What is ITIL? Everything you Need to Know

What is ITIL? How could ITIL 4 enhance your business? We look at how ITIL 4 practitioners optimize IT service management practices.

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These days, it goes without saying that the worlds of business and technology are inextricably linked. In order to stay competitive, a company needs to be able to evolve both its corporate objectives and digital & IT capabilities, no matter how painful or awkward this process may be.

Naturally, this kind of change cannot start with a blank canvas. The development of IT services should be driven by an awareness of current processes, demands, and management practices both within and outside an organization. Without this, IT Service Management (ITSM) will inevitably waste time, money and effort, giving competitors a chance to lure customers away with more efficient and higher-quality offerings.

What is ITIL?

ITIL, formerly known as the ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library’, is the world’s most popular framework for IT Service Management (ITSM). Used across virtually every industry from technology to animation, ITIL is designed to help users perfectly align their IT services and business requirements. It fosters an atmosphere of continual service improvement that enables businesses to keep delivering the best end-products and services possible, all with minimal wastage and maximum focus.

ITIL 4 is the latest iteration of the framework. AXELOS designed it with input from the ITIL practitioner community, which provided a valuable perspective on how the framework needed to change in order to remain relevant. The result was a framework that offered all the benefits of ITIL v3 while also reflecting the most up to date insight and best practices from the world of ITSM, including its most popular methodologies, the shape of the marketplace, and how to optimize IT services in a way that creates maximum value.

At the itSMF USA Fusion 2017 conference, AXELOS Global Best Practice finally announced ‘ITIL 4’, the latest iteration of the framework. This new industry and community-driven version would not only improve on existing ITIL processes but also acknowledge and overcome many of the most common hangups practitioners had with V3.

How does ITIL work?

ITIL 4 is a framework of best practices centered on creating, managing, and building on IT services within an environment of continuous improvement. It takes a comprehensive overview of modern IT service management, taking into account elements like digital transformation, IT governance, cloud systems, value streams, and even other popular frameworks. Collectively, IT is designed to ensure a business has fully optimized IT services delivering as much value as possible.

If you take a quick look at the ITIL 4 certification path, you will see how wide-ranging it is. Topics range from stakeholder engagement to working in high-velocity IT environments. As with ITIL v3, students can choose the modules best suited to them. Meanwhile, career IT managers can choose to complete the entire syllabus to reach the rank of ITIL Master. The syllabus encourages a comprehensive understanding not only of how to create services but also how they support business goals and influence strategy.

While much of the v3 syllabus remains in use, several key components were updated. Most significantly, the ITIL Service Management Lifecycle has been replaced with the ITIL Service Value System (SVS). This is an operating model designed for the creation, delivery, and continual improvement of IT services.

The SVS is composed of:

  • The ITIL Service Value Chain (SVC)

  • ITIL Governance

  • ITIL Guiding Principles

  • ITIL Practices

  • Continual Improvement

Central to the SVS is the Service Value Chain (SVC), which delivers services via six key activities:

  • Plan

  • Engage

  • Design and Transition

  • Obtain and Build

  • Deliver and Support

  • Improve

The SVS enables the creation of ‘streams’ suited to specific purposes, with each stream containing Practices, Roles, and Activities designed to produce desired results. However, the system is non-prescriptive and can be easily adapted to suit individual organizations, inputs, and outputs.

There are also ITIL’s Four Dimensions, which replaced the 4 Ps of Service Design. The dimensions include:

  • Organization and people

  • Information and technology

  • Partners and suppliers

  • Value streams and processes

Combined, these dimensions help practitioners to balance the elements of the SVS and take into account multiple elements of modern ITSM, rather than just focusing on technical aspects. At the same time, the dimensions are flexible, enabling organizations to drive improvements seamlessly.

ITIL is not some kind of fully-automated software that will run your business for you - rather, it is a framework for managing IT services in a way that creates maximum value by supporting well-defined business goals.

A large part of ITIL 4's strength comes from the fact that, unlike previous versions, it was developed with input from ITSM writers, practitioners, and reviewers. This gave AXELOS more of a ground-level awareness of how IT is continuing to evolve, as well as what flaws needed to be addressed in the ITIL v3 framework.

Despite the broadness of ITIL’s approach, the framework itself remains quite flexible. It is designed to be adapted to suit the requirements of individual organizations. For example, ITIL 4 can accommodate other popular methodologies and frameworks, such as Agile, DevOps, and Lean. Regardless of an organization’s size, structure, or current practices, ITIL 4 can both accommodate and enhance it.

So, ITIL ‘works’ by offering guidance across the spectrum of IT service management. This includes both actionable insight and relevant tools and processes.

For a better understanding of how ITIL actually operates, it is necessary to look at the individual modules of ITIL 4.

What do I need to know about the ITIL 4 modules?

An important thing to keep in mind is that the individual modules of ITIL can all be highly useful for a business. Each provides actionable insight, helping to establish a clear process for ITSM development.

Students will often start with the modules most relevant to them, as there is no set order for what parts of the certification scheme to move on to after passing the ITIL 4 Foundation exam.

ITIL 4 Foundation

ITIL 4 Foundation is the introductory module of the framework, providing students with a summary of AXELOS’ updated approach to ITSM. For example, it goes over the end-to-end ‘Service Value System (SVS)’, as well as the frameworks which have been recently integrated with ITIL, such as Lean, Agile, and DevOps. The module also covers a number of key elements, including ITIL 4’s guiding principles, the four dimensions of service management, the SVS, ‘Service Value Chain’, and 7 ITIL practices.

Following ITIL Foundation certification, students can choose whether to focus on ‘Managing Professional’ or ‘Strategic Leader’.

ITIL Specialist: Create, Deliver and Support (CDS)

ITIL Specialist: Create, Deliver and Support looks at the core service management activities that make up the framework. Students learn how to integrate various activities and value streams to create, deliver, and support IT services and products. The module also looks at several practices, methods, and tools designed to optimize performance and enable continuous improvement.

Students will come away from the module with a keen understanding of how to deliver reliable and innovative technology-enabled results. This kind of consistently high quality is essential in today’s IT market, where the best competitors are constantly looking for ways to maximize the value of their work.

ITIL Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value (DSV)

ITIL Specialist: Drive Stakeholder Value covers how service providers engage and interact with users, customers, suppliers, and other ‘stakeholders’. With an understanding of how this works, students will be better equipped to translate stakeholder demands into tangible actions that can increase the value of products and services.

Students learn to use a variety of tools and methods designed to maximize stakeholder satisfaction. The module also examines elements such as communication, multi-supplier management, relationship management, User Experience (UX) design, Customer Experience (CX) design, ‘Service Level Agreement (SLA)’ design, and customer journey mapping. ITIL practitioners can also use the module as a reference guide for future projects.

ITIL Specialist: High Velocity IT (HVIT)

ITIL Specialist: High Velocity IT focuses on the pressures that come with the environment of modern IT. Digital organizations and operating models must contend with a high-velocity market, where being competitive means having to optimize your speed, responsiveness, agility, and cost-effectiveness as you strive to release high-quality products and services. To maximize your business value, you cannot ignore the reality of this situation. Instead, you need to equip yourself to master it.

Students will look at valuable and widely-used working practices that can help them thrive, such as Agile and Lean. They will also look at useful technological practices, including automatic testing, automation, and the use of cloud software.

ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan and Improve (DPI)

ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan and Improve looks at how IT service managers can apply a strong strategic direction to their work, reassessing and improving their practices as they go in order to guarantee laser-guided focus.

Students will also learn about the impact and influence of Lean and Agile ways of working and how these styles can be leveraged within the ITIL framework.

Finally, the module looks at practical methods for creating and implementing strategies centered around the continuous improvement of IT-enabled products and services. This is also another module that can be treated as a reference guide by successful practitioners.

ITIL Leader: Digital & IT Strategy (DITS)

ITIL Leader: Digital & IT Strategy focuses on the alignment of digital & IT strategies with business goals. These days, organizations across most industries are heavily impacted by new and disruptive technology. This module examines how ITIL can be applied at a strategic level, enabling practitioners to rapidly respond and adapt in order to remain competitive.

This module is ideal for anyone with an interest in the leadership of ITSM, regardless of their level of experience. Students will learn about how to deal with disruptive technology, not just now but in the future. Considering the continual and rapid evolution of IT and technology in the modern world of business, having this capability is essential for remaining competitive.

ITIL Managing Professional (MP) Transition

With the announcement of ITIL 4, students and practitioners of ITIL V3 were eager to find out how necessary it would be to update their qualifications. While the insight offered by V3 is certainly still relevant, ITIL 4 is enough of a departure that v3 qualifications are not valid prerequisites for the new certification path. As such, practitioners who had invested serious time in ITIL V3 certification training were left feeling concerned over whether they would have to restart from scratch.

ITIL Managing Professional (MP) Transition is a module specifically designed to help practitioners get around this problem. Anyone who holds an ‘ITIL V3 Expert’ qualification (or a minimum of 17 credits) can take the ITIL MPT exam to immediately become an ITIL 4 Managing Professional. The qualification covers both ITIL Foundation and every module within the ‘Managing Professional’ stream, allowing successful students to also reach the rank of ITIL Strategic Leader with just one additional examination.

How can an ITIL Certification Help my Business?

There are several benefits to studying ITIL, both for individual ITSM practitioners and businesses. For one, students can choose which ITIL qualifications to pursue based on their own requirements, as only the ITIL Foundation module is mandatory. However, the potential advantages of studying the framework go deeper than that.

For starters, you should never underestimate the importance of IT service management for modern business. Virtually all companies now utilize IT in order to deliver fundamental products and services. Maximizing the value of these end-results, while also minimizing wastage and inefficiency, is an essential part of driving KPIs; so much so that fewer and fewer companies are willing to gamble their success by going without proven methodologies and best practices.

ITIL 4 is a completely modern ITSM framework that has been, and will continue to be, developed by the world’s most successful ITSM specialists. Adopting it will enable your business to produce the best services possible, regardless of its industry, size, or capabilities. This, in turn, will lead to boosted profits, an improved reputation among your customers, and even happier employees as your own internal ITSM processes become more refined.

Importantly, the new ITIL is also designed to be flexible enough to incorporate future developments in digital and technology management. After all, in this current digital age, there are always new disruptive factors to take into account. With the enterprise agility offered by ITIL, you will be better able to evolve your business when necessary, helping you to maintain an invaluable edge over your competitors.

It is particularly beneficial to invest in ITIL training for multiple employees at once. This will greatly improve collaboration in your IT department, allowing teams to work smarter both in managing IT operations and creating, implementing, and maintaining services in practice.

Finally, given the popularity of ITIL, it is worth keeping in mind that a fully up-to-date ITIL qualification can make a candidate far more desirable. This is a strong motivating factor for employees, especially if there is room for advancement within their current organization. It can also create networking opportunities for both businesses and individuals as the global ITIL practitioner community continues to expand.

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We are one of the only fully accredited online training providers of ITIL training from Foundation level right the way through to Expert. Take a look at our full list of ITIL training courses and start your career in IT Service Management today!

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Key features of our ITIL certification courses:

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