  1. ITIL Service Strategy: Service Strategy sits at the core of the Service Lifecycle and focuses on ensuring that our strategy is defined, maintained, and then implemented. There is key guidance for Executive Managers’ around operating according to the business constraints, corporate governance and compliance, legislation, and some cultural aspects of organizational transformation. The focus will enable practical decision-making, based on a sound understanding of the offered services, with the ultimate aim of increasing the economic life of all services. Service Strategy is about ensuring that organizational units in support of the business are in a position to handle the costs and risks associated with their service portfolio and that they are set up for service improvement.
  2. ITIL Service Design: At this stage, the focus shifts to converting the strategy into reality, through the use of a consistent approach to the design and development of new service offerings:
    • A consistent use of a common architecture
    • Understanding and translating the business requirements
    • Introducing the appropriate Support requirements upon implementation of the service
      The scope of Service Design is also not limited to new services; it includes any changes and improvements necessary to increase or maintain value to customers over the lifecycle of services, such as improved continuity of service, or improvements necessary to enhance service hours and service levels. Changes required because of new conformance standards and regulations are also relevant as are services bought off the shelf from suppliers.
  3. ITIL Service Transition: As design and development activities are completed, there is a period for Service Transition with its key purpose to bridge both the gap between projects and operations more effectively, and also to improve any changes that are going into live service, even if it is transferring the control of services between customers and service providers. The Service Transition stage brings together all the assets within a service and ensures these are integrated and tested together. Its focus is on the quality and control of the delivery of a new or changed service into operations. Giving sufficient time and quality effort to this stage of the lifecycle will reduce unexpected variations in the delivery of the live services.
  4. ITIL Service Operation: The operational teams ensure there are robust end-to-end practices that support responsive and stable services. They provide ongoing support units and they are a strong influencer on how the business perceives the service it receives. A key part of this is the Service Desk that directly owns and supports incident management and request fulfillment for users, including feedback on user satisfaction. Supporting functions to the Service Desk include business support and administration teams. Specific to IT, there are Application Management and Technical support teams that contribute to the successful resolution of major incidents that affect the business.
  5. ITIL Continual Service Improvement (CSI): Continual Service Improvement works with the other four stages of the service lifecycle to align the services with the business needs, whilst recognizing improvement opportunities and change.

ITIL Lifecycle
source: ITILwordpress

History of ITIL[3]

In the 1980s IT was extremely focused on the ‘underlying technology’ of IT rather than the delivery of IT services. Therefore, service delivery was an afterthought that would soon gain prominence when the British government made it a top priority. ITIL can be traced back to around 1986 when the British government recognized that the quality of IT service was extremely insufficient. The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) were tasked with developing an Operational Guidance framework for more efficient and fiscally responsible use and management of IT resources. In 1988, the CCTA created the Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management (GITIM) framework which focused on Service Support and Service Delivery. In 1989, GITIM was renamed Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). In the early 1990s, government agencies and large companies in Europe started to utilize the ITIL framework. ITIL quickly became the de facto standard for IT Service Management. In 2000, the CCTA merged with the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). In 2001, ITIL v2 was released with volumes dedicated to Service Support and Service Delivery. In 2007, ITIL v3 is released, adopting a Service Lifecycle approach to Service Management and a focus on business integration. Today, ITIL is widely recognized as the global standard for IT Service Management. The advent of cloud computing will only increase the demand for high-quality IT Service delivery and support. Research has shown that ITIL is used (in one form or another) by almost 75% of enterprise organizations. This demonstrates that large IT organizations continue to seek out effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of their IT Services, and continue to adopt the principles of ITIL to achieve these goals.

ITIL Benefits and Barriers to Success[4]

The Figure below summarizes the main benefits in favor of ITIL adoption and the potential barriers to success. ITIL is the most comprehensive approach to standardizing IT operations and improving overall management. It is currently used by thousands of companies worldwide with proven results. Most IT managers struggle with a lack of structure and a reactive mode of operation that accompanies a lack of processes and procedures. ITIL offers a solution for putting the pieces of the puzzle into place to take a more proactive approach to improve the IT organization’s performance.

ITIL Benefits and Barriers
source: Computer Economics

Steps to a successful ITIL adoption[5]

According to Forrester, I&O executives and their teams can significantly improve the probability of success when adopting ITIL and reduce the pain of what is ultimately a considerable organizational and cultural change. The trick is to ensure that sufficient planning leads to optimal adoption, not just in the short term, for example, selecting and implementing a service desk tool, but also in the longer term through an ITSM maturity vision, phased adoption, and support for continued improvement. Whether you’re embarking on a greenfield ITIL adoption or wanting to improve the IT support and IT service delivery of your existing ITSM operations, I&O executives and their teams get started by following these five steps:
Step No. 1: Understand what ITIL is all about, especially the importance of people.
Step No. 2: Be realistic about existing ITSM process maturity and improve them gradually.
Step No. 3: Evaluate technology only after you’ve addressed goals, people, and processes.
Step No. 4: Get the initial planning right, but also plan beyond the “technology project.”
Step No. 5: Regularly communicate ITIL’s value and involve the IT and non-IT stakeholder.
Finally, also consider how ITIL and enabling technologies can be used outside of IT. Think about how the processes and technology can be leveraged by other business functions such as facilities management, complaint management, or people management.

Criticism of ITIL[6]

While a number of researchers have investigated the benefits of the ITIL implementation, it has been criticized on several fronts, including:

  • The books are not affordable for non-commercial users
  • implementation and accreditation require specific training
  • debate over ITIL falling under BSM or ITSM frameworks
  • The ITIL details are not aligned with the other frameworks like ITSM

Rob England (author of the "IT Skeptic" blog) has criticized the protected and proprietary nature of ITIL. He urges the publisher, Cabinet Office, to release ITIL under the Open Government Licence (OGL). CIO Magazine columnist Dean Meyer has also presented some cautionary views of ITIL, including five pitfalls such as "becoming a slave to outdated definitions" and "Letting ITIL become a religion." As he notes, " doesn't describe the complete range of processes needed to be world-class. It's focused on ... managing ongoing services." In a 2004 survey designed by Noel Bruton (author of "How to Manage the IT Helpdesk" and "Managing the IT Services Process"), organizations adopting ITIL were asked to relate their actual experiences in having implemented ITIL. Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that "ITIL does not have all the answers". ITIL proponents accept this, citing ITIL's stated intention to be non-prescriptive, expecting organizations to engage ITIL processes with existing process models. Bruton notes that the claim to non-prescriptiveness must be, at best, one of scale rather than absolute intention, for the very description of a certain set of processes is in itself a form of prescription. While ITIL addresses in depth the various aspects of service management, it does not address enterprise architecture in such depth. Many of the shortcomings in the implementation of ITIL do not necessarily come about because of flaws in the design or implementation of the service management aspects of the business, but rather the wider architectural framework in which the business is situated. Because of its primary focus on service management, ITIL has limited utility in managing poorly designed enterprise architectures, or how feedback into the design of the enterprise architecture. Closely related to the architectural criticism, ITIL does not directly address the business applications which run on the IT infrastructure; nor does it facilitate a more collaborative working relationship between development and operations teams. The trend toward a closer working relationship between development and operations is termed: DevOps. This trend is related to increased application release rates and the adoption of agile software development methodologies. Traditional service management processes have struggled to support increased application release rates – due to a lack of automation – and/or highly complex enterprise architecture. Some researchers group ITIL with lean, Six Sigma, and Agile software development operations management. Applying Six Sigma techniques to ITIL brings the engineering approach to ITIL's framework. Applying Lean techniques promotes continuous improvement of ITIL's best practices. However, ITIL itself is not a transformation method, nor does it offer one. Readers are required to find and associate such a method. Some vendors have also included the term Lean when discussing ITIL implementations, for example, "Lean-ITIL". The initial consequences of an ITIL initiative tend to add cost with benefits promised as a future deliverable. ITIL does not provide usable methods "out of the box" to identify and target waste, document the customer value stream as required by Lean, and measure customer satisfaction.

Why ITIL is So Successful[7]

ITIL embraces a practical approach to service management – do what works. And what works is adapting a common framework of practices that unite all areas of IT service provision towards a single aim – that of delivering value to the business. The following list defines the key characteristics of ITIL that contribute to its global success:

  • Vendor-neutral ITIL service management practices are applicable in any IT organization because they are not based on any particular technology platform or industry type. ITIL is owned by the UK government and is not tied to any commercial proprietary practice or solution.
  • Non-prescriptive ITIL offers robust, mature, and time-tested practices that have applicability to all types of service organizations. It continues to be useful and relevant in public and private sectors, internal and external service providers, small, medium, and large enterprises, and within any technical environment. Organizations should adopt ITIL and adapt it to meet the needs of the IT organization and their customers.
  • Best practice ITIL represents the learning experiences and thought leadership of the world’s best-in-class service providers.

ITIL is successful because it describes practices that enable organizations to deliver benefits, return on investment, and sustained success. ITIL is adopted by organizations to enable them to:

  • Deliver value for customers through services
  • Integrate the strategy for services with the business strategy and customer needs
  • Measure, monitor and optimize IT services and service provider performance
  • Manage the IT investment and budget
  • Manage risk
  • Manage knowledge
  • Manage capabilities and resources to deliver services effectively and efficiently
  • Enable adoption of a standard approach to service management across the enterprise
  • Change the organizational culture to support the achievement of sustained success
  • Improve the interaction and relationship with customers
  • Coordinate the delivery of goods and services across the value network
  • Optimize and reduce costs.

See Also


Further Reading