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The ITIL Framework and It’s Processes

30th Jan, 2024
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    The ITIL Framework and It’s Processes

    You’ve got ITIL® questions. We’ve got ITIL answers. 

    Recently, a group of learners, due to complete their engineering degrees in computer science caught up with John Dell, one of our expert ITSM trainers and authors, seeking advice on careers in ITSM. This blog is an account of the conversation which will serve ITIL aspirants well. 

    The learners opined that they were not very keen on programming and would like to explore what other options exist in the IT sector. They were about to graduate and were not sure there is much opportunity outside programming in IT. 

    John clarified that firstly, the IT sector does not revolve only around software development. The IT industry is vast and presents plenty of opportunity. He suggested they start by carrying out a quick SWOT analysis for themselves.  

    Majority of the learners cited that communication, good analytical and testing skills and leadership skills were their strengths; incidentally, coding and design were not particularly strengths for this group. The group recognized that IT support and the IT service industry would open up several opportunities, while programming and core software development were not areas that appealed to them. 

    Based on this basic SWOT analysis, John suggested that the students consider jobs related to Service management. Jumping into what ITIL is all about and how it could propel their career.  

    IT Management mainly involves Software Development & Management, IT Infrastructure Management, and IT Service Management. The ITIL Framework refers to set of best practices, guidelines, methodologies designed by industry experts to align their IT Services with customer and business strategic goals. So, this framework provides uniform and consistent guidelines to all IT industries to define their IT Service Management processes.  

    Why is there a need for a consistent framework? 

    When asked whether each IT company can come up with their own framework and design for IT service management, John answered that they actually can. He further elaborated with an illustration -  

    Company A provides support to Company X and Company B provides support to Company Y. Here, A and B are Service providers and X and Y are service consumers. They have not adhered to any service management framework.  Both service providers, A and B, have unknowingly made many mistakes and faced lots of challenges in providing support to their consumers, X and Y.  After a couple of years, once the project is completed, A and B have not exchanged notes, nor learnt from each other’s mistakes. Six months down the line, B commits the same mistakes that an earlier had and vice versa. In such a scenario, would service consumers X and Y ever come back to A and B again? Not likely. When mistakes repeat, service consumers or customers will not be happy and may not return to with the project again. 

    To avoid such a scenario, what such companies could do is to connect with each other and share lessons. Such an initiative would avoid many bottlenecks and arrest many recurring challenges. 

    John explained that companies, understanding the importance of consistent process, have embraced lessons from the industry and continually improvise their processes for better customer experience. 

    While it may not be feasible to connect with every other company and collect their lessons and best practices in real time, notwithstanding that companies may or may not share that information, there is a need for a common forum or entity to collect best practices and lessons across the IT industry and formulate a framework. Such a framework formulated for the IT Service industry is called the ITIL framework. 

    Why is this framework called ITIL? 

    ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. When asked why it was referred to as a ‘Library’, John explained that it is a set of practices for Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of the business.  

    As it is a set of practices best practices and lessons from the service industry, it is referred to as a “library”.  

    Significance of ITIL in the Service Industry 

    John went on to explain that there were plenty of reasons for the ITIL framework: 

    1. ITIL framework helps to align the IT solutions with business strategic goals. 
    2.  It helps to set the realistic, achievable and predictable service goals. 
    3.  It ensures efficient service delivery and improves customer satisfaction. 
    4.  It reduces costs through improved utilization of resources. 
    5.  It defines consistent IT roles and improves communication through standardized terminology. 
    6. It improves planning and continual improvement due to regular measurement and monitoring. 

    What is meant by continual improvement? 

    John addressed the question with a use case: Company A is the Service Provider and Company X is the Service consumer.  Company A and Company X are in legal contractual agreement. Company A agrees to provide N services to Company X for the next 2 years. One of the agreed services is to resolve all High priority incidents within 4 hours. After a year of experience, Company A (Service Provider) becomes very good knowledge in resolving incidents within 2 hours and this has been verified as well.  

    Now, Company A (Service Provider) submits a proposal to Company X (Service Consumer) to improvise the High priority incident resolution time by 2 hours instead 4 hours. The contractual document is amended. Company X (Service consumer) agrees to pay an additional amount for the improvisation of service to Company A (Service Provider). This is a good example of continual improvement.  Continual improvement results in improvising service will always increase the customer satisfaction index, says John. 

    History of ITIL 

    In the year 1989, the UK Government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) developed the first version of ITIL to unite IT systems in an efficient and cost-effective way.  Collecting best practices from all government agencies and private sector companies across Europe, the CCTA came up with an initial standard framework. 

    History of ITIL
    History of ITIL 

    ITIL soon grew to a 30-volume catalogue, providing a collection of all IT best practices that focused on and catered for client and business needs. 

    In the year 2000, CCTA change into OGC (Office of Government Commerce, UK). The same year, Microsoft also adopted ITIL as the foundation for developing their Microsoft operations and framework (MOF). This version was focused on making ITIL more accessible and arranged the 30-volume framework into nine related categories.  

    In the year 2007, ITIL was expanded and reorganized as an IT service management lifecycle, known as ITIL Version 3 (ITIL V3).  This version covers the initial conception, development, transition, operations, and improvement of a service.  ITIL V3 views the activity of managing service as a lifecycle, which is a shift in focus from the individualized process/function view of the previous version. The service lifecycle concept has further evolved since.  

    In the year 2011, AXELOS released a revision of ITIL that resolved errors and inconsistencies with V3. This is the updated version of the 2007, referred to as ITILv3 updated. In this version, the ITIL service lifecycle contains 5 stages:  

    This forms the basis for all ITIL best practices across the globe. Since 2013, ITIL has been owned by AXELOS Ltd – a joint venture between Capita Plc and the British Government’s Cabinet Office. 

    In the year 2019, due to the industry 4.0 revolution, the current version of ITIL was launched. V4 has more practical guidance on how to use ITIL in an organization which embraces digital journey. This makes it easier for organizations to align ITIL with DevOps, Agile, and Lean work methods. With V4, ITIL adopted more of a holistic philosophy towards service management, making it broader and more inclusive for the modern IT environment. 

    Having developed a good understanding of the evolution of ITIL, the students learnt about how the best practices which originated from a few European companies were continuously improvised and revised to now become a global acceptable Service management framework across the globe. 

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    How ITIL works 

    The students now wanted to go deeper and asked how ITIL could help the organization to achieve its strategic goals. John explained that following ITIL practices helps organization achieve their strategic goals by: 

    • Ensuring quality of IT services meets Service consumer’s expectations and needs. 
    • Ensuring Service consumer can use IT services whenever and wherever they are needed. 
    • Ensuring organizations can improve Customer satisfaction by building and maintaining positive business relationships. 
    • Ensuring that organizations maximize value for money from their service providers. 
    • Allowing organizations to benchmark their IT services and maximize ROI. 
    • Allowing organizations to demonstrate and quantify the actual value of the services they provide. 
    • Allowing organizations to forecast, influence, and respond to demand IT services in a cost-effective manner depending on fluctuating demand situations. 
    • Allowing organizations to minimize IT service disruption. 

    Stages of ITIL and the purpose of each stage 

    By now, the students were very keen and eager to know about the different lifecycle stages defined in ITIL V3 and its purpose. 

    Stages of ITIL service lifecycle

    John went on to explain that ITIL has five stages. The following table helps explain each stage and its purpose:

    S.NoITIL StagesPurpose
    1Service StrategyThe Service Strategy stage provides guidance on how to design, develop, and implement IT Service Management. This is the core of the Service Lifecycle. This phase mainly focuses on understanding and defining the market. Also defines the needs of the customers.
    2Service DesignIn the Service Design stage, strategies generated in Service Strategy stage are turned into action. Services and processes are designed, and plans are implemented to have a better service management.
    3Service TransitionThe Service Transition stage ensures that the new changes and modifications are efficiently incorporated in the service lifecycle without disrupting the other existing services or processes. It is carried out in a well-coordinated manner using cost-effective measures and resources. Through service transition, the design built is tested and implemented in the lifecycle in a productive manner
    4Service OperationThe Service Operation stage provides guidance on day-to-day business operations. The goal is for the IT department to keep things running smoothly, reliably, efficiently, and cost-effectively. The activities and processes in this phase ensure that services are delivered to customers at the agreed Service level agreement with minimal interruptions and disruptions. Service Operation focuses on providing value to both service consumer and the service provider.
    5Continual Service ImprovementThe Continual Service Improvement stage focus on improving the current service to the Service consumers. Continual Service improvement focus on progressive monitoring and controlling of services. Key performance indicators must be in place to determine whether the service is running optimally, and the service owner must ensure that the service complies with the strategic targets linked to the IT service

    John went on to explain that the outcomes of the Continual Service Improvement become the inputs for Service StrategyIdentified improvements will help to revise the strategic goals and targets.  

    Explaining what was meant by Key Performance Indicator, John defined it as a quantifiable measurement for measuring any strategic goal. This is generally agreed between Service consumer and Service Customer in the legal contract, he added. 

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    The difference between ITIL®V3 and ITIL® 

    Digging deeper into the difference between ITILv3 and ITIL4, John explained that ITIL4 was the latest version. The two may need to be prioritized depending on the case, he pointed out.  

    1IT defines life cycle approachIt defines Service Value system-based approach
    2This version does not talk about 4-dimension model.This version emphasises the importance of 4-dimensions for a holistic service management.
    3ITIL V3, with its 26 service lifecycle processes, functions and other guidance arguably also describes how the components and activities in the organization work together.ITIL 4 and the Service value system take a more holistic approach, providing organizations with a flexible operating model that supports different work approaches. ITIL 4 presents 34 practices as "sets of organizational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective".
    4There are no guiding principles under ITILv3The ITIL 4 guiding principles are universal recommendations that can guide organizations in many situations, such as "work holistically" and "keep it simple and practical".
    5ITIL V3 covers governance under service strategyThe governance component of the ITIL 4 service value system is about directing and controlling the organization

    What are the different certifications available in ITIL? 

    Explaining the available certifications in ITIL, John elaborated using the following table to help the students to understand the different certifications under ITIL.  (Source: Axelos). 

    1ITIL 4 Foundation LevelThe ITIL 4 Foundation certification is designed as an introduction to ITIL 4 and enables candidates to look at IT service management through an end-to-end operating model for the creation, delivery and continual improvement of tech-enabled products and services.
    2ITIL 4 Managing ProfessionalThe Managing Professional (MP) stream provides practical and technical knowledge about how to run successful IT enabled services, teams and workflows.
    3ITIL 4 Strategic LeaderITIL 4 Strategic Leader demonstrates that the you have a clear understanding of how IT influences and directs business strategy.
    4Master LevelTo achieve the ITIL Master certification, you must be able to explain and justify how you have personally selected and applied a range of knowledge, principles, methods and techniques from the ITIL Framework and supporting management techniques, to achieve desired business outcomes in one or more practical assignments.

    Getting started 

    Concluding, John summarized that to get started all one needs to do is to talk to professionals to understand how the work they do contributes to creating value for customers. If everybody thinks about what they do in these terms, then the next step will be much easier. The IT world we live in is becoming more and more service based by the day and there is great opportunityIndustry leaders have seen ITIL in action and have bought into it. Most major global corporations run their services on ITIL®, and such IT professionals are in great demand. 


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