What Is ITIL-Based Service Management Why Is It Relevant Today
Posted by on August 24, 2018
Chuck Darst is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for Cherwell Software. Chuck has over ten years of IT Service Management (ITSM) industry experience and over 20 years in a variety of IT Operations Management (ITOM) roles with a focus on machine learning, automation, compliance, and IT security.
ITIL® has been so popular for so many years and widely referenced in the world of Information Technology that it can sometimes come as a shock when someone in IT says they’ve never heard of it before. Whether you’ve never heard of ITIL, or you’re looking for a primer that can help you understand ITIL and IT service management (ITSM) and how it can add value to organizations of all sizes, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll explain exactly what ITIL is and how it came to exist, from its early publications in the late 1980s until today. We’ll explore the five stages of the service management lifecycle that form the latest ITIL literature, ITIL 2011, and the processes contained in each stage that allow the system to function. Finally, we’ll explain why ITIL and IT service management is relevant for organizations today and how to get started with ITIL-based service management at your organization.
What Is ITIL?
Let’s begin our exploration of ITIL and service management with a look at ITIL itself, how it came to exist, and its current mandate and activities. ITIL, formerly an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is an international standard for ITSM that developed out of a need to establish standards and best practices for IT service management in large organizations that were increasingly dependent on IT infrastructure for their overall functioning.
The initial IT service management best practices framework was developed during the 1980s and initially published between 1989 and 1996. The published framework consisted of 30 individual books, each of which outlined a specific practice of ITSM. In ITIL’s second version publication, released in 2001, writers consolidated the existing 30-book set into nine distinct publications that grouped the core processes under various headings, with the Service Support and Service Delivery books being the most widely adopted, referenced, and circulated throughout the IT community.
In 2007, ITIL v3 was released, which introduced the five stages of the service lifecycle strategy along with four functions (including the service desk) and numerous new processes.
The most recent update to ITIL’s standards and best practices was completed in 2011 with the release of ITIL 2011 which was released as a “final revised edition” of the largely similar ITIL v3 which debuted in 2007. It was also published in five volumes, each one focusing on a specific stage of the IT service lifecycle (we’ll talk more about this further on). The 26 ITIL processes are grouped based on the stage of service lifecycle management where they are most relevant.
Today, the ITIL framework is administered and updated by AXELOS, a joint venture between Capita and the British Cabinet Office. AXELOS controls the licensing of ITIL’s intellectual property, administers licenses for institutions that offer exams for ITIL certification, and manages updates and revisions to the ITIL framework. The next major update, ITIL 4, is in production and could be released to the public as early as 2019.
What Is ITIL-based service management?
For organizations that are becoming increasingly dependent on IT to support their core processes, ITIL offers a framework and general best practices that help guide the IT organization in supporting the business through the provision of IT services that align with business objectives. In fact, the main objective of ITSM is to achieve strategic alignment between the IT needs of the organization and the activities and service offerings of the IT organization.
For reference, the 2011 ITIL® Glossary define IT service management as “The implementation and management of quality IT services that meet the needs of the business. IT service management is performed by IT service providers through an appropriate mix of people, process and information technology. See also service management.” And for completeness sake, service management is defined as “A set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.”
Simply, ITIL is a process-oriented system—it consists of 26 processes that each fit into one of the five stages of the IT service lifecycle, which we’ll discuss in the next section. It also outlines the people, processes, products, tools and functions that are needed to facilitate each process. Here are a few more important points we’d like to make about ITSM:
ITIL Offers a Framework for Understanding the Role of IT
For businesses that operate in traditional industries, information technology can sometimes be seen as a detriment—a disabling influence on the business rather than an enabling one. ITIL played a significant role in changing that paradigm by placing a distinct focus on aligning the goals of the IT organization with the business goals of the organization. ITIL recognizes the need for IT organizations to deliver value to customers in the form of service delivery.
Under the ITIL framework, the “IT organization” refers to the organizational department that deals with IT service management. The customers of the IT organization are the workers and managers at the organization who depend on the continuous functioning of the organization’s IT infrastructure to function in their job roles. The IT organization works to understand what services are required by the customers and to deliver value by providing customers with the outcomes that they want while taking ownership of the associated costs and risks.
ITIL Processes Can Be Implemented in Steps
ITIL consists of 26 core processes that work together to comprise an overall framework for managing IT services within your organization, but virtually no organization today would endeavor to implement all 26 at once. Even very large organizations can struggle when attempting to implement as few as eight to 10 ITIL processes at the same time. Some organizations adopt a smaller set of processes and mature them within the organization before deciding whether to add more. Many organizations start with the basics of a service desk, such as incident management and request fulfillment, before adopting other ITIL processes.
What Is the ITIL Service Lifecycle?
ITIL’s current conceptualization of best practices for ITSM consists of a model that divides ITSM into five distinct stages, each one corresponding to a set of processes, policies, and roles that support its overall objectives. In this section, we’ll explain each of the five stages of the IT service lifecycle that comprise ITIL.
ITIL Service Strategy
Service strategy is the first step in the lifecycle for any service provided by the IT organization. In this step, the IT organization works to understand the strategic objectives and IT needs of the organization to which it belongs and the needs of the customers, so that it can design services which satisfy both. When organizational objectives and customer needs are aligned with the activities of the IT organization, it becomes easier for the IT organization to act as an enabling force within the organization and to deliver and demonstrate its value.
There are four processes that form the service strategy stage of the ITSM lifecycle:
- Strategy Management
- Financial Management
- Service Portfolio Management
- Demand Management
The financial management process helps to ensure that the organization provides IT services at the most effective price. This does not always mean the cheapest price, as the organization must opt for best-fit solutions that meet quality and demand requirements regardless of cost, while still demonstrating a meaningful ROI for the organization.
Service portfolio management is a process that entails defining the service offerings that are available and ensuring that they meet customer requirements. A working service portfolio contains services that are yet to be offered, services that are currently offered by the IT organization and retired services that are no longer offered by the IT organization.
ITIL Service Design
One of the key insights of ITIL is that service design should focus not just on the design of the IT service itself but on all of the technological and other elements associated with delivery of the service. Service design does this by including processes that assess how the planned services can be implemented harmoniously with the wider technical, business and organizational environments.
Processes under service design include:
- Design coordination
- Service catalog management
- Service-level management
- Security management
- Supplier management
- Availability management
- Capacity management
- IT service continuity management
Management of the service catalog is one of the core responsibilities of the service design team. A service catalog is typically presented to customers as an online portal where they can find information about services and make service requests directly to IT staff and agents. The service catalog contains information about what services are available, the steps needed to obtain the service, contact points for each service, information about self-service options, and pricing and deliverables for each type of service offered.
ITIL Service Transition
The role of the service transition processes is to effectively bridge the gap between service design and service operation. This is the implementation stage where new service offerings are transitioned from the design stage to actual implementation. The seven processes of ITIL Service Transition help to ensure that new IT services deliver on their intended strategic objectives, and that they can be maintained and operated both efficiently and cost-effectively.
There are seven processes that live in the service transition stage of ITSM:
- Transition planning and support
- Change Management
- Service asset and configuration management
- Release and deployment management
- Service validation and testing
- Change evaluation
- Knowledge Management
As with other quality standards, we see aspects of the Deming cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act) reflected throughout the processes of ITIL, especially in service transition. Processes like service validation and testing and change evaluation are testing processes that help ensure service offerings are functioning appropriately once deployed to the live environment. The Knowledge Management process plays a role in ensuring that relevant data is collected by the IT organization that allows the organization to avoid redundancies in knowledge acquisition and gain information and insights that can inform managerial decisions.
ITIL Service Operation
Service operation contains the ITIL processes and best practices that help the IT organization deliver service to end-users and customers at the agreed levels. This is the most important part of the IT service management lifecycle as it represents the delivery of value to the customer—without effective service operation, none of the other stages of the service management lifecycle retain their significance. Service operation is characterized not only by the processes it contains, but also by its various functional elements that focus on delivering value to the customer.
The processes of IT service operation are:
- Access management
- Event management
- Request fulfillment
- Problem Management
- Incident Management
The four functions of IT Service Operations are:
- Service desk
- Technical management
- Application management
- IT Operations management
The service desk is one of the most important functions in ITIL, providing a single point of contact for all issues related to ITSM processes and a streamlined communication channel between end-users, customers, and the IT staff. Service desks are often heavily involved in incident control, communication, and request fulfillment, but they may also provide an interface for change requests, service-level management, configuration and availability management, IT services continuity management, and other activities.
ITIL Continual Service Improvement
Continual service improvement is the final stage of the ITIL-based service management lifecycle. Process owners in this stage ask themselves questions like “What can be done to improve the efficiency of IT service delivery at the organization?” or “How do we get back on track when things don’t go according to plan?” Continual service improvement requires data collection and analysis—the performance of IT services needs to be measured effectively so managers can determine whether improvements are really happening.
Along with processes for service measurement, service reporting, and determining ROI, continual service improvement follows a seven-step process designed to gather data that can be used to implement improved service management methodologies:
- Identify the strategy for improvement
- Define what you will measure
- Gather the data
- Process the data
- Analyse the information and data
- Present and use the information
- Implement improvement
Continual service improvement depends heavily on other processes like Knowledge Management, where a person in a specialized knowledge management role implements a system for collecting data that can be used to inform and inspire organizational innovation and change.
Why Is ITIL Relevant to IT Organizations Today?
With the five stages of ITIL service management outlined above, you might still be wondering why the ITIL framework is relevant in the modern world of IT. Here’s why we think ITIL has got such a strong foothold as the leading international framework for IT service management.
ITIL is the leading international standard for ITSM
As the leading international standard for IT service management, ITIL’s recommendations have guided the development and operations of IT organizations across the globe, from the largest Fortune 500 companies to small- and medium-sized businesses. Even with the rise of Lean, Agile, and DevOps, ITIL continues to provide valuable and proven guidance for essential processes such as Incident Management, service catalog management, and request fulfillment. And with the pending release of ITIL 4, it continues to evolve to meet today’s market demands.
ITIL informs the ISO standards for ITSM
As the International Standards Organization moves toward the publication of a global standard and best practices for IT service management, the ITIL processes will continue to underpin much of the guidance offered by this prestigious organization. As IT changes, ITIL will change with it, but ITIL is certainly not going away. The most recent ISO for ITSM, ISO/IEC 20000, was first published in December 2005, revised in 2011, and is also currently being updated.
ITIL is used by IT professionals around the world
ITIL is one of the largest worldwide certifying bodies for ITSM professionals. With over a million ITIL certificates issued around the world, ITIL has effectively become the common language of IT professionals everywhere. The processes have transcended the organizations in which they are implemented and become enmeshed in global IT culture.
ITIL is supported by software developers like Cherwell
ITIL is a set of best practices and process guidance, but not a tool in and of itself. Still, ITIL has informed the development of the most widely implemented IT tools available today. Over 1700 enterprises around the world have placed their trust in Cherwell’s ITSM software, boosting their organizational efficiency and saving millions of dollars in the process.
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