An Introduction to the ITIL Framework

As an IT leader, having a solid understanding of the principles of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is essential for developing and growing your organization’s operations. This framework provides an organized approach to service management that helps define and standardize processes related to technology infrastructure, such as data storage, cloud computing, mobility solutions, and more.

Specifically, ITIL can help organizations streamline their operations by creating standardized procedures for the efficient delivery of services and ensuring best practices are followed in all departments. Furthermore, it promotes continuous improvement through feedback loops that measure employee performance, customer satisfaction and overall system efficiency. Lastly, it enables better decision-making by providing structured guidance on areas such as choosing vendors, setting realistic SLAs for each service and implementing change management plans.

Having a good grasp of the fundamentals of ITIL can have far-reaching benefits for an organization. With its widespread presence across industries worldwide, understanding this vital framework is now seen as necessary for mature, successful IT departments.

Defining ITIL

ITIL is a collection of best practices intended to help IT services be managed more efficiently. These guidelines define a process-based approach to the management and the continuous improvement of information technologies and services. 

ITIL 4 provides organizations with the guidance they need to address new IT Service Management  (ITSM) challenges and harness the potential of modern technologies in the age of cloud, agile and DevOps transformations. A vital component of the ITIL 4 framework is the use of a single, uniform and cohesive set of guidelines for the management of IT services. 

Interest in the adoption of ITIL continues to grow, and the most recent version of ITIL, ITIL 4, was released in 2020. 

While the underlying practices generally remain the same as before, the most updated version focuses on “value co-creation” with clients, creating more engagement when it comes to client collaboration. The methodology has also positioned itself to be more of an integration platform between other processes and methodologies (project/portfolio management, etc.). 

ITIL Certification

The Foundation is currently in the process of implementing an entry-level ITIL 4.0 certification to introduce the key elements, concepts, and terminologies used in ITIL. Managed by the International IT Management Association (ITMA) and the IT Service Management Foundation, the Professional Stream is geared towards IT professionals and digital teams working in corporate technology. The focus is on the development and implementation of IT service management and information management systems, as well as the implementation and management of information security. 

The most recent release, ITIL 4.0, is the first significant update of ITIL since 2007 and arguably the most critical update in the history of the IT Service Management Framework. It modernizes the framework by adopting a holistic approach to service management and focusing on end-to-end management with on-demand value. It provides a flexible basis to support the expansion and implementation of information management and information security systems on a scalable basis. ITIL 4.0 has been described as “the next generation of technology-enabled products for the IT service management industry.” 

The 5 Stages of ITIL

The ITIL framework bases itself on five phases of the service life cycle, with the leading publications providing best practices and guidelines for each stage. The guidelines set out the necessary processes, associated challenges, and best practices for each phase of the service life cycle, as well as the requirements for the implementation of each phase. 

  1. Service Strategy – The life cycle of ITIL begins with the Service Strategy. It sits at the center of the ITIL life cycle because a stable and precise service strategy is necessary for better service management. This sets the pace and course for the management of IT services that drive the business objective of any organization. This stage determines what capabilities will need to be developed or implemented, including the definition of markets, development of assets, or the necessary preparations for deployment. 
  2. Service Design – Ideas become plans in the second ITIL life cycle stage. It is here that services and processes bear out the primary goal of providing a better service management environment. Improvements present for existing issues or protocols. With foresight, a strong organization that follows the stage of ITIL can help in service cataloging, capacity, Information security, availability, or asset management. 
  3. Service Transition – The third stage of the ITIL life cycle is where the preparation of services and strategies that will be implemented in the live environment takes place. It is here that organizations test and implement new designs. By correcting any issues that arise, organizations are setting themselves up for a smooth transition of their services, mitigating the chance for disruption. 
  4. Service Operation – Now that the services and processes launch into a living environment for customers and peers, the operation stage of the life cycle begins. Service owners must be prepared and available to report any issues as they arise and make sure that customers are satisfied with the services and process. Even the most thorough reviews of life cycle step two and three will still inevitably result in issues or unforeseen hurdles. If an ITSM team can firmly adhere to the ITIL framework, they can prepare for any service failures or routine operational tasks. 
  5. Continual Service Improvement – The status quo is never good enough for the ITIL framework. Organizations and enterprises are never satisfied with the services they provide, always looking for ways to improve or develop further reaching and better processes. This last stage of the ITIL framework directs organizations to search for potential improvements in all the previous steps. By looking at what is measurable versus what is not and by processing and sorting the data into quantifiable findings, the cycle starts all over again. 

    While ITIL v3 defined several processes for organizing the service life cycle, ITIL 4 describes the principles, concepts, and practices in more detail. Additional guidance ensures that practitioners better understand the impact of each phase. This impact is essential throughout the entire life cycle and the challenges of implementation at each of these stages. ITIL 4 also provides a framework for integrating ITIL with other services such as cloud, mobile, and cloud–as–a–service. 

ITIL Frameworks Change Organizations for the Better

With an understanding of the ITIL framework and how it can be used to improve the quality of ITSM in an organization, IT professionals can change their organizations for the better.

Those who have implemented and adapted ITIL need to be informed about the control of information security, IT management, and information management. Being well-informed fits the organization’s desire to establish, implement, maintain and continuously improve the service management system. 

If you’re looking to build a strong ITSM foundation with ITIL, you can try these four key tips:

  1. Categorize: Categorize incidents and service requests by differentiating one from the other. Many organizations are implementing ITIL to ensure they have a common vocabulary and methodology surrounding request fulfillment and incident response.
  2. Triage: Establish defined criteria for triaging incoming requests to determine their urgency, set reasonable resolution targets and identify appropriate escalation protocols. With a standardized process, IT leaders can get a better overall picture of the specific costs of service deployments and help use the data provided to move IT from a behind-the-scenes system to a front-facing system, giving value to all users.
  3. Commitment to Service: Provide outstanding customer service by promoting a courteous service culture, which fosters better relationships and corresponding expectations. Managing a high-performing IT department that creates value is only possible through ITIL service guidelines. For many in an organization, the helpdesk or service desk is the very first point of contact. Supporting the organization’s members and outside users with an excellent experience is paramount to the wide-scale adoption and maturity of the IT system. ITIL’s best practices have evolved beyond the administration of an efficient service to now include a focus on the customer experience and the ability of your organization to deliver value.
  4. Be Accountable: Hold IT accountable by using data to guide improvement strategies, spending time on projects rather than fighting fires, and fulfilling more service requests than responding to incidents.

ITIL Best Practices in Action

Many institutions are implementing ITIL to ensure they have a common vocabulary and methodology surrounding request fulfillment and incident response. 

Increased demands for online and blended learning experiences put pressure on higher-ed IT organizations, but IT budgets are staying static or even decreasing. 

TeamDynamix ITSM makes a positive impact when paired with ITIL in higher education. Yancy Philips, IT Team Director for Indiana State University, explained how their old basic ticketing system that was used to manage the delivery of IT service “served its purpose for many years, but as we started to adopt more ITIL best practices and worked to improve our service delivery, we knew we needed something more.”

That something more was TeamDynamix. 

“People are thrilled with our service now,” Philips says.

Likewise, in an ever-connected world, state and local governments need to provide new services and keep up with changing needs while often balancing tight budgets. 

Implementing ITSM best practices enables organizations to standardize and optimize the way they respond to the ever-increasing demand while keeping operational costs low and customer satisfaction high. 

Dusty Borchardt, Business Systems Manager for Oklahoma City, said that they adopted the ITIL framework more than 15 years ago. He explains that they’d had effective processes in place for a while, but they “haven’t had a decent toolset to manage them” until they utilized TeamDynamix’s ITSM platform.

“TeamDynamix has brought simplicity to our operations,” Borchardt says. “This is the first IT Service Management platform we’ve implemented that everyone loves to use.” 

Whether you’ve been using ITIL for years or are just starting, the right ITSM tool makes a difference.

The City of Goodyear recently switched to TeamDynamix for ITSM to address their lack of ITIL maturity and growing workloads.

“It’s one thing to say we’re overworked—and it’s another to be able to illustrate this with concrete data,” said Lisa Faison, deputy CIO for the City of Goodyear, Arizona, municipal government.

A few years ago, the City of Goodyear didn’t have any way to track the status of IT projects. The city government had a ticketing system for managing the delivery of IT services, but this system was very limited in what it could do and what information it could provide.

“We wanted to increase the maturity of our IT operations by moving to ITIL processes,” Faison said.

This meant bringing the oversight of IT services and projects together under a single platform for IT Service Management (ITSM) and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) to give leaders a holistic view of the work employees were doing. What’s more, the platform had to allow for simple configuration and automation of IT processes, without a lot of coding or administration needed on the back end.

One year into using TeamDynamix, having better visibility into project and service information has helped the city’s IT department improve customer service for employees—and the city has only begun to scratch the surface of what the platform enables.

As Goodyear’s IT maturity continues, Faison and her colleagues will be looking to use the data they collect on IT projects to accurately forecast the amount of time that new projects will take, so they can allocate resources to projects more effectively. They also plan to help other city departments use TeamDynamix for enterprise-level service and project management.

Want to learn more about ITIL? Read 4 ITIL Best Practices to Revive Your Service Management.

This blog was originally published in May 2020 and has been updated with added information. 

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