ITIL 4 vs. ITIL V3: What You Need to Know

Posted by on December 24, 2019

itil 4 vs itil v3

For more than a decade, ITIL V3 has been the leading international standard for IT service management. Released in 2007, with a minor set of updates in 2011, the ITIL V3 framework has helped IT organizations around the world improve and standardize the delivery of IT services, leading to reduced costs and increased efficiency. But all great things must come to an end, and that's exactly what happened to ITIL V3 in February of 2019 when AXELOS,  a company created to manage, develop, and grow the Global Best Practice portfolio including ITIL, released ITIL 4 Foundation, the first book of the ITIL 4 update. 

The newly released ITIL 4 framework represents a step forward in the evolution of ITIL. The ITIL V3 framework, published more than a decade ago, does not provide adequate guidance for IT organizations that want to make use of the most current technologies, especially in areas like cloud computing, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, ITIL V3 was the subject of several valid criticisms levied by ITIL practitioners:

  1. ITIL V3 is sometimes seen as overly inflexible, due to its emphasis on processes.

  2. ITIL V3 lacked overarching management principles that could guide problem solving in cases where the ITIL publications did not explicitly recommend a solution or best practice.

  3. Some practitioners found ITIL V3 too narrow in its scope. It focuses too deeply on management processes and ignores other important external factors that impact value delivery.

In this article, we're taking a deep dive into ITIL 4 vs. ITIL 3. We'll assess the structure of both frameworks before identifying and quantifying the biggest changes in the ITIL 4 and why these updates are important for IT organizations today.

Defining ITIL V3

At the time of its release in 2007, ITIL V3 built on the legacy of "IT as a service" that characterized the ITIL frameworks up to that point. Going back to 1989, the reason ITIL was created in the first place was to achieve better alignment between the needs of the business and the activities of the IT organization. The earlier versions of ITIL (ITIL V1, released in 1989 and ITIL V2, released in 2000) were effective in guiding best practices, but one could argue that ITIL V3 was the first truly complete ITIL framework.

The ITIL V3 standard is organized into five volumes, with each corresponding to one stage of the IT service life cycle. Each volume describes the processes, subprocesses, roles, and responsibilities that are required to manage that stage of the service life cycle. The five volumes of ITIL V3 can be summarized as follows:

1. ITIL Service Strategy: Service strategy is the most important stage of the ITIL service life cycle. This stage is where the IT organization collaborates with the business to identify opportunities, understand user needs, and assess demand for services. The purpose of ITIL service strategy is to align IT service development with the needs of the business, ensuring that newly developed capabilities can effectively drive value for the organization. ITIL service strategy processes include:

  • Strategy management for IT services
  • Service portfolio management
  • Financial management for IT services
  • Demand management
  • Business relationship management

2. ITIL Service Design: Service design deals with the strategic design of new IT services along with any changes or modifications to existing services. New IT services must be designed to meet the user needs gathered during the service strategy stage and to meet the availability and capacity requirements necessary to comply with service level agreements. ITIL service design processes include:

  • Design coordination
  • Service catalog management

  • Service level management

  • Risk management

  • Capacity management

  • Availability management

  • IT service continuity management

  • Information security management

  • Compliance management

  • Architecture management

  • Supplier management

3. ITIL Service Transition: Service transition covers all of the processes involved in building and deploying a new IT service, or releasing a change or update to an existing service. ITIL service transition processes include:

  • Change Management
  • Change evaluation
  • Project management
  • Application development
  • Release and deployment management
  • Service validation and testing
  • Service asset and configuration management
  • Knowledge Management

4. ITIL Service Operation: The purpose of the service operation stage of the IT service life cycle is to ensure that IT services are delivered to the organization efficiently and in compliance with agreed service levels. ITIL service operation processes include:

5. Continual Service Improvement (CSI): The final volume of ITIL V3 contains a methodology for achieving continual improvement of IT services. Organizations are encouraged to review services for their efficiency and effectiveness and to identify and implement changes to make processes more efficient for the organization. Continual service improvement processes include:

  • Service review

  • Process evaluation

  • Definition of CSI initiatives

  • Monitoring of CSI initiatives

ITIL V3 provided an effective framework for organizations looking for ways to manage IT service delivery more efficiently. Through the IT service strategy processes, IT organizations were directed to capture user needs and requirements from the business. Following the determination of what new services or capabilities should be developed, ITIL V3 offered a robust framework of processes for managing the design, deployment, operation, and continual improvement of IT services.

Defining ITIL 4

The stated objectives of the new ITIL 4 framework for ITSM are:

  1. To provide a flexible foundation for organizations that need to integrate various frameworks and approaches into their service management operating models

  2. To help businesses navigate the new technological era of digital services.

To achieve these objectives, ITIL 4 offers a broader approach to ITSM than its predecessor with additional high-level guidance, less emphasis on prescriptive processes, and a scope that extends beyond management or operational processes to address additional external factors that impact value creation for IT. These new characteristics of ITIL 4 address the three primary criticisms of ITIL V3 outlined in the introduction.

In the ITIL Foundation book of ITIL 4, we learn that the ITIL 4 framework is based on two key components: the service value system (SVS) and the four dimension model

The service value system includes five key components that support value creation for the IT organization:

  1. ITIL's seven guiding principles

  2. Governance

  3. ITIL service value chain

  4. ITIL practices

  5. Continual improvement

The four dimensions model covers four factors that should be addressed in relation to each component of the service value system:

  1. Organizations and people

  2. Information and technology products

  3. Partners and suppliers

  4. Value streams and processes


RELATED: The Essential Guide to ITIL Framework and Processes 

ITIL 4 vs. ITIL V3: What Are the Key Similarities and Differences?

Before we discuss the differences in ITIL 4 vs. ITIL V3, let's start with a discussion about what's the same. ITIL 4 keeps virtually all of the same content as ITIL V3, but that content has been reorganized and repurposed within the new framework to shift ITIL's emphasis away from process-oriented management and toward value creation.

ITIL V3 contained 26 processes and four functions arranged around five stages of the IT service life cycle.

In the ITIL 4 update, the IT service life cycle has been replaced by the six-part IT service value chain, which acts as the core element of the new service value system. The six parts of the service value chain are:

  1. Engage

  2. Plan

  3. Design and transition

  4. Obtain/build

  5. Deliver and support

  6. Improve

It should be noted that the IT service value chain is presented as a non-linear process. The first stage, engagement, represents engagement with the business and maps roughly with the IT service strategy stage of ITIL V3. Planning and improving services are processes that take place throughout the service value chain, not at any particular stage of service development. Finally, design and transition, obtain/build, and service delivery and support are closely related processes that can occur at the same time or on a staggered basis.

In ITIL 4, the 26 processes and functions that were in ITIL V3 have been reworked into 34 practices under three categories: general management practices, service management practices, and technical management practices. There are two fundamental changes happening here:

  1. The "processes" of ITIL V3 have been redefined as "practices" in ITIL 4 to present them as less rigid and more flexible in terms of how IT organizations choose to implement them.

  2. Individual practices have been decoupled from specific stages of the service value chain, leaving additional room for practical interpretation of how specific practices should be applied.

Finally, it should be noted that the four dimensions model of ITIL 4 was likely inspired by the "4 P's of ITIL Service Design." According to the ITIL V3 framework, IT organizations should consider people, partners, products, and processes when designing a new IT service to ensure that the service is both fit for purpose and fit for use. While the original 4 P's were meant to be applied exclusively to ITIL service design, the new four dimensions model is to be applied to every component of the new ITIL service value system.

To summarize, most of the contents of ITIL V3 have been reorganized and reworked for ITIL 4. Major new additions to the framework include the seven guiding principles, best practices for corporate and IT governance, the ITIL service value system, the new ITIL service value chain, and increased emphasis on both continuous improvement and value creation.

RELATED: The Difference Between ITSM and ITIL

What's New in ITIL 4?

Now that we've established how ITIL 4 changed and reorganized many of the concepts of ITIL V3, let's take a closer look at some of the characteristics of the new ITIL 4 framework and how they will influence IT service management.

Embraces Collaboration

The new ITIL 4 framework encourages collaboration among IT operations, security, and development teams, as well as with other departments and the business itself. Effective communication and collaboration is essential to the effective co-creation of value throughout the service value system.

Provides a Holistic Approach

As one of its seven guiding principles, the ITIL 4 framework directs practitioners to think and work holistically. This guidance means taking individual responsibility for how IT operations and strategy affect service delivery and value creation in the context of the service value system. IT operators, developers, and other team members are guided by ITIL 4 to take ownership of the service value chain and always consider how their work impacts downstream value creation.

Adopts a Service Value System 

The new service value system of ITIL 4 represents the most significant structural change to the ITIL framework since the IT service life cycle was first introduced in ITIL V3. ITIL 4 goes beyond IT service management processes and focuses on the co-creation of value through the alignment and collaboration of people, products, processes, and partners in all stages of the ITIL SVS.

Designed for Customer Experience

In its research leading up to the release of ITIL 4, AXELOS ran workshops with thousands of organizations around the world to better understand the relationships between business organizations and the IT organizations that serve them. A recurring theme was that IT organizations are too internally focused: they spend too much time looking at technology, processes, and systems and do not develop enough of an understanding about the organizations they operate within.

Think back to the ITIL V3 framework and it's no wonder why this is the case. Only the ITIL Service Strategy book deals with interactions between the IT organization and the business, and the remaining deal books with processes that are essentially internal to the IT organization. ITIL 4 addresses this issue by directing IT and the business to collaborate more throughout the entire service value chain, with additional guidance for IT governance and leadership. 

Together, these changes drive an enhanced customer experience for the business by ensuring that IT and business objectives are aligned throughout the service value chain.

Promotes Transparency

ITIL 4 practitioners are encouraged by the framework to create transparency among working teams. Transparency and visibility of projects throughout the organization has a number of positive effects on value creation: it helps ensure alignment between IT and the business, helps eliminate information and knowledge silos, improves efficiency and resource allocation, and helps to reduce or eliminate redundant work. 

Encourages Simplicity

"Keep it simple and practical" is one of ITIL 4's new guiding principles. Organizations are encouraged to simplify their systems as much as possible and to right-size their implementation of ITIL processes, tools and resources. This high-level guidance is AXELOS' way of saying "You should only adopt ITIL practices to the extent that they provide a practical benefit that is justified by the complexity and workload they create.” Rather than adopt every ITIL process, organizations should pick and choose the tools and resources that satisfy their practical requirements.

RELATED: Cherwell Built-In ITIL Best Practices Datasheet

Final Thoughts on ITIL 4 vs. ITIL V3

Technology is growing and evolving at an exponential rate, and as enterprise organizations undergo digital transformation, they will increasingly rely on IT organization to deliver new services and capabilities in line with business needs and objectives. As a result, it is more important than ever that IT organizations remain up to date with current technological trends as well as industry-leading best practices for IT service management.

ITIL 4 is finally here, and Cherwell is uniquely positioned to assist organizations in the transition to the new framework. Our industry-leading ITSM software platform, 24/7 technical support, and training solutions for ITIL practitioners in organizations of all sizes make Cherwell the ideal vendor partner for organizations seeking to enhance their IT service management and value creation processes.

Ready to learn more? View our webinar to learn how your organization can leverage the new Service Value Chain guidance to generate the maximum impact and value creation for your business.

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