ITIL 4 Is Here—What It Means for You, and How to Get Started

Posted by on March 19, 2019

The first of the new ITIL update publications and exams was made available in February in the form of “ITIL Foundation, ITIL 4 Edition.” In many respects,this update to ITIL v3 (2011 Edition) is much more than simply an update—with more of the “structural” ITIL guidance changing than many might have predicted. In this article, I’ll cover some of the key changes in ITIL 4. But let’s start with what the ITIL 4 update means for you. 

What Does ITIL 4 Mean for You and Your Organization?

Unfortunately, we can only respond to this question with a classic consultant answer: “It depends.” As it will depend on your role, your organization’s type of business, and your previous exposure to ITIL best practices.

For example, if you and your organization have never used ITIL before, the change will mean little relative to everything that has come and gone with the previous ITIL incarnations. But as to its timeliness and relevance, ITIL 4 is much more meaningful today than its predecessors, the 2011 Edition and the original 2007 ITIL v3. Eight years is a long time in both corporate and consumer IT, and later in this article, we’ll explore some of the broader market trends that informed—and, in fact, compelled the need for—the new guidance found in ITIL 4.

If you’re already knowledgeable about ITIL and in a role/company that provides ITIL-related services—for instance, consulting, training, or managed service provisioning—then incorporating ITIL 4’s principles will likely be a case of upskilling (and learning) in order to meet your clients’ needs and expectations. (Although managed service providers, out of the three examples, will likely have a delayed customer and prospect interest in ITIL-4-aligned capabilities versus those of ITIL v3.) Much will depend on customer insistence on ITIL 4 use over ITIL v3, but I expect most would be more concerned about outcomes and costs versus “what’s behind the curtain.”

The biggest impact of ITIL 4 will likely be among IT service management (ITSM) practitioners working for corporate (not including the above three examples) and not-for-profit organizations.

For new students of ITIL, who could actually be in any type of organization and role, the impact of the ITIL 4 changes in exam and qualification terms is explained in this previous ITIL 4 blog. For those ITSM practitioners who’ve already adopted ITIL v3 best practice within their organization, it’s a case of digesting the changes and anticipating the impact they will have on their organization’s existing ITSM processes. 

This might seem a leisurely approach, but the reality is that so far, only the ITIL Foundation content has been released. The 212 pages of the Kindle edition—while full of interesting content—only give the reader a high-level appreciation of the ITIL 4 approach to “service management” (note the lack of emphasis on “IT”—a deliberate change with ITIL 4). The truth is, it’s no different than any of the previous ITIL versions where the Foundation’s intention is to provide an introductory overview for those new to ITSM/service management.

What’s Changed with ITIL 4?

The most obvious changes are the loss of the ITIL v3 service lifecycle terminology and imagery, and changes to the elements that comprised it: service strategy (there’s now a strategy management practice—more on “management practices” in a minute), service transition (there’s now “Design and transition” in the service value chain shown below), and service operation (there’s now “Delivery and support” in the service value chain). Service design is also now included as a management practice and continual service improvement (CSI) has been renamed as “continual improvement”—to reflect that the ITIL continual improvement approach (now with an additional step, too) can be applied to more than just services.

The prominence of the ITIL v3 service lifecycle is replaced by the ITIL Service Value System and Service Value Chain, which is at the center of the Service Value System. These changes reflect ITIL 4’s new focus on “the co-creation of value.”

Service Value System

ITIL 4 Service Value System diagram from AXELOS

Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation, ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

Service Value Chain

ITIL 4 Service Value Chain diagram from AXELOS

Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation, ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

As to the “management practices” point above: first, the 26 ITIL v3 processes have been replaced with ITIL 4 management practices. Some of the v3 processes have maintained their ITIL v3 name, while others have been renamed, and new processes have been added. There is now a total of 34 management practices—split across general management, service management, and technical management categories.

These management practices are defined by the Foundation book as: “A set of organizational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective.”So, more than the processes of old. A quick summary of the management practices is shown below:

General management practices

Service management practices

Technical management practices

Architecture management

Availability management

Deployment management

Continual improvement

Business analysis

Infrastructure and platform management

Information security management

Capacity and performance management

Software development and management

Knowledge management

Change control


Measurement and reporting

Incident management


Organizational change management

IT asset management


Portfolio management

Monitoring and event management


Project management

Problem management


Relationship management

Release management


Risk management

Service catalogue management


Service financial management

Service configuration management


Strategy management

Service continuity management


Supplier management

Service design


Workforce and talent management

Service desk



Service level management



Service request management



Service validation and testing


Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation, ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

There are many other changes between ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 that could be listed here, but these are probably best left for a separate blog or similar resource.

The Impact ITIL 4 Will Have on ITSM Tools

While thinking about the changes within the ITIL 4 Foundation book, you would be remiss not to consider how it will affect your current—or future—ITSM tool.

It’s an interesting situation because while most popular ITSM tools have been designed with ITIL as a blueprint, most tool vendors stopped marketing their ITIL alignment mid-decade. It’s not that ITIL alignment isn’t still important, as evidenced by the continued adoption and use of the Pink Elephant PinkVERIFY certification scheme; it’s simply that it isn’t such a dealwinner as it used to be.

However, in the short term, we would expect potential customers to at least be interested in ITIL-4-based enhancements that cover off the changes—and of course, any new guidance that helps customers achieve better IT and business outcomes.

“I’m an ITSM Practitioner, How Do I Get Started?”

As covered in the “What Does ITIL Mean?” section, there’s likely little urgency among those who aren’t consultants, trainers, or students—because they’re probably best waiting for the release of the ITIL 4 publications and other resources related to the higher-level exams. This more detailed content is likely what’s needed for you to better understand what could and should change for your organization.

In the meantime, though, it’s a great opportunity to take the time to see what has changed (at a Foundation level of detail), assessing not only if, but also how it impacts your current ITIL approach. Plus, you may find there are significant changes or additions that would be beneficial enough to extend the scope of your ITIL use now, rather than later.

If there are some Foundation-level changes you believe are sufficiently valuable to adopt now, you could bite now, start to benefit earlier, then potentially roll out another phase of changes as the additional publications and resources become available. Or you could wait until more detailed guidance is released, and implement all the changes at once as part of a larger (and potentially more complex) project.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. And rest assured, whatever approach you decide to take, you and the business you support will benefit significantly from the new, more outcome-focused guidance found within ITIL 4.  

To find out more about ITIL 4, watch our webinar on key changes and implications, along with practical guidance. 

Watch the Webinar