New ITIL 4 Features and What They Mean for Your Organization


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ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is one of the most widely adopted frameworks for IT service management. Since the 80s when ITIL was unveiled by the UK Government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, it has seen several updates from the first version to the fourth version that was released in February 2019. The ITIL framework was designed for use by IT service providers, IT practitioners, managers, and other professionals involved in IT service management.

The latest update sets a distinct difference between ITIL v3 and v4 foundation principles. Our focus is on ITIL v3 and v4 because this is agreeably the first major update that has been done on the framework since 2007. Yet ITIL evolution is inevitable thanks to the technological advancements we    

Getting back to the fundamentals, however, the ITIL v4 framework has some core objectives that justify its wide adoption. 

The core objectives of the ITIL v4 framework

Overall, the ITIL framework is used to standardize the IT services of a business throughout its lifecycle from planning to delivery. While the main goal of ITIL is to enhance efficiency and achieve well-defined service delivery goals, it does have other objectives. 

Overall, ITIL enables collaborative working between IT professionals and other business stakeholders. This aligns the IT department’s services and strategies with overall business goals. ITIL v4 specifically provides flexible guidelines that allow businesses to integrate various other frameworks and approaches into their ITI services management. In an era of digital transformation, ITIL V4 empowers businesses to navigate the ever-evolving technological landscape to their advantage. It encompasses the techniques that help businesses align ITIL with other frameworks like Agile, DevOps, and Lean as well as approaches like containerization, microservices, and the cloud.

Away from the four Ps (people, processes, product, partners) in ITIL v3, the focus in ITIL v4 is on four fundamental dimensions of service management which are mapped to the service value system comprising of five elements as below. 

Four ITIL v4 IT service management dimensions 

  1. Organization and people
  2. Value streams and processes 
  3. Information and technology 
  4. Partners and suppliers 

Five Service Value System elements 

The service value system of an organization outlines how the elements, activities, and services of an organization work together to create value. Service value elements include:  

  • Guiding principles 
  • Governance 
  • Service value chain 
  • Continual improvement 
  • Best practices 

New ITIL 4 Features and What They Mean for Your Organization 

ITIL v4 has been hailed to introduce a simplistic holistic approach to the entire IT services life cycle management from demand, value proposition, and delivery. ITIL v4 takes into account the latest trends and technological developments in the IT industry. 

  1. From four functions, five service life cycle stages, and 26 TISM processes in ITIL v3 to 34 practices in ITIL v4

All too often, too many terms and vocabularies can be a little confusing for implementors. For instance, there was a question about the difference between functions and processes in ITIL v3. ITIL v4 simplifies all these into practices for easy adoption and does not change the structure in any way. An advantage that ITIL offers is that an organization does not have to adopt the entire framework.

ITIL v3 had 5 categories of processes which are:

  • Service strategy 
  • Service design 
  • Service transition 
  • Service operation 
  • Continual service improvement 

ITIL v4 simplifies these into four categories of practices which are:

  • General management practices cover the practices that an organization has put in place to align ITSM to organizational goals and objectives. 
  • Service management practices cover the management of all IT services. 
  • Technical management practices cover the planning, development, deployment, maintenance, and management of software and infrastructure. 

 ITIL v4 thus focuses on how best every practice under each category can be accomplished by leveraging the resources and capabilities attached to them in full.  

2. From service life cycle in ITIL v3 to Service value chain in ITIL v4 

ITIL V4 moves away from the service lifecycle processes in ITIL v3. As indicated above, the service lifecycle in ITIL v3 included the following phases:  

  • The service strategy
  • Service design
  • Service transition
  • Service operation
  • Continual service improvement 

Value co-creation is at the heart of ITIL v4. The service value chain outlines the components that an organization has in place to create value through holistic end-to-end service management. As we have seen, these components include: 

  • Guiding principles
  • Governance
  • Continual improvement
  • Service value chain
  • Best practices 

These represent all the components and activities in a service value system (SVS) that an organization has established to work together to create and deliver value in their IT services and the organization as a whole. 

3. From continual service improvement in ITIL v3 to Continual improvement in ITIL v4

According to AXELOS, a guiding principle is a recommendation that guides an organization in all circumstances, regardless of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, and management structure. 

The Continual service improvement structure in ITIL v3 consisted of 9 guiding principles. ITIL v4 has revised this structure into 7 universal guiding principles not just for implementing ITIL but also for implementing any other ITSM framework. These guiding principles are:

  1. Focus on value
  2. Start where you are 
  3. Progress iteratively with feedback 
  4. Collaborate and promote visibly 
  5. Think and work holistically 
  6. Keep it simple and practical 
  7. Optimize and automate

4. ITIL v4 focus on automation 

With the advent of AI and machine learning, automation is the next big thing. Humans are freed from the everyday repetitive tasks to focus their efforts on innovation, efficiency, and productivity. We have already witnessed in the past decade how machines programmed to carry out intelligent tasks initially done by humans have increased efficiency and productivity while bringing down human errors and IT service management costs. 

As we have seen above, optimization and automation are core guiding principles of continual improvement in ITIL v4. This framework provides the guidelines that organizations can follow to implement the right automation tools and approaches for their workflows and processes. 

According to Axelos, “resources of all types, particularly human resources (HR), should be used to their best effect. Eliminate anything that is truly wasteful and use technology to achieve whatever it is capable of. Human intervention should only happen where it really contributes value.”

5. ITIL v4 Governance comes to the fore

ITIL v4 pays keener attention to governance than all other previous versions of ITIL. proper governance is core to the ITIL service value system. ITIL simply describes governance as accountability. In other words, a system by which organizations are directed and controlled. The governance structure of any organization encompasses policies for decision-making, control of accountability, and behavior of the highest level of management. 

To accomplish good governance, ITIL v4 provides the following guidelines: 

  • Evaluation and aligning of the organization as a whole including its objectives, policies, and all other components to stakeholder requirements.
  • Using the strategies outlined by the board of directors to prioritize the activities of the organization
  • Closely monitoring the performance of the organization in regards to its objectives, products, services, and practices. 

In conclusion 

ITIL is a highly valuable framework for any organization. This framework is comprehensive and flexible allowing organizations to implement only the parts that they need and with time continue to improve and implement more. ITIL v4 goes beyond improving IT capabilities to creating value. A good implementation of the ITIL framework results in alignment between IT and the business, efficiency, reduction of costs, and delivery of value in IT services.