ITIL 2011 vs. ITIL V3: Key Differences Every IT Pro Should Know

Posted by on July 13, 2018


Since its inception in the early 1990s, ITIL® has served as the preeminent global standard for IT service management. Despite having been restructured and revised several times, ITIL has maintained its relevance by changing with the times, adapting its methods to continuously satisfy the business needs of the thousands of companies that train their managers and executives in ITIL standards and practices.

IT professionals also need to stay updated on ITIL with a new version expected later this year—that's why we've created a guide to explain the most important structural and methodological changes between ITIL v3, updated in 2007, and ITIL 2011. Keep reading to learn about the history of ITIL and understand how the 2011 version compares to its V3 predecessor.

History and Structure of the ITIL System and Methodology

In today's ultra-connected technology and business environment, ITIL is immediately recognizable as the global standard for IT service management—but that wasn't always the case. Before the emergence of ITIL in the 1990s, public and private sector organizations that wished to manage the IT infrastructure for their organizations were faced with the task of creating, implementing, and following their own frameworks for IT service delivery and operations. This lack of standardization resulted in high costs and wasted efforts, as organizations re-invented the wheel time and again in the absence of any readily available standards they could follow.

Then, between 1989 and 1996, the UK Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) released the first publication of the IT Infrastructure Library, today known as ITIL. ITIL v1 was comprised of a library of 30 volumes, recommending a broad framework of best practices for IT organizations. As technology and business needs evolved, ITIL evolved as well, with a second version of the standard being released in 2000-2001. This ITIL v2 reduced the 30-volume framework into nine modules, each with related items.

Finally, the 2007 version of ITIL, ITIL V3, was published with the five-volume format that most IT professionals recognize today. The five volumes are built around the concept of a service life-cycle structure, and each volume recommends procedures and best practices for one of five phases in the life cycle of an IT service:

ITIL v3, now also known by the name "ITIL 2007 Edition," was updated with "ITIL 2011." This version does not make any major changes to the format of ITIL v3, but it does contribute some important updates that will be the focus of the rest of this article. Keep reading to learn what was new and different in ITIL 2011.

Changes to Service Strategy in ITIL 2011

The service strategy volume of ITIL offers recommendations for IT professionals in regard to the prioritization of service-provider investment in services, and discusses the four P's of strategy: perspective, position, plan, and pattern. The guidelines for implementing service strategy have been clarified in ITIL 2011 without changing the overall message presented by ITIL v3. The updates and improved guidance to service strategy are generally considered to be the most important enhancement provided in ITIL 2011. Here are some key changes in the updated ITIL 2011:

Changes to Service Design in ITIL 2011

Just like in ITIL v3, the Service Design module of ITIL 2011  focuses on the architectures, processes, policies, and documentation that enables organizations to design IT services that meet their business needs. Here are some of the most significant differences in the updated ITIL 2011, compared to its predecessor:

Changes to Service Transition in ITIL 2011

The overarching goal of the service transition process is to go from service design to actually building and deploying the IT services. The Service Transition phase also exists to help ensure that changes to service and service management processes are structured and coordinated effectively. Effective Change Management mitigates risk for new, changing, and retiring services. Here are some of the key changes to the Service Transition module in ITIL 2011:

Changes to Service Operation in ITIL 2011

Service Operation represents the fourth module of ITIL 2011 and the fourth phase in the IT service life cycle. This module provides guidance and best practices on the principles, processes, activities, and functions that allows IT departments within organizations to effectively manage and administer IT services. While the previous modules focused on getting IT services from the strategic planning stage through deployment, service operation is all about ensuring that customers can access the service.

ITIL 2011 offers little in terms of revision to the Service Operation processes outlined in ITIL v3, but there was some new advice and guidance that further clarified certain aspects of Service Operation:

Changes to Continual Service Improvement in ITIL 2011

The goal of Continual Service Improvement (CSI) is to facilitate the ongoing improvement of services and processes offered by IT. There are just four processes that comprise the CSI phase of the IT life cycle: service review, process evaluation, definition of CSI initiatives, and monitoring of CSI initiatives. In fact, not much has changed between ITIL v3 and ITIL 2011 in terms of CSI, except for the few items listed below:


For most IT professionals, there should be few surprises in the updated guidelines that were created for ITIL 2011. While keeping the structure of the guidance highly stable, the improved ITIL 2011 offers more detailed guidance and advice for some hot-button issues in IT, especially the handling of service requests, a more coordinated approach to design coordination, and the need for proactive problem identification.

IT professionals should excitedly welcome these new best practices and begin adopting them at their organizations to ensure compliance with the IT industry's best practices today.

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