What is ITIL? Everything you Need to Know

ITIL is a body of knowledge and best practices for successful IT Service Management. Let’s look at how an ITIL certification can help you and your organization.

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UPDATE - Visit our What is ITIL 4 page for information on the LATEST version of the ITIL framework, or take a look at our ITIL 4 Foundation course and try a FREE trial today!

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 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 and management practices within an organization. Without this, an IT Service Management (ITSM) process will inevitably waste time, money and effort, giving competitors a chance to lure customers away with more efficient offerings.

The ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)’ is a set of ITSM practices utilized by some of the most high-profile organizations in the world, including HSBC, IBM and even NASA. Originally released as a series of books, ITIL was designed to standardize the procedures for good IT management, helping businesses to avoid the most common pitfalls in order to deliver the best quality services possible.

Split over several levels and modules, ITIL covers everything from service strategies to continuous improvement, enabling practitioners to not only adapt IT service infrastructures, but also prepare for further changes down the line. This can help to foster sustainable productivity for businesses and create a better, more consistent experience for customers.

Since the late 1980s, the ITIL practices have become highly renowned, with tens of thousands of practitioners becoming certified around the world. It is now owned by AXELOS, a joint venture created by the Cabinet Office in 2013.

So What Exactly is ITIL?

The ‘Information Technology Infrastructure Library’ is a set of best practices for creating and improving an ITSM process. It is designed to help businesses manage risks, strengthen customer relations, establish cost-effective practices and build stable IT environments for growth, scale and change. In short, an ITIL Practitioner is an expert in continually shaping IT service development processes.

The main strength of ITIL likes in its versatility. The practices are scalable and flexible, allowing organizations to take on as much or as little of them as they like. ITIL can even be adapted to work in conjunction with other practices, including COBIT, Six Sigma and TOGAF.

An important thing to keep in mind is that ITIL is not built around a specific business model. Rather, it is based on the collective experience of IT professionals. It has been applied across multiple industries, helped mainly by the fact that virtually every industry in the world now relies on IT in one form or another.

So, what is ITIL? It is a series of processes for refining and improving an IT service lifecycle. It helps to boost the capabilities of organizations, processes and people, ensuring that when changes to technology or business practices leave them vulnerable, they can adapt quickly and stay on top of the competition.

How Does ITIL work?

The ITIL framework consists of five books, each focusing on a different element of the IT service lifecycle. They all support each other, providing practical guidelines for planning, instigating, and improving service or product development processes.

  • Service strategy - This is all about what you want your business to achieve and how. ITIL will help you to ally your IT department with your core business processes, including service portfolio management, financial management, and relationship management. It will help you to define the requirements of your organization, while also giving you the perspective required to predict how changes may impact your IT operations

  • Service design - This focuses on the design of IT services, including architectures, processes, policies, documentation, and continuity. It will help you to evaluate your services so that you can make sure that they meet the requirements of your organization. Crucially, you will also learn how to make it so that the services can be adapted whenever major changes or emergencies occur

  • Service transition - This stage looks at the steps between the end of an IT service development cycle and the point when the service goes live for users. For example, if you were updating hardware, would you also need to instigate software updates to make the transition go off without a hitch? The steps revolve around testing, evaluating and documenting changes, as well as knowledge management to ensure good decision making

  • Service operations - This is all about the day to day operations and management of your product or service, ensuring that you can provide it in accordance with the requirements established earlier on. The steps revolve around the principles, processes, operational activities, and functions required to ensure your service can perform. It will even help you to create a service level agreement (SLA) framework for your IT service desk. Keep in mind that in any IT endeavor, faults of some kind or another are usually inevitable. This phase will ensure that you have a well-founded problem management process in place for when this happens

  • Continual service improvements - Effective ITSM is not about completing a service development project and leaving it as-is. Instead, you should prepare yourself for continuous and ongoing improvements by capturing any repeatable processes and evaluating how they can be refined. To help with this, the final module of ITIL provides tools and guidance to evaluate risks and success factors within a service or product

For a full breakdown of the ITIL V3 certifications, take a look at our article - A Comprehensive Guide to ITIL V3 Certifications

What are the Differences Between ITIL V3 and ITIL 4?

In a nutshell, ITIL 4 is a refinement of ITIL V3 which aims to marry the framework more cleanly with modern ITSM. It is far more flexible, with a greater focus on customization and collaboration. It is also community-driven, with ITIL practitioners helping to update the framework by constantly factoring in additional developments in the world of IT.

These are some of the most important updates delivered by ITIL 4:

  • Integration - ITIL 4 is designed to integrate with other popular ITSM methods and standards, such as Agile, Lean, and DevOps. ITIL practitioners had long been asking for this in the years of ITIL V3

  • Customers - Unlike ITIL V3, ITIL 4 treats customers as an essential part of creating and sustaining value. Customers have a key role to play in…

  • The Service Value System (SVS) - This describes how the various elements of an organization work together in order to create tangible value. In this equation, the most essential inputs are ‘Demand’ and ‘Opportunity’, while the output is the ‘Value’ created by IT-powered products and services. In between, the SVS is governed by Guiding Principles, Governance, the Service Value Chain (SVC), Practices, and Continual Improvement

  • Flexibility - The SVS is not a rigid system; rather, it acknowledges that the different elements that make it up can be combined in a variety of ways depending on the scenario at hand or the changing needs of the organization in control

  • Communication - The new framework encourages communication for the sake of eliminating siloed thinking. In order to get as much value as possible from the SVS, ITIL practitioners are encouraged to apply it across the entire organization in question

For a full breakdown of the updates to ITIL in version 4 including the new certification scheme, take a look at our article - ITIL 4 - Everything you Need to Know

How can an ITIL Certification Help my Business?

Think about the digital services that you use on a daily basis. These were not developed in a vacuum; rather, they were built using an ongoing project management process that took into account not only the objectives of the service, but also the potential issues in developing, delivering and maintaining it. In short, there would have been a huge number of factors to consider.

Good IT Service Management is about knowing how to integrate these factors into your development process, and this is where ITIL comes in. It covers the entire development lifecycle, from identifying requirements from a business and IT perspective, to designing and creating the solution, to delivering and maintaining the service in a state of continual review and improvement.

Taking this strategy on board offers a number of advantages for businesses. Perhaps most notably, it can cut back on the amount of time and money that gets wasted throughout the service development lifecycle, while also raising the quality of the end-product. This, in turn, can provide a huge boost to customer satisfaction once a service or product is implemented, as well as the morale of staff working on it.

By investing in a training course and implementing ITIL you can expect to:

  • Better understand your customers so that you can deliver services which suit their needs. This will help you to build long-term relationships and improve your reputation

  • Learn how to establish a guide on how to predict and react to issues with your service, incorporating multiple factors such as user experience rather than simply focusing on IT development

  • Increase productivity and improve resource management by establishing cost-effective guidelines

  • Manage risks without disrupting or unintentionally sabotaging your service

  • Create a stable service development environment which supports ongoing change

  • Ensure greater alignment between IT and other arms of your business. This can be vital for enterprise architecture development

  • Improve your risk management process by predicting and reducing service disruptions and failures

  • Create networking opportunities and ease collaboration by incorporating ITIL’s terms and methodologies into your business

  • Raise the value of your service portfolio

  • Quickly adapt to changes in technology, compliance and so on in order to continue growing and maintain your competitive advantage

  • Raise the profile of your business with a globally recognized certification

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.

You do not need to gain a full Master’s certification, though this is certainly a highly-regarded achievement. The certifications are gained gradually via Foundation, Practitioner and Intermediate modules which will qualify students to takes exams and move onto higher levels.

Is your company thinking about implementing the ITIL methodology? Are you building a business case for taking an ITIL Certification? Take a look at our helpful article - How to "Sell" ITIL to your Organization

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Why Gain an ITIL Certification with Good e-Learning?

Good e-Learning provides a variety of courses, all in line with the latest version of ITIL. Not only are the courses fully accredited by PeopleCert, but we are also recognized as a "Global Leader" in ITIL training from independant review company Course Conductor.

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!

Good e-Learning offers the FULL range of ITIL courses:

Key features of our ITIL certification courses:

  • Accredited by PeopleCert

  • Award-winning ITIL training

  • FREE exam vouchers included

  • Quizzes and revision modules

  • Exam simulators

  • Instant 6 months access

  • Mobile ready

  • Expert tutor support

Good e-Learning also specializes in corporate training for businesses looking to upskill multiple employees at once. We have already partnered with hundreds of global blue chips to design courses which take their uniqueness into account, including their location, size, business goals, corporate culture and, of course, budget.

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