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An Introduction to ITIL v4

Updated: Mar 11

An Overview of ITIL v4

Introduction to ITIL v4

The need for robust IT service management (ITSM) frameworks has never been more pressing. ITIL v4, the latest iteration of the IT Infrastructure Library, stands at the forefront of this revolution, offering a comprehensive guide designed to facilitate the delivery of high-value IT services in various organisational contexts.

This introduction aims to shed light on ITIL v4, its significance in the modern IT landscape, and how it represents a significant evolution from its predecessor, ITIL v3.

The Evolution of ITIL

ITIL v4 was launched in February 2019, building upon the solid foundation laid by ITIL v3 and its updates.

The ITIL Logo

While ITIL v3 introduced the concept of a service lifecycle and emphasised the importance of processes, ITIL v4 takes a more holistic approach to service management.

It integrates well-established ITSM practices with new trends in software development and operations, such as DevOps, Agile, and Lean, and addresses the needs of cloud-based services and digital transformation.

Why ITIL v4 is Relevant Today

ITIL v4 responds to the contemporary challenges organisations face, offering a flexible, coordinated, and integrated system for the effective governance and management of IT-enabled services.

Unlike its predecessors, ITIL v4 focuses on the co-creation of value through service management, a concept critical to businesses aiming to stay competitive in an increasingly digital world. This emphasis on collaboration, transparency, and agility makes ITIL v4 not just a framework for ITSM but a strategic asset in driving business success.

How ITIL v3 and v4 Differ

Here's a summary of the major differences between ITIL v3 and ITIL v4.




Framework Structure

5 volumes: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement.

A single, holistic approach integrating 34 practices organised around a service value system (SVS).


Process-centric, with a strong emphasis on service lifecycle stages.

A holistic approach focusing on value co-creation through service relationships.

Guiding Principles

Not explicitly defined.

7 guiding principles that can be applied to various organisational and operational contexts.

Service Lifecycle vs. Service Value System

Emphasises the service lifecycle from strategy through to continual improvement.

Introduces the Service Value System (SVS), which includes the service value chain, practices, and guiding principles, focusing on value creation.

Integration with Other Practices

Limited guidance on integrating with other frameworks and methodologies.

Strong emphasis on integrating agile, DevOps, and Lean, encouraging a more flexible approach to IT service management.

Digital Transformation and Technology

Less emphasis on digital transformation and the impact of new technologies.

Acknowledges and incorporates the impact of digital transformation and emerging technologies on IT service management.

Practices vs. Processes

Focuses on processes within each stage of the service lifecycle.

Shifts from processes to practices, broadening the concept to include resources, roles, and competencies.

Flexibility and Customisation

Prescriptive approach with specific processes and functions.

More adaptable framework, encouraging organisations to tailor practices to their specific needs.

Core Components of ITIL v4

ITIL v4 introduces several key components that are integral to its framework, designed to provide a comprehensive, flexible approach to service management.

This section will explore the Service Value System (SVS) and the Four Dimensions of Service Management, which are central to effectively understanding and implementing ITIL v4.

The Service Value System (SVS)

At the heart of ITIL v4 is the Service Value System (SVS), a model representing how an organisation's components and activities work together to facilitate value creation through IT services.

The SVS is underpinned by the ITIL guiding principles, governance, and continual improvement, forming a dynamic system wherein various elements interact to support service management practices.

The ITIL v4 Service Value System Components
The ITIL v4 Service Value System Components

The core elements of the SVS;

Service Value Chain (SVC)

The SVC is a core element of the SVS, providing a flexible operating model for creating, delivering, and continually improving services.

It comprises six key activities: Plan, Improve, Engage, Design & Transition, Obtain/Build, and Deliver & Support. These activities represent an organisation's steps to respond to demand and facilitate value through services.

An overview of the key activities in the SVC

Key Activity

Primary Focus


Defines strategy and policies for service management, ensuring governance and aligning services with business needs.


Continual improvement of services and practices across all value chain activities.


Involves engaging with stakeholders, understanding their needs, and ensuring continuous feedback.

Design & Transition

Ensures that services are designed effectively to meet needs and transitioned into live environments smoothly.


Covers the acquisition or development of the components needed to deliver services.

Deliver & Support

Focuses on delivering services to customers and the ongoing support for those services.

ITIL Practices

Within the SVS, ITIL v4 identifies 34 practices (previously referred to as processes in ITIL v3) that offer a versatile approach to developing capabilities.

The practices are detailed guidelines and processes that support the SVC activities, covering areas such as risk management, incident management, and change control.

A list of the 34 ITIL v4 Practices

General Management Practices

Service Management Practices

Technical Management Practices

Information Security Management

Business Analysis

Deployment Management

Relationship Management

Service Catalogue Management

Software Development and Management

Supplier Management

Service Design

Infrastructure and Platform Management

Knowledge Management

Service Level Management

Monitoring and Event Management

Measurement and Reporting

Risk Management

IT Operations Management

Organisational Change Management

Service Financial Management

Problem Management

Portfolio Management

Workforce and Talent Management

Availability Management

Project Management

Incident Management

Capacity and Performance Management

Strategy Management

Change Control

Service Continuity Management

Continual Improvement

Problem Management

Information Security Management

Architecture Management

Release Management

Service Configuration Management

Guiding Principles

ITIL v4 introduces seven guiding principles that offer recommendations to help organisations adopt and adapt service management practices.

The principles include focusing on value, starting where you are, progressing iteratively with feedback, collaborating and promoting visibility, thinking and working holistically, keeping it simple and practical, and optimisation and automation.

An overview of the guiding principles

Guiding Principle


Focus on Value

Everything you do should link back directly to value for the organisation and its stakeholders.

Start Where You Are

Do not start from scratch; assess current capabilities and build on them.

Progress Iteratively with Feedback

Work in a step-by-step manner and use feedback to guide future steps rather than trying to do everything at once.

Collaborate and Promote Visibility

Work together across boundaries, and ensure that information and knowledge are shared widely.

Think and Work Holistically

Recognise that all parts of an organisation are interconnected, and ensure that initiatives are integrated and coordinated as much as possible.

Keep It Simple and Practical

Only do what is necessary and avoid unnecessary complications to processes or services.

Optimise and Automate

Always look for ways to improve and streamline operations. Use technology to achieve efficiency and effectiveness where appropriate.

The Four Dimensions of Service Management

To ensure a holistic approach to service management, ITIL v4 outlines Four Dimensions that must be considered in balance.

The dimensions encompass all aspects of service management, ensuring a comprehensive and balanced focus on delivering value.

Organisations and People

The 4 dimensions of ITIL Service Management
The 4 dimensions of ITIL Service Management

The organisation's structure and culture, including the roles, competencies, and capacities of the people within it.

Information and Technology

The information and knowledge necessary for managing services and the technologies supporting service management and delivery.

Partners and Suppliers

The relationships with partners and suppliers that contribute to service design, delivery, and improvement.

Value Streams and Processes

The workflows, processes, and methods for delivering customer services.

By considering these dimensions, organisations can ensure that their service management practices are robust, flexible, and capable of delivering genuine value to customers and stakeholders.

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Benefits for Organisations

Adopting ITIL v4 within an organisation transcends mere alignment with IT service management best practices; it is a strategic move towards operational excellence and enhanced competitiveness in a digital age.

This section highlights the key benefits of embracing ITIL v4 and how it equips organisations with the tools for operational excellence and strategic agility.

Operational Excellence

Operational excellence is a critical component of any successful business, and ITIL v4 offers a roadmap to achieve it through improved service delivery, efficiency, and reliability.

Here are some examples of how ITIL v4 contributes to operational excellence:

  • Enhanced Service Delivery By adopting the ITIL v4 framework, organisations can streamline their service management processes, leading to faster, more reliable service delivery. This improvement is largely due to the Service Value System (SVS), which ensures that all aspects of service management work in harmony to facilitate value creation.

  • Improved Efficiency and Productivity The practices and guiding principles of ITIL v4 encourage organisations to optimise and automate processes. This reduces waste, lowers costs, and frees up valuable resources that can be redirected towards innovation and improvement initiatives.

  • Increased Customer Satisfaction The focus on co-creating value with customers ensures that services are aligned with customer needs and expectations. This alignment and consistent and reliable service delivery significantly enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Strategic Agility

In addition to operational excellence, ITIL v4 enables organisations to achieve strategic agility, allowing them to respond swiftly and effectively to changes in the market or technology.

The framework's emphasis on flexibility, continuous improvement, and adaptability is key to this agility.

  • Adaptability to New Technologies and Practices ITIL v4's integration with contemporary IT practices and technologies, such as DevOps, Agile, and cloud computing, ensures that organisations remain at the cutting edge of IT service management. This adaptability is crucial for leveraging new technologies and methodologies to drive business growth.

  • Quick Response to Market Changes The Service Value System encourages organisations to continually monitor and improve their service management practices. This continuous loop of feedback and improvement enables businesses to adapt to market changes quickly, ensuring they remain competitive and responsive to customer needs.

  • Facilitation of Digital Transformation As organisations embark on digital transformation journeys, ITIL v4 serves as a strategic guide. Its principles and practices support the seamless integration of digital technologies into business operations, enhancing efficiency, customer experience, and market positioning.

Real-World Examples

Several organisations globally have successfully implemented ITIL v4, reaping substantial operational efficiency, service quality, and customer satisfaction benefits.

Example 1: Spotify

The Spotify ITIL case study illustrates how Spotify collaborated with Olingo Consulting to integrate ITIL principles, enhancing their IT service management. This initiative aimed to maintain Spotify's swift, agile culture while ensuring efficient workflow, compliance, and service quality.

By adopting ITIL processes, Spotify significantly improved workflow management, waste reduction, service quality, and customer relationships. This case exemplifies the successful application of ITIL in a fast-paced, innovative environment, underscoring the framework's adaptability and effectiveness in modern IT service delivery. For more details, please refer to the full case study on Axelos's website.

Example 2: Disney

Disney's ITIL journey, led by Glen Taylor since 2008, showcases ITIL's implementation within the Theme Parks & Resorts division, a key revenue generator for the company. This case study highlights the challenges of integrating ITIL best practices in a complex environment with high customer interaction and demand for 100% IT service availability.

Disney's approach included widespread ITIL education, the selection of ITIL champions across various levels, and the practical application of ITIL principles to enhance service management, ensuring an uninterrupted guest experience. Glen Taylor emphasizes the importance of communication, practical application, and leveraging existing tools in ITIL adoption. For more details, please visit the full case study on Axelos's website.


The journey through the realm of ITIL v4 has revealed its pivotal role in modernising IT service management and aligning IT practices with the demands of today's digital business environment. ITIL v4 isn't just an incremental update to the framework; it's a comprehensive overhaul that integrates the best of traditional IT management with the agility and flexibility required for the digital age.

From its core components, such as the Service Value System (SVS) and the Four Dimensions of Service Management, to its profound impact on operational excellence and strategic agility, ITIL v4 emerges as an indispensable guide for organisations seeking to thrive in an era of rapid technological change.

The Path Forward

For businesses navigating the complexities of digital transformation, ITIL v4 offers a beacon of clarity, providing the principles, practices, and governance models needed to drive sustained value creation. Its emphasis on collaboration, agility, and continuous improvement resonates with contemporary IT practices, making ITIL v4 relevant and essential for organisations aiming to secure a competitive advantage in their respective industries.

As we conclude this exploration, it's clear that adopting ITIL v4 is more than a strategic imperative; it's a commitment to excellence in service management, customer satisfaction, and business performance. The journey towards ITIL v4 adoption may vary from one organisation to another, but the destination remains the same: a state of enhanced operational efficiency, agility, and alignment with business goals.

Whether you're an IT professional seeking to broaden your expertise or an organisation aiming to elevate your service management practices, ITIL v4 presents a valuable opportunity for growth. We encourage you to delve deeper into the principles and practices of ITIL v4, consider certification or training for your teams, and embark on the transformative journey that ITIL v4 facilitates. By embracing the guidance offered by ITIL v4, you can ensure that your IT services are supporting your business and driving it forward in the digital age.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, so will the frameworks and methodologies designed to manage it. ITIL v4 is your compass in this journey, guiding your organisation towards a future where IT is efficient and reliable and a strategic asset that delivers unparalleled value to customers and stakeholders alike.


This article discusses concepts and practices from the ITIL framework, which is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited. The information provided here is based on the ITIL version 4 guidelines and is intended for educational and informational purposes only. ITIL is a comprehensive framework for IT service management, and its methodologies and best practices are designed to facilitate the effective and efficient delivery of IT services. For those interested in exploring ITIL further, we recommend consulting the official ITIL publications and resources provided by AXELOS Limited.