ITIL 4: Everything You Need to Know

ITIL, and specifically ITIL training, is in use by 90% of the FTSE 500 companies and two million practitioners.  It’s an exceptional framework which puts service management in a strategic context.  It looks at IT service management, development, operations, business relationships and governance holistically and brings the different functions together.  By doing this, ITIL 4, the latest incarnation of the global service management framework, has evolved into an integrated model for digital service management.

ITIL foundation certification is the baseline qualification for IT professionals.  Empowering your staff with ITIL training is the first step in moving IT from being a purely administrative and back-end function to an integrated business activity.

Since ITIL is a generic framework and not prescriptive, organisations have to adopt and adapt the guidance to gain maximum value from it.  This can make it difficult for companies to know what to do.  Which activities should you prioritise?  Who needs to be involved?  How do you measure success?  And how do you even measure your maturity?

ITIL is undergoing a shift this year. With the largest revamp in a long time, we’re moving from ITIL v3 to ITIL 4 in 2019/20.  This update brings some marked changes.  We are seeing a greater focus on business integration and closer alignment to Agile, Lean, DevOps and Cobit.

ITIL Fundamentals

ITIL 4 launched in February 2019 and has introduced key new concepts:

  • The Service Value System which signifies how the different activities and mechanisms within an organisation coordinate to generate value from IT-enabled services
  • The Service Value Chain, essentially a redesign of ITIL v3’s Service Lifecycle
  • The Four Dimensions, a reworking of the ‘Four P’s’ from v3 into Organisations and People, Information and Technology, Partners and Suppliers, Value Streams and Processes.

For processes and practices to operate effectively, someone needs to be accountable for them; the Process Owner in v3.  This person drafts the organisation’s policy for managing the activities, which describes the organisation’s specific approach to that activity and ultimately leads to consistency, efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.  It is therefore remarkable that only a small number of organisations have appointed Process Owners, despite ITIL being around since 1989.

ITIL Certification

So should organisations abandon ITIL v3 and cut over to ITIL 4?  Will the v3 qualifications still be valid or will everyone need to sit an ITIL 4 exam? 

Actually, the truth is that much of v3 is still relevant, even if not tested by ITIL 4, meaning that you should most certainly ensure that your staff are trained in v3 before the courses disappear in or around June 2020.  ITIL v3 forms the perfect foundation for understanding and adopting ITIL.

Furthermore, if your candidates achieve 17 points from the v3 qualification schema prior to mid-2020, they can convert directly to the equivalent of ITIL Expert with just a ‘Managing Professional’ transition course.

What we see at Infrassistance

At Infrassistance we are in a unique position as we see, on the ground, how organisations truly use ITIL. The maturity of ITIL processes is traditionally measured on a 0-5 scale.  Why is it that despite ITIL being around since 1989, most organisations that Infrassistance studies achieve an average process maturity value of just over 2?  Is there a ‘sweet-spot’ that represents the right level of maturity for a particular organisation, and if so what is it?  Or should all organisations aim at level 5 for all processes?  And if they were to achieve that, what improvements would they get? 

The truth is that each organisation is unique and needs to develop its own approach consistent with its strategy and objectives.  The most effective IT services are those that have been designed around the requirements of the business.  ‘Proper planning prevents poor performance.’

Leading organisations operate proactively – get it right first time.  However, the costs of putting things right reactively are largely unmeasured, meaning there may be no projected benefit to offset the additional development time and cost.  Yet it is quite common for organisations to spend 30% of their turnover on fixing things that should not have gone wrong.

Most people would willingly acknowledge that some 50-70% of IT incidents are the result of poorly-controlled change.  This in turn is the result of inadequate impact analysis which is underpinned by configuration management – sadly the least mature activity in most organisations.

Service Desk Optimisation – A Good Place to Start

The Service Desk is the ‘Eyes and Ears’ of IT.  Just by spending a few hours listening to calls and interactions between IT users and the Service Desk is immensely insightful.

However, we estimate that fewer than 5% of service desks are optimised.  Optimisation of the service desk is about recognising and delivering the service needed in the most efficient way. The result is marked improvements in effectiveness for the customer, and an ability to meet and exceed their expectations. Without this the customer, or service user, receives sub-par service. We therefore need to measure and refine our performance in line with our users’ changing requirements.

Mistakenly, this can be seen as a black art. In reality it simply requires a thorough and holistic approach. The service desk is perfectly capable of improving itself in one area, for example productivity, but it often does this at the expense of another area (unfortunately, usually customer satisfaction). So, what’s the best approach?

Dispelling Myths

A question regarding agility often comes up when we are talking with IT professionals. ITIL is perfectly capable of working within agile environments and indeed bringing greater security to them.Similarly many believe ITIL isn’t compatible with Cobit – it is. They can be used alongside each other. Similarly, ITIL can work alongside SFIA, the Skills Framework for the Information Age.