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About ITIL
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ITIL is the most widely accepted approach to IT service management in the world. ITIL provides a cohesive set of best practice, drawn from the public and private sectors internationally.  ITIL is aimed at implementing, maintaining and improving high quality, cost-effective IT services.


ITIL was first published in the late 1980s and is now on its forth iteration.  The first version of ITIL was based around disciplines, the second around processes and the third around the service lifecycle.  The current version "ITIL 2011” documents best management practice again based on the service lifecycle approach.


ITIL originated from the UK government agency Central Computer & Telecommunications Agency and was later moved to the Office of Government Commerce and laterally the Cabinet Office.  ITIL is part a set of best management practice frameworks known as the SWIRL products which comprise; PRINCE 2 (for Project Management), MOR (Management of Risk), MSP (Managing Successful Programmes), MOP (Management of Portfolio), MOV (Increasing the Value of programme and project objectives), PSO (support structure through Portfolio, Programmes and Project offices), P3M3 (the maturity model for Portfolio, Project and Programme management) as well as ITIL itself.


A joint venture company has now been created by the Cabinet Office on behalf of Her Majesty's Government (HMG) in the United Kingdom and Capita plc to run the Best Management Practice portfolio, including ITIL®. This company "Axelos” has a goal: to nurture best practice communities, both in the UK and on a truly worldwide scale, establishing an innovative and high quality, continuous learning and development destination that is co-designed by and co-created for those who use it.


The service lifecycle approach advocated by ITIL encompasses 4 lifecycle stages and a 5th stage (Continual Service Improvement) which is looking for opportunities to improve service quality and reduce costs throughout the lifecycle.  Each stage is documented in its own book known as the core set of ITIL. 


The stages are as follows:


  • Service Strategy – the "hub  of the wheel” as shown in the diagram above.  Value creation begins here with understanding organizational objectives and customer needs. It provides guidance on how to use service management as a strategic tool to satisfy business needs and asks why something should be done before asking how.  Service strategy defines a strategy whereby a service provider will deliver services to meet a customer’s requirements and a strategy for how to manage those services.  
  • Service Design - turns service strategy into the blueprint for delivering the business objectives.  It provides guidance for the design of services (new or changed) and service management processes.  Service design Facilitate the introduction of services into supported environments ensuring quality service delivery, customer satisfaction and cost-effective service provision mainly through the production of the "service design package” which shows the blueprint for the design of a new or changed service and is handed over to service transition for testing and implementation.
  • Service Transition - provides guidance for the development and improvement of capabilities for introducing new and changed services into live service operation. It  provides guidance on managing service transitions according to agreed design specifications to meet business need with minimal risk and maximum optimization.
  • Service Operation – is where strategic objectives are ultimately realized and embodies practices in the management of the day-to-day operation of services.  It provides guidance on achieving effective and efficient delivery and support of services to ensure value for the customer, user and the service provider.  Service operation will also ensure business satisfaction and confidence in IT through effective and efficient delivery and support of agreed IT services.
  • Continual service improvement - provides guidance on service improvement throughout the lifecycle through better strategy, design, transition and operation of services. It combines principles, practices and methods from quality management, change management and capability improvement.                


ITIL provides a systematic and professional approach to the management of IT services. Adopting its guidance offers users a huge range of benefits, including:

  • Increase in and measurable value creation
  • Improved customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery
  • Alignment and integration with business needs
  • Reduced costsImproved IT services through the use of proven best-practice processes
  • Improved productivity
  • High-quality IT services that benefit the business customer and enable them to achieve their required outcomes
  • Well-designed services which meet customers' needs - now and in the future
  • Ability to adopt and adapt to reflect business needs and maturity.


The last bullet is an interesting point and a core tenet of ITIL. ITIL is not designed to be prescriptive but designed to be adopted strategically, adapted tactically and improved operationally.  Being a framework, rather than a cook book that requires exact ingredients, ITIL provides an outline and models that specify the goals, general activities, inputs and outputs of the stages and the processes within each stage that can be incorporated and generally used in varying degrees of maturity in most organisations.


ITIL provides a common language that is an essential ingredient in the successful implementation of any improvement programme.



Why is ITIL so successful?


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 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 organization. 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.
  • Positive ROI - ITIL is successful because it describes practices that enable organizations to deliver - benefits, return on investment and sustained success.
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