Should you adopt ITIL4?


For organisations looking at best practise IT management, ITIL4 is an opportunity to access the latest thinking and recommendations from practitioners and industry professionals. Following ITIL requires commitment of time and resources; for those invested in ITIL3, there are inevitably questions about the benefits of moving to ITIL4.

Why ITIL4?

The decision to update ITIL was driven, primarily, by a recognition that the digital economy is outpacing many organisations’ ability to respond quickly and competitively to customer requirements. The procedures in ITIL3 are still valid, however, the guiding principles in v4 have transformed to reflect a shift in focus towards service-led organisations, and the 26 ‘processes’, which by definition are fixed, are now 34 ‘practices’, which are open to change and improvement. In short, ITIL4 reinforces the need to adopt practices, adopt technologies and continuously improve.

One unintended consequence of ITIL3 was the creation of siloed support teams along operational service process lines such as incident, problem, and change. This gives rise to teams that in isolation perform well and meet or exceed targets, but are not so effective at collaborating across process lines. In many cases, the hand-off from one IT department to another frustrates an organisations’ ability to effectively solve IT problems and fulfil business opportunities. This scenario is often present in very large IT departments where management responsibilities are typically distributed across first and second-line incident and service request teams, third-line problem management, and change teams for DevOps and infrastructure management.

Assuming that we maintain the same rate of technological growth and innovation witnessed over the past 100 years, then the next 100 years will feel like the equivalent of 20,000 years. If you think technology is moving fast, you haven’t seen anything yet and the beneficiaries of the new digital economy are those who can quickly mobilise people and technology to meet opportunities that can appear at any time. These companies can expect rapid growth and the phenomenon is often referred to as the Amazon effect; the book shop that become the world’s leading provider of hosted infrastructure services.

What’s new in ITIL4?

The authors are clear that the benefits of ITIL3 are real and achievable, and they are the first to caution against undoing any investment made in ITIL 3 training. What has changed is the need for technology teams to work together better, but more importantly, to become integrated with the business. ITIL 3, with its somewhat dated technical language and 2,000+ pages of reading material, is inaccessible to most outside IT, and in many cases misunderstood. Conversely, the first ITIL 4 book is a more reader-friendly 200 pages. ITIL training course material has moved on and embraced the millennial style of information transfer by using stories and videos to convey concepts that people find easier to consume and recall.

A core theme when discussing ITIL 4 is that anything an organisation does must start with a customer-led demand or opportunity, and must end with value creation. This and everything that happens in between is known as the “value stream” and service is considered as being the co-creation of value i.e. varied IT and business people working together within the value stream to achieve an outcome that has some meaning. If there is no demand or no value, then there is no meaning to the activity.

Demand can be led by customers, or it can be led by internal staff recognising the need or opportunity to fulfil customer requirements. ITIL4 recognise that organisations, especially large ones, tend to move slowly. However, in today’s digital economy, they have to move fast. Very fast. ITIL4 is about re-organising and repurposing your technology and human resources to ready the business to reduce the impact of external disruptors and take advantage of the opportunities in the customer-led digital economy.

The digital economy makes extensive use of automation, which is key to improving service quality. However, with automation now accessible to all, it is the value added by humans that creates real competitive advantage, and success depends upon communication. ITIL4’s guiding principles are designed to liberate people to apply their technical expertise to assist the whole organisation in achieving its goals.

 Is my current ITIL investment still valid?

Those organisations that have made a significant investment in ITIL3 are advised to look into ITIL4, put some key staff through training, and then get together as a team and work out which parts are relevant to the organisation and train to those needs (there are a substantial number and diversity of training courses available). For those organisations not already invested in ITIL, for example, those that have formed recently, ITIL4 and its modern-day guiding principles and practices, will enable them to affirm they have the right business IT strategies in place, and identify opportunities for improvement. As is often the case, such organisations are probably following much of ITIL's best practice already or they wouldn’t have survived.

If you don’t have customers then you don’t have a business and its much harder to gain new customers than retain existing ones. Therefore, it makes sense that when you have customers you look after them, and you give them good service. Organisations need to integrate customer service and fulfilment in everything that IT does for the business; the practises of ITIL 4 will help organisations to achieve this very important goal.

The same is true for employees. Through social media IT people are well connected outside their employing organisation, which makes it easy to lose key staff to competitors. In the same way that you need to make your products and services attractive to customers, you need to ensure that your working environment attracts and retains the best people. Employee services are critical to this. IT, Facilities, Finance, HR – they all have a role to play in ensuring employees are looked after.


Is ITIL4 for me?

Technology will continue to evolve, but there is already a lot available with great potential; it just needs to be used properly. ITIL is about how to help people apply the technology that is available to them. Those companies that recognise they need help to focus IT resources more effectively will almost certainly benefit from following ITIL4. The ITIL framework is very broad; initially it’s best to identify which parts are relevant to your organisation and a good start point is to attend a seminar or short foundation course delivered by one of the many affiliated ITIL learning organisations. Ideally go with a colleague and set some objectives for what you want to take away.

Finally, a word of caution. For ITIL4 to work, the whole organisation needs to embrace it, not just IT. For many, this is the biggest challenge. ITIL4 is more business focussed that ITIL3, and in that respect, it should be easier to encourage C-level management to sign up for it. But avoid the pitfalls of following best practises in isolation whereby your bit of the organisation performs brilliantly, but it’s not actually what the business needs in order to succeed.

Will Johnson.

Will Johnson