ITIL 4 Is Coming—Here's What You Need to Know

Posted by on February 01, 2019


There are many who are happy to state that ITIL—the popular IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework—is dead, or is at least dying. However, interest in the latest release of ITIL seems to show little sign of waning—at least with the people who have studied, qualified in, and adopted ITIL best practices over the last 30 years (yes, ITIL turns 30 this year). These ITSM pros are waiting for the first elements of the latest ITIL update—related to the Foundation level—to be made public in Q1 2019 (likely the end of February).

If you want to find out more about this new ITIL version, then read on for important information on what we should all expect come the end of February 2019.

The ITIL Latest Version Will Be Called ITIL 4—Not ITIL 2019

Using the right ITIL lexicon is important for credibility. For instance, ITIL hasn’t been officially known as “The IT Infrastructure Library” since the release of ITIL v3 in 2007 (despite its continued use by some).

Therefore, it’s important to stress that this latest version is ITIL 4 not ITIL 2019 or even ITIL v4 (which will seem more familiar if you’ve been in ITSM roles long enough to remember ITIL v3 and then ITIL 2011).

In fact, AXELOS—the joint venture set up in 2014 by the UK Government and Capita to manage ITIL and other Office of Government Commerce (OGC) best practice properties—is very keen to communicate that it’s called ITIL 4 and not ITIL v4. The organization has been proactively pointing out the error for correction.

Why Is It Called an “ITIL Update”?

There are various phrases being used to describe the imminent arrival of ITIL 4. So far, I’ve already referred to it as the“latest release of ITIL,” “latest ITIL update,” and “latest version of ITIL.” And there are probably even more variants in play on the internet.

However, AXELOS prefers the term “ITIL update,” with this consistently reflected throughout its “ITIL Update” blog post. This seems appropriate given the probability that ITIL 4 will build on previous versions rather than being something that forgets them.

Why Is ITIL Being Updated?

Stuart Rance, a longtime ITIL author and ITSM-industry authority, has already written a blog post called “What's wrong with ITIL v3?” In it, he calls out five key reasons why ITIL v3—or, to be more precise, ITIL v3 2011 Edition—required updating. Using Stuart's terminology, these five reasons are:

  1. (ITIL v3 has) too much focus on process
  2. Implementation in silos (with organizations operating each of the processes separately)
  3. Too little focus on value, outcomes, costs, and risks
  4. (To provide) support for digital transformation
  5. (For) compatibility with Agile, Lean, DevOps, and other management approaches

Given that Stuart has been an author for the latest ITIL update, it can be assumed that these reasons not only reflect what’s wrong with ITIL v3 but also what will change with ITIL 4. The update is likely to reinforce linkages with business strategy and to maintain the core elements (of previous ITIL versions) that are still valuable, in addition to offering guidance on the areas he calls out in his blog post.

RELATED: The Essential Guide to ITIL Framework and Processes

What Do the New ITIL 4 Qualifications Look Like?

AXELOS has shared the following ITIL 4 certification structure diagram, which shows ITIL 4 courses and certifications at the following levels:

  • ITIL Foundation
  • ITIL Specialist modules x3
  • ITIL Strategist
  • ITIL Leader
  • ITIL Master

The Foundation course is still the platform upon which to build towards other ITIL qualifications. Interestingly, there’s no longer an ITIL Practitioner course and qualification available.

ITIL 4 Qualifications

ITIL V Certification

Image source: AXELOS,

With the associated explanation that, in addition to the existing ITIL Foundation and ITIL Master, the ITIL 4 certification scheme contains:

  • ITIL Managing Professional (ITIL MP) – which is aimed at IT practitioners working within technology and digital teams. It provides practical and technical knowledge.
  • ITIL Strategic Leader (ITIL SL) – which positions ITIL not just for IT operations but for all digitally-enabled services.

To qualify as either an ITIL Managing Professional or ITIL Strategic Leader, the exam-taker must complete all modules in each stream.

How Will the ITIL 4 Update Affect Existing ITIL Qualification Holders?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions each time ITIL is updated.

Why? Because with each ITIL update comes new content, new qualifications, and new exams—often including “bridge exams” which take individuals from a previous version of ITIL (qualification) to the latest.

For example, someone with the ITIL v3 Foundation-level qualification—commonly called Foundation Certification or Certificate—might wish to acquire the ITIL 4 Foundation certificate in order to keep studying in pursuit of further ITIL certificates.

The AXELOS ITIL Update blog explains the mechanics of how to do this, that:

  • All ITIL certifications will remain valid following the update.
  • All credits gained can be transitioned to the new certification scheme. AXELOS recommends that candidates continue to collect the 17 ITIL v3 credits necessary to take the ITIL Managing Professional Transition module (one course, one exam).

AXELOS also provides more detailed advice for people with ITIL v3 certifications looking to transition to ITIL 4 qualifications:

ITIL v3 Foundation – it’s recommended that certification holders undertake ITIL 4 Foundation to transition to the new scheme.

ITIL v3 Intermediate (3 or 4 credits achieved) – there are two recommended options for people at this point of qualification. They are encouraged to:

  1. Take ITIL 4 Foundation and a further module in their preferred area of interest,.
  2. Achieve 17 credits from ITIL v3 to be eligible for the ITIL Managing Professional transition module.

ITIL Intermediate/Practitioner (6 or more credits achieved beyond Foundation) – continue to collect v3 credits for an easy transition to ITIL 4 and the ITIL Managing Professional qualification. 17 credits are needed to take the ITIL Managing Professional Transition module.

ITIL v3 Expert – take the ITIL Managing Professional Transition module to achieve the ITIL Managing Professional qualification.

If all of this just seems like a jumble of ITIL-qualification-related terminology, then this flowchart might be a more helpful way of understanding the impact of ITIL 4 on your ITIL v3 qualifications. 

ITIL Previous Versions: Is the Current Version of the ITIL Framework ITIL 2011 or ITIL v3?

The naming of previous versions of ITIL can be an area of confusion. There was the original version, then a new version—commonly known as v2. Then came ITIL v3 in 2007; but this was updated in 2011 as the ITIL 2011 Edition.

So, is the current version ITIL 2011 Edition, ITIL v3 2011 Edition, or just simply ITIL v3?

On the one hand, the above advice from AXELOS talks to ITIL v3 certification—as though ITIL 2011 never existed. However, the five core ITIL 2011 books are labeled as 2011 Edition on their covers, with no mention of v3. Hence the confusion.

I guess we need to stick with what AXELOS is currently calling it: ITIL v3.

RELATED: ITIL 2011 vs. ITIL v3: Key Differences Every IT Pro Should Know

How Will ITIL 4 Affect the Pink Elephant PinkVERIFY ITSM Tool Certification Scheme?

If you’re looking to invest in a new ITSM tool, then you might use the Pink Elephant PinkVERIFY tool certification scheme—described by Pink Elephant as “an internationally recognized ITSM tool suite assessment service”—as an input to your tool-selection decision making.

The currently available set of Pink Elephant tool assessments is called PinkVERIFY 2011 Toolsets. This will no doubt need to be updated to reflect not only the new ITIL 4 name but also any changes to ITIL’s structure and scope the update brings. But, as yet, there has been no announcement from Pink Elephant as to what will happen.

I hope  this blog post has been helpful in explaining more about ITIL 4. If you have any questions, please reach out to me or Cherwell via Twitter and we’ll help where we can. And remember that it’s ITIL 4, not ITIL v4!

Download our eBook, "The 7 Deadly Sins of ITIL Implementations," to discover how to move at digital speed while still upholding ITIL principles. 

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