Knowledge Base

What is ITIL?

Documented Common Sense

To Marval, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is about 'documented common sense', common sense that is based on the collective experience of commercial and governmental practitioners worldwide. This has been distilled into one reliable, coherent approach, which is fast becoming a de facto standard used by some of the world's leading businesses.

The detailed processes defined by ITIL underpin and are aligned to the International Standard for IT Service Management (ITSM) - ISO/IEC 20000. ITIL is also a Service Management philosophy. A philosophy that represents a seamless integration of all the diverse products required to assist you in both developing and delivering a quality, professional and cost effective Service Management function. This includes the definition of the required business processes, functions, tools, education and business drivers.
In short, IT Service Management's role is to help the business gain a competitive advantage, by doing things faster, more effectively, more efficiently and more economically; ITIL is that enabling factor.

ITIL was originally developed by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) which became the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and is now part of the Cabinet Office, during the 1980s when the UK government's reliance on IT was increasing and fiscal efficiencies were being sought.  A team of CCTA staff set out to document a common sense approach to managing IT services that would improve reliability while maintaining costs efficiency.  Using their own experience, a collection of best practices and common sense, the first IT Infrastructure Library was created.

1st July 2013 marked the launch of the new joint venture company - Axelos Limited that the Cabinet Office formed with Capita plc to run the Best Management Practice portfolio, including ITIL and PRINCE2® - the standard for project management methodology

The ethos behind the development of ITIL is the recognition that organisations are increasingly dependent upon IT to satisfy their corporate aims and meet their business needs. This growing dependency leads to growing need for quality IT services - quality that is matched to business needs and user requirements as they emerge.

This is true no matter what type or size of organisation, be it national government, a multinational conglomerate, a decentralised office with either a local or centralised IT provision, an outsourced service provider, or a single office environment with one person providing IT support. In each case there is the requirement to provide an economical service that is reliable, consistent and of the highest quality.

ITSM is concerned with delivering and supporting IT services that are appropriate to the business requirements of the organisation. ITIL provides a comprehensive, consistent and coherent set of best practices for ITSM processes, promoting a quality approach to achieving business effectiveness and efficiency in the use of information systems. ITIL processes are intended to be implemented so that they underpin but do not dictate the business processes of an organisation. IT service providers will be striving to improve the quality of the service, but at the same time they will be trying to reduce the costs or, at a minimum, maintain costs at the current level.

Ongoing Development
ITIL started in 1986 with the development of the original ITIL function based set of 40+ books dealing with a variety of best practices. From 1999 ITIL version 2 introduced 7 central books which dealt with the processes widely accepted as the best practice framework for ITSM.

In 2007 - 21 years after the first inception, ITIL v3 was launched, consisting of 5 central books and an official introduction book.  These incorporate the best of V1, V2 and tested current best practice for ITSM.

The 5 central books are made up of Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement.

In 2011 ITIL was revised to improve clarity, lifecycle interfaces and to provide more useful examples.

ITIL Documentation Set
The documentation set is broken down into 6 different publications. Each publication concludes with key messages and lessons, highlighting deeper levels of practice expertise and structured applications.

The Official Introduction of the ITIL Service Lifecycle
This is the official gateway to ITIL. It explains the basic concept of IT Service Management and the place of ITIL, introducing the new lifecycle model. It puts into context all the familiar ITIL processes from the earlier books and serves to illuminate the background of the new ITIL structure.

It describes why the service lifecycle approach is best practice in today's service management and makes a persuasive case for change. After showing high level process models it takes the reader through the main principles that govern the new version: lifecycle stages, governance and decision making and then the principles behind design and deployment and operation and optimisation.

The main body of the book introduces the five main titles with an introduction and clearly laid out summary of objectives, practice, key elements, roles and responsibilities and service performance. It then gives an overview of the guidance specific to each stage of the lifecycle.

Service Strategy
Service Strategy is a view of ITIL that aligns business and IT so that each brings out the best in the other. It ensures that every stage of the service lifecycle stays focused on the business case and relates to all the companion process elements that follow. Subsequent titles will link deliverables to meeting the business goals, requirements and service management principles described in this publication. Concepts and guidance included are:

  • Service Management strategy and value planning
  • Linking business plans and directions to IT service strategy
  • Planning and implementing service strategy

Service Design
In order to meet the current and future business requirements, this text provides guidance on the production and maintenance of IT policies, architectures and documents for the design of appropriate and innovative IT service solutions and processes.  Concepts and guidance in this publication include:

  • Service design objectives and elements
  • Selecting the service design model
  • Cost models / Benefit/risk analysis
  • Implementing service design / Measurement and control

Service Transition
Service Transition focuses on the broader, long-term change management role and release practices, so that risks, benefits, delivery mechanism and the ease of ongoing operations of service are considered. This publication provides guidance and process activities for the transition of services into the business environment. Concepts and guidance in this publication include:

  • Managing organisational and cultural change
  • Knowledge management
  • Service knowledge management systems
  • Methods, practices and tools
  • Measurement and control
  • Companion best practices

Service Operation
By focusing on delivery and control process activities, a highly desirable, steady state of managing services can be achieved on a day-to-day basis. To ensure it is integrated with the rest of ITIL, guidance is based on a selection of familiar service support and service delivery control points.  Concepts and guidance in this publication include:

  • Application management
  • Change management
  • Operations management
  • Control processes and functions
  • Scaleable practices
  • Measurement and control

Continual Service Improvement
Alongside the delivery of consistent, repeatable process activities as part of service quality, ITIL has always emphasised the importance of continual improvements. Focusing on the process elements involved in identifying and introducing service management improvements, this publication also deals with issues surrounding service retirement.  Concepts and guidance in this publication include:

  • Business and technology drivers for improvement
  • Justification
  • Business, financial and organisational improvements
  • Methods, practices and tools
  • Measurement and control
  • Companion best practices

Keys to Success
Since ITIL is a best practice guideline, it is not compulsory to implement every process in tandem or to the level of complete integration of all processes. The recommended approach initially relies on an assessment of the current situation of the business in terms of the organisational culture, structure and objectives. Recognition of the objectives of the organisation as a whole play an integral role in identifying where any weaknesses currently exist and where to place emphasis when planning the implementation of ITIL processes.

The level of commitment from key decision and policy makers will determine whether or not implementation will be successful. In addition, both IT and business staff must recognise the importance and significance that adherence to the processes entails with respect to optimising IT service provision and, therefore, productivity and the overall bottom line. If senior IT and business staff bypass the processes, the rest of the organisation is more likely to do the same.

An important consideration entails implementing those processes that, in the short term, are most likely to provide the greatest impact on the organisation in terms that are directly recognisable to the customers. Processes and functions that are more front office oriented have the greatest return on investment in the short term; namely Service Desk and Service Level Management.