ITIL: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow


When it comes to information technology (IT), “Keeping up with the Jones’s” is simply not as easy as it sounds nowadays. It actually never has been, but it’s getting harder and harder in our galaxy of constant change. Thanks to an age of IT everywhere, and the dawning era of the Internet of Things (IoT), perhaps none more difficult than in the IT Service Management (ITSM) domain. Customers are now empowered with virtually fingertip technology, for almost everything they need (want), and with that have become exponentially more demanding of (r) evolutionary service… every time, all the time. And it’s not just quantity they want, they want quality of service and ultimately – they want value!

Finding your business staring down the barrel of the “how do we deliver high quality and value-adding IT Services” challenge is nothing unique, and you will find yourself in the company of many organizations (and governments) around the globe. Fortunately, today, there is a solution out there to help you achieve exactly that, but where did it come from and will it stand the test of time.......? Oh, and by the way, it’s the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), but we’ll get to that.

Back in the 80’s, it was the British Government who were bemoaning the poor quality, effectiveness and efficiency of IT Services that were being provided to them, that can arguably be credited (for lack of a better word) with sparking what today can rightfully lay claim to being the most widely used and de-facto standard for IT Service Management in the universe – ITIL.  There are of course a few historian detractors who assert that rather it was IBM who were first out of the blocks by initiating research and development on the quality of IT Service delivery even earlier, in the 1970s, the product of which became the Information Systems Management Architecture (ISMA) published in 1980.

None the less, it was in the mid-eighties that the UK’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), today incorporated into the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), embarked on a program to address these IT Service issues by developing a framework for better use of IT resources and services within both the government and private sectors. The CCTA’s program bore fruit and in 1988 they delivered what many call the first version of ITIL, known as the Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management Methodology (GITMM), which essentially provided formalized guidelines on IT Service and Service Level Management for the IT departments and operations of government entities. The focus was primarily on service support and delivery in this initial ‘release’. Thereafter GITMM continued to expand, drawing in other foci of IT costs, capacity, availability and more, extending in the end to 31 volumes before morphing into the first ITIL publication – Service Level Management – in 1989. What is interesting to note, is that the renaming of GITMM to ITIL in that year took into account the need for private sector application (therefore removing the G for Government) and that the guidance was intuitively not a methodology (therefore removing the last M)… But how it became ITIL from the remaining letters of the GITMM acronym, namely ITM, is one of life’s little mysteries.

The ITIL framework, thanks to its publishing of Service Level Management, now became hearty fodder for the private sector, in addition to its governmental origins and market place. Enterprises in Europe were first to take advantage, followed closely by many government organizations across the continent. There was no geographical constraint though, and ITIL spread like wildfire into the United States of America and countries around the world. Suddenly ITIL had moved from abbreviation to buzz-word, and practitioners of IT Service management jumped on the bandwagon, eager to institutionalize it into their businesses with the intent of improving their current delivery and management of IT services - for customers and the business at large. So popular had ITIL become, that vendors had now started to stand up and take notice. In 2000, one of the software industry’s global leaders, Microsoft, utilized ITIL as a platform to develop a proprietary solution known as the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) whilst others began to incorporate elements of ITIL into their software products and services.

Over the decade that followed, up to the release of ITIL Version (V) 2, ITIL evolved to include Help Desk and Incident Management, Contingency Planning, Change Management, Problem Management, Configuration Management, Cost Management, Software Control and Distribution, and Availability Management. The centricity started to change and saw a customer focused update to the Service Level Management publication in 1997, the same year that we witnessed the birth of the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) in the UK. It was in 2000/2001 that ITIL V2 was launched, with updated publications of the Service Support and Service Delivery books.

But the evolution had only just begun, and ITIL publications on Application Management, Planning to Implement IT Service Management, ICT Infrastructure Management, Software Asset Management, Business Perspective: The IS View on Delivering Services to the Business, and the ITIL V2 Glossary, from 2002 to 2006, broadened and deepened the reach of ITIL into organizations. It was then in 2007, that ITIL V3 was catapulted into its next generation, with what was essentially a major step change, showing a distinct lifecycle approach to IT Service Management and signalling a move toward greater IT and business alignment and integration. ITIL V2 had comprised Service Delivery and Service Support streams only, but with V3 ITIL introduced five lifecycle components – Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. The scope of ITIL with V3 had increased substantially, with a multitude of new capabilities, processes, functions, roles and perspectives… The Service Lifecycle concept was here to stay, and so too was the notion of business use of IT as a service provider, and an essential one at that!

Fast forward to today, and the current version of ITIL is ITIL 2011, published in… you guessed it, 2011. Indeed a rather arbitrary denomination, and I would have preferred a V4 or even a V6… but ITIL 2011 is what we currently have to hand. Maybe the reason for the name lies in the FAQs, which officially state that - “ITIL 2011 is an update, not a new version”. ITIL 2011 was a revision and improvement on ITIL V3 without introducing any new concepts or elements which would constitute or warrant release of a new version. That aside, ITIL 2011 is everything you need for the full service lifecycle management of all your IT Services, a wholly comprehensive best practice framework, enabling effective and efficient delivery and management of IT services within your organization – public or private sector. ITIL 2011 will empower you to organize your Enterprise IT resources to deliver business value, value for customers through IT Services, and keep improving your ITSM on an ongoing basis. From processes, to functions, to roles – it’s all in ITIL 2011.

But where to from here you are no doubt asking – its 2015?! Well the great news is that the team over at Axelos, the owners of ITIL today, have most certainly not been resting on their laurels for the last (almost) 4 years. In fact, quite the contrary. While there doesn’t seem to be any confirmation that we should expect to see a new version of ITIL this year, indications are that the future of ITIL may start to incorporate:

  • the changing role of IT and ITSM in the wake of technological and service advancements in the 21C, like IT in the Cloud
  • a growing need for greater agility in the IT service processes, functions and roles, further enabling the Agile Enterprise of tomorrow
  • contemporary means of providing and consuming services, considerate of social networking, mobile proliferation and BYOD
  • the latest thought leadership around ITSM and the re-defined, emergent DevOps
  • demand for seamless IT service management in spaces such as BPO, Big Data and the like
  • one of my personal favourites ITILaaS… (ITIL as a Service), after all surely the future is one of use what you need, when you need it, how you need it, on demand?

What AXELOS have told us, is that the most critical success factor for ITIL is assuring its continued relevance and value in the face of real business challenges. And I fully agree. They intend to prove its value now and create something that is value ‘future proofed’, strengthen its importance and necessity for the IT service desk, and improve ITILs integration with complimentary methods and approaches like Prince2 and Agile. Not to mention the unwavering, ever increasing focus on customer centricity, which holds the key to identifying and making changes practitioners and organizations truly need. Testament to this is the amount of time the AXELOS resources have been putting in in the field consulting with stakeholders. Smart move!

So when I hear of any organization today that has an IT Service Management challenge, or a business challenge which could potentially be solved through IT services, I have no hesitation in recommending ITIL 2011. Not only has it come a very long way, in my opinion it’s going to even greater places on the road ahead. And in the right direction to boot! As Enterprises look to maintain competitive advantage, and continually transform their business and IT, so the dependency on the capabilities of IT Service Management becomes increasingly paramount. Thankfully ITIL is continuing to follow a path of empowering organizations through ITSM, built around the customer. And remember, delivering value for customers through IT services, means delivering value for the business. Fortuitously, putting the customer 1st and choosing ITIL 2011 go hand in hand, and without question it will serve you well today, and even better tomorrow. If only you had known about it yesterday…!

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If you’re looking for a solution to enable your organization to align with, adopt and leverage industry best practice with ITIL 2011, Orbus software provide a detailed IT Service Management solution, which comprises the ITIL best practice service management framework. This framework has been captured in iServer as detailed and intuitive BPMN 2.0 process models allowing it to be referenced, reused and benchmarked against, and providing essential capabilities such as Change Management, Compliance, Continual Service Improvement and Reporting and Analysis.