What is ITIL?

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07/05/2019 |

What is ITIL?

Understanding ITIL can help your organization
bring more value-added services to customers.

window and balcony sight in white

Following the release of ITIL® 4 in February 2019, those who are not as familiar with IT service management may be asking themselves, “What is ITIL?” After all, it sounds like just another acronym. In fact, ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library; but even knowing that, understanding what ITIL is takes some additional explanation.

ITIL is a framework, or a series of guiding concepts, that helps businesses identify, pursue and optimize opportunities to create value for both their customers and themselves.

So, what is ITIL used for?

Historically, ITIL was developed to help IT organizations improve how they deliver service so that the team’s work was provided in a more cost-effective and efficient way. The guidelines focused heavily on operations and were developed over the course of several years between 1989-1996. [Read more about the history of ITIL.]

ITIL’s origins are important because its potential use today is not the same as it was back in the beginning. If you think back to what the IT environment was like in 1989, IT was truly more of a support organization than a business driver, so the approach to improving IT service management was different 20 years ago.

ITIL has become a broader way to think about how a specific organization's activities impact the business as a whole.

Today, that’s no longer the case: IT is viewed by most as a value-added business partner, and the ITIL framework has had to adapt to the shifting environment in order to stay relevant. What was once a structured volume of “how tos” has become a broader way to think about how a specific organization’s activities impact the business as a whole, taking a more holistic view on the costs and impacts of new offerings and service changes.

Because of this, the newest version of ITIL could potentially be used by any organization that provides services, either internally or externally, to help them structure how service is delivered and to continuously examine ways to add value. Teams like HR or facilities management could conceivably apply many of the principles of the newest ITIL version; however, for now, its spirit remains well-entrenched in supporting the evolution of IT service management offerings.

What does it mean to “create value”?

From the perspective of ITIL, value is the perceived benefit, usefulness or importance of a service. It is actually “co-created” by customers and service providers to make sure that it meets the needs of both parties. This means that they work together to figure out how services can do things like:

  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Reduce errors
  • Maximize output
  • Increase acceptance rates

They do this by blending the two main concepts of ITIL 4: the Service Value System and the Four Dimensions of Service Management model.

The first – the ITIL Service Value System – guides the way in which value is created, including:

  • the ideas behind it,
  • its oversight,
  • the activities that need to be done to achieve it,
  • the resources that are needed to provide service and
  • guidance for improvements over time.

Within this system, companies can choose to use a variety of project/team management models to keep the day-to-day work on track while still ensuring that value overall is derived.

The second part – the Four Dimensions of Service Management model – highlights key areas of business that need to be considered in order to be certain that value creation is holistic, meaning that it takes into account all possible impacts of a new or changing service. After all, it would not make sense to save small amounts of money in one area of the business if doing so meant a huge increased cost in another. ITIL encourages businesses to take Organizations & People, Information & Technology, Partners & Suppliers and Value Streams & Processes into account as part of this model.

So, before you start trying to implement all of the ideas found within the ITIL framework, spend time to honestly evaluate the state of things today.

How can an organization get started with ITIL?

Any business can benefit from embracing the spirit and concepts of ITIL, regardless of size. It outlines a way in which ideas for new and improved services can be evaluated so that they really do help everyone involved and the business as a whole.

1. Begin with education. The ITIL 4 Foundation book is the first step. This will give you a good overview of the concepts and components that are touched on above. You’ll gain an understanding of how all of the pieces work together to create value and to improve IT Service Management more specifically.

Of course, if you want to gain even more expertise, you can take a certification class like I did. These are offered worldwide and dive deep into the concepts, as well as into the application of these. If you think you’ll tackle ITIL implementation for your organization without hiring a consultant, a certification course may be helpful.

2. Evaluate the state of your organization today. It’s likely that some of ITIL’s built-in concepts already exist in one form or another within your organization or company. So, before you start trying to implement all of the ideas found within the ITIL framework, spend time to honestly evaluate the state of things today. This will help you prioritize what’s next in your ITIL journey. Start thinking about:

  • What components of ITIL 4 already exist?
  • Are they effective?
  • Is change needed? How hard will this be?
  • What components don’t exist at all?
  • Can we move forward without these?
  • If not, how will we incorporate them?

3. Find the tools and support you need. Consultants and IT professionals can help you answer these questions and create a roadmap for implementing ITIL. They will work with you to outline the practices and processes that your specific organization needs to benefit from the ITIL framework.

And, of course, there are many tools on the market that will help you streamline various parts of your new service management approach too. From process automation to CMDB and helpdesk software, it’s important to consider investing in tools that make your ITIL implementation efforts faster and easier.

So in the end, what is ITIL?

It’s a way of thinking about services in a structured and organized way that can be used by leaders throughout the organization to ensure that they are delivering the most value for their customers, stakeholders, business and team. Regardless of your role, I encourage you to gain a basic understanding of its principles. While ITIL certainly remains heavily focused on IT service management success, its intent and constructs could certainly be applied to other areas of your business as these mature too.

And, of course, if you are interested in incorporating the concepts of ITIL into your organization via process automation, ticketing, CMDB and more, request a demo to find out how OTRS can help you.

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Photos: Louis on Unsplash

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