What is ITIL?

ITIL = Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It’s a set of practices for IT service management (ITSM). ITIL outlines a systematic approach to ITSM that helps businesses improve relationships with their customers, be more cost-effective, manage risk, and develop a sturdy IT infrastructure that can handle change and growth. 

ITIL helps companies align IT services with their business needs. As businesses became more dependent on technology, they needed a way to mesh their IT departments with the rest of the company. And while it originated in the UK, companies from all industries worldwide apply its practices. 

Currently, the ITIL is made up of 5 books – each covering different processes and phases of the IT service lifecycle. ITIL has been revised many times over the years, with the most recent one being ITIL 4.

ITIL Background

ITIL was created by the British government’s CCTA – Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency in the 1980s. The first version ended up being over 30 books – written and released over time – that documented IT’s best practices. 

The original was formed from various sources from around the world. For example, IBM contributed a four-volume series on systems management. It was called A Management System for Information Systems, but it was known as the “Yellow Books”.

CCTA and other agencies combined in April 2001 to form the OGC – Office of Government Commerce – now referred to as the Cabinet Office

The objective was to establish a set of standard practices that would reduce costs and limit perpetual errors. The government recognized that there was increasing dependence on IT yet the lack of proper procedures resulted in too many mistakes and increased spending.

Over time, ITIL gained credibility, and in 2005, its practices were used in and aligned with the ISO/IEC 20000 Service Management standard. This was the first international standard for IT service management, which is based on the British standard BS15000.

What’s in the ITIL?

The original version of the ITIL consisted of 30 books but these were condensed to 7 in 2000 when the ITIL V2 was released. Each book focused on one facet of IT management. The ITIL was consolidated again in 2007 into 5 volumes (the ITIL 2007 edition) as part of the ITIL Refresh Project. The ITIL 2011 was published in 2011 under the Cabinet Office. 

In 2019, the ITIL 4 – which is the current version – was launched. Its focus on automating processes, enhancing service management and integrating the IT department with business goals remains. Changes to the ITIL included updating the framework to address modern technology, software, and tools. The new framework is flexible, agile, and collaborative, catering to the needs of business today. 

There are 9 guiding principles within the ITIL:

  • Focus on value
  • Design for experience
  • Start where you are 
  • Work holistically 
  • Progress iteratively 
  • Observe directly
  • Be transparent
  • Collaborate 
  • Keep it simple 

The most recent ITIL version is all about company culture and meshing IT with the overall business structure, as well as promoting customer feedback.

ITIL Put into Practice

Simply reading the ITIL won’t necessarily result in any major IT operations improvements. You need to understand the concepts and figure out how to apply them, then share the changes with your staff. It’s not easy to implement new procedures, and it takes the right approach for employees to readily adopt them. 

Fortunately, the ITIL has a suite of consulting, training, and certification services. Axelos, a joint venture of the Cabinet Office and Capita PLC, that helps develop, manage, and operate certifications for best practices, now controls the ITIL personnel certification, and Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs) administer the exams. 

Before implementing ITIL in your company ask yourself: 

  • What problems are you trying to solve?
  • What is your path to continual service enhancement?

ITIL Certification

When it comes to IT certifications, the ITIL certification is a must-have. Establishing an IT department in line with ITIL practices depends on the people making it happen, and that requires a thorough understanding of the subject.

Not to mention, having the ITIL certification could boost your salary. PayScale provides data on how salaries vary according to one’s level of ITIL certification. On average, ITIL certified IT professionals earn around $96,000 a year. In the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, the ITIL certification was ranked 7th on the list of top-paying IT certifications. Keep in mind, though, that an ITIL certification itself might not directly correlate with your career’s success. 

How it Works

The initial ITIL v3 certification scheme consisted of 5 levels, (Foundation, Practitioner, Intermediate, Expert, Master), each requiring a deeper understanding and knowledge of ITIL. Afterwards, the ITIL 4 certification scheme was streamlined to include: the ITIL Foundation and the ITIL Master exams. There are two paths that can be taken for the ITIL Foundation exam: ITIL Managing Professional (MP) or ITIL Strategic Leader (SL). Each has its own modules and exams. 

The ITIL MP is for IT practitioners involved with technology and digital teams throughout an organization. It’s about running successful IT projects, teams, and workflows. The ITIL SL is designed for people who deal with “digitally enabled services”. This path zeros in on how technology guides business strategy and IT’s role in that. 

Both of these paths lead to the ITIL Master exam – the highest level of certification. The ITIL Master is a specialized level of certification higher than ITIL Expert. It’s for individuals with in-depth practical experience implementing ITIL best practices. To achieve ITIL Master, you’re required to explain and defend real-life projects you’ve completed using ITIL best practices.

Though the numbers are incomplete and the stats not readily available, it’s estimated that ITIL Masters account for 0.003% (41 people) of the approximately 1.3 million people that are ITIL-certified.

Benefits of ITIL

Not only does ITIL provide a professional and systematic approach to IT service management, it can also offer the following benefits, when adopted successfully: 

  • Improved productivity 
  • Reduced IT costs 
  • Better IT services
  • Increased customer satisfaction 
  • Standards and guidance
  • Enhanced third-party service delivery

Axelos maintains that ITIL can also help business better their services by: 

  • Managing risk, disruption and failure 
  • Initiating cost-effective practices 
  • Improving customer relations 
  • Developing a stable environment  

In the decade that followed the introduction and adoption of ITIL, a variety of companies experienced the advantages of embracing this framework.

ITIL Costs

ITIL is available for purchase as a hardcopy, PDF, ePub or via a subscription from Axelos. The next cost is training staff. Course registration and exam fees vary by location and range from about $150-$500. There are classes with special coursework that’s strongly recommended, and this can run upwards of $1000 for in-class instruction and around $500 for online courses.

Additionally, it should be taken into consideration that employees must take 2-5+ days off to complete a course.  

Of course, there’s also going to be the costs involved in reengineering existing processes and reforming the help desks, etc. Some help desk and management software is created with ITIL practice in mind, but when it’s not, be prepared to spend money adjusting software. 

When implementing ITIL, companies should take note that there will be hefty upfront costs and a lengthy journey involved. But the ROI includes massive savings in the long run. Take Procter and Gamble who saved around $500 million over 4 years due to reduced help desk calls and better operating procedures. 

While the exact ROI on ITIL implementation won’t be known until after it’s been completed, the long term savings and chances of success outweigh the large investments required at first.

Updated: March 01, 2022

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