by Sarah K. White

ITIL 4: ITSM gets agile

Jan 10, 2019
IT Governance FrameworksIT LeadershipITIL

Launching in Q1 this year, ITIL 4 is a major overhaul of the popular ITSM framework that adds more clarity for businesses trying to automate, streamline and implement ITSM processes.

ITIL-based organizations take note: The popular framework has undergone a significant overhaul aimed at modernizing IT service management (ITSM) into a more agile, value-driven business asset.

ITIL was last updated in 2011, but it was only a small refresh — the 2019 overhaul of ITIL is on par with the 2007 update, which brought significant changes to the ITIL framework. The focus of ITIL 4 includes embracing adaptability, customizability and flexibility in IT service management.

The new version encourages organizations to break down siloes, emphasizes collaboration and communication across the organization and integrates agile and DevOps practices into the framework. ITIL 4 expands on the ideas and concepts around creating value, automating processes and improving outcome delivery. Things that won’t change include a focus on good governance, reliability, stability, information security and data security — those concepts will still carry over from ITIL 3 and past versions.

9 guiding principles of ITIL

Two years ago, Axelos developed a set of guiding principles that it released with the ITIL Practitioner exam, which covers organizational change management, communication and measurement and metrics. These principles have been adopted as the nine guiding principles of ITIL — they include:

  • Focus on value
  • Design for experience
  • Start where you are
  • Work holistically
  • Progress iteratively
  • Observe directly
  • Be transparent
  • Collaborate
  • Keep it simple

These nine principles are now a core part of ITIL as a way to encourage businesses to focus on value, collaboration and feedback to help embrace agile and lean ways of working. These principles are designed to keep businesses on track with implementing ITIL 4 and to help leaders pick which parts of ITIL work best for the organization, rather than trying to follow every step and suggestion included in the framework.

Focus on culture

ITIL 4 focuses heavily on company culture as a cornerstone of successful ITSM. Historically, the IT department has acted as a stand-alone department — it wasn’t always holistically integrated into the overall business structure.

As a result, IT management has naturally encouraged these “siloed ways of working,” which separates IT from the business and negatively impacts collaboration, according to Margo Leach, chief product officer at AXELOS Global Best Practice.

ITIL 4 offers more guidance around encouraging collaboration and treating IT as part of the business. More departments need access to IT and IT systems, especially on the service-side, so it’s important that communication stays open outside the IT department.

Embracing agile and DevOps

A focus on change management advisory boards in past iterations of ITIL has led to a “poor perception of ITIL not being agile or as blocking fast deployment,” says Leach. However, ITIL was never meant to be implemented in a way where IT has to evaluate or comb through every single change.

To reinforce this and to help organizations build more flexible ITSM strategies, ITIL 4 now has agile and DevOps practices baked right into the framework. ITIL 4 now encourages collaboration and communication across the organization and offers more guidance for implementing change quickly.

Building a strong foundation for change

Businesses that embrace ITIL 4 will find more information on how to build a strong foundation, which Axelos believes is required for a culture that embraces innovation, transformation and agility.

“The faster we move the more likely the wheels may come off if you don’t have a good solid foundation,” says Leach. A solid foundation is key for IT management, because you can’t be flexible in a “chaotic environment.”

With a strong foundation, businesses can change course as needed, introduce improvements, embrace new technology and stay on top of data and security challenges. And in today’s modern enterprise, change needs to happen fast.

More attention on the customer

Customers have always been a key aspect of ITSM, but they play an even bigger role in ITIL 4.

“Perception of value is now included, recognizing we’re operating in a digital age and that customer opinions and reviews will impact service products and brands everywhere,” she says.

Companies have more feedback from customers than ever, thanks to chat bots, social media and greater exposure online. That feedback is now a cornerstone of ITIL — businesses need to listen to customers to know how and when to change.   

“It’s acknowledging you can’t create value in a vacuum — your customer has to be involved in the definition of what that value is and what they’re looking for. There has to be a constant feedback loop and this is a very big concept in ITIL 4,” says Leach.

ITIL 4 will officially release during Q1 of 2019, but updates will continue to roll out over the year as different modules are updated and overhauled. However, to allow for a seamless transition, the ITIL v3 exams, certifications, books and accreditations will continue through June 2020. For those in the middle of their certification scheme, credits will transfer over to the new certification schemes and updated credentials.