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ITIL Processes: A Comprehensive Guide to Version 4

Updated: Mar 29

Introduction

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) V4 has been restructured to align more closely with the current trends in software development and IT operations, such as Agile, DevOps, and Lean IT practices. 


This edition emphasises the importance of collaboration, automation, and a more flexible approach to delivering IT services. It is designed to support organisations in navigating the complexities of the modern digital environment and ensure that IT services are aligned with the needs of businesses and their customers. 


As such, ITIL V4 outlines practices rather than processes. These practices may include processes.


A Brief Summary of the ITIL Practices


The ITIL Practices
The ITIL Practices

General Management Practices

The general management practices in ITIL version 4 are a comprehensive set of guidelines that support IT service management's effective governance and strategic direction. They encompass risk management, relationship management, supplier management, and workforce talent management to enhance organisational efficiency and value creation.


Management Area

Description

Architecture Management

Helps organisations manage the complexity of their organisational architecture in relation to various business aspects, providing principles, standards, and tools for managing changes effectively and agilely.

Continual Improvement

Focuses on aligning processes and services with changing business needs, identifying opportunities for improvement within services, service components, practices, or other areas of service management.

Information Security Management

Concerned with protecting sensitive information from misuse, focusing on maintaining data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Knowledge Management

Aims to improve how data is used within organisations, focusing on the convenience, effectiveness, and efficiency of knowledge and data usage.

Measurement and Reporting

Provides a framework for evidence-based decision-making and continual improvement through risk assessments and collecting relevant data.

Organisational Change Management

Supports the implementation of recommended changes, emphasising the human aspect of change management and accounting for individuals' challenges and opportunities.

Portfolio Management

Ensures that the organisation has the right mix of programs, products, and services to meet its objectives, considering funding and resource constraints.

Project Management

Oversees ongoing projects to ensure successful delivery, focusing on planning, delegation, monitoring, maintenance, and stakeholder relationships.

Relationship Management

Helps organisations establish and nurture relationships with stakeholders, aiming to identify, analyse, monitor, and continually improve these relationships.

Risk Management

Aids organisations understand and address risks, emphasising the early identification of potential problems to prevent disruption, financial consequences, and sustainability issues.

Service Financial Management

Supports organisational strategies and plans by using financial resources and investments efficiently.

Strategy Management

Helps organisations define goals and ways to achieve them, ensuring resources are allocated appropriately and clarifying organisational priorities.

Supplier Management

Manages supplier relationships to ensure smooth production and delivery of products and services, fostering collaboration and identifying improvement opportunities.

Workforce and Talent Management

Focuses on placing talented and skilled individuals in appropriate roles, covering planning, recruiting, onboarding, training, performance evaluation, and succession planning.


Service Management Practices

The Service Management Practices in ITIL version 4 focus on the operational aspects of delivering and managing IT services that meet business needs. 

Management Area

Description

Availability Management

Ensures products and services are available to meet customer needs as agreed upon at the start of the project.

Business Analysis

Analyses business processes to solve issues and improve stakeholder value creation.

Capacity and Performance Management

Ensures products and services meet expected performance levels and address current and future demands.

Change Enablement

Maximises successful IT changes through risk assessments, proper authorisations, and efficient change management.

Incident Management

Aims to quickly restore regular service operation after disruptive incidents, minimising negative impact.

IT Asset Management

Manages the complete lifecycle of IT assets, focusing on value maximisation, cost control, and risk management while complying with regulatory and contractual requirements.

Monitoring and Event Management

Systematically observes services and service components, recording and reporting changes and establishing responses to events.

Problem Management

Identifies potential causes of incidents to mitigate impact and likelihood of disruptive events.

Release Management

Manages the deployment of new and changed services and features.

Service Catalogue Management

Provides a single source of consistent information on all services, ensuring information is available to relevant audiences.

Service Configuration Management

Keeps information about the configuration of services accurate and available, including supporting configuration items.

Service Continuity Management

Builds organisational resilience to protect services during disruptive incidents, maintaining availability and performance.

Service Design

Designs products and services that are fit for purpose and delivery within the organisation’s ecosystem, considering all relevant aspects of service delivery.

Service Desk

Acts as the contact point for the service provider and its users, capturing demand for incident resolution and service requests.

Service Level Management

Sets and assesses business targets for service performance to identify and address service delivery issues.

Service Request Management

Handles user-initiated service requests effectively and user-friendly, supporting agreed service quality.

Service Validation and Testing

Ensures new or changed products and services meet defined requirements through testing and measuring service value against customer input, business objectives, and regulatory requirements.


Technical Management Practices

The technical management practices in ITIL version 4 focus on the specific aspects of managing and implementing the technological elements of IT service management. 


Management Area

Description

Deployment Management

Assists in moving new or changed hardware, software, documentation, and processes to live environments and testing or staging environments.

Infrastructure and Platform Management

Oversees the organisation's infrastructure and platforms to monitor technologies deployed internally and by service providers.

Software Development and Management

Ensures applications meet stakeholder needs, focusing on functionality, reliability, maintenance, compliance, and auditability.


Overview of ITIL V4


Explanation of ITIL V4’s Framework and its Alignment with Digital Transformation


ITIL V4 introduces a holistic approach to service management, integrating traditional ITIL guidance with contemporary practices like Agile, DevOps, and digital transformation strategies. 


The framework is designed to enable organisations to adapt to the rapid pace of technological change while delivering valuable services that meet evolving customer needs. Focusing on co-creating value through service relationships, ITIL V4 places a significant emphasis on collaboration, transparency, and flexibility.


The core of this new iteration is the Service Value System (SVS), which provides a comprehensive and flexible model for creating, delivering, and continually improving services. The SVS encompasses all the components and activities necessary for service management, encouraging organisations to think in terms of value streams and processes that transcend traditional silos.


The Shift from Processes to Practices in ITIL V4

One of the most critical changes in ITIL V4 is the shift from a process-centric to a practice-oriented approach. This shift reflects a broader change in the IT industry, where rigid processes are giving way to more adaptable, flexible practices tailored to each organisation's unique needs.


In ITIL V4, practices are defined as organisational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective. This encompasses more than just processes; it includes people, skills, partners, information, tools, and more, providing a comprehensive toolkit that organisations can adapt to their specific contexts.


This move from prescriptive processes to more flexible practices allows ITIL V4 to offer guidance that applies to a broader range of operational models, including those that are more agile and lean. It acknowledges that the way value is co-created between service providers and service consumers can vary greatly and that the practices organisations adopt must be flexible enough to accommodate these variations.


In summary, ITIL V4 provides a framework that aligns with digital transformation needs, emphasising the importance of adaptable, flexible, and collaborative practices over rigid, one-size-fits-all processes. This approach helps organisations to more effectively manage their IT services in a rapidly evolving digital environment.


The ITIL Service Value System (SVS)

The ITIL Service Value System (SVS) represents a holistic approach to service management, aiming to ensure that every aspect of the service delivery and management process contributes to value creation. The SVS consists of five core components that interact with each other to facilitate this process: the Guiding Principles, Governance, Service Value Chain, Practices, and Continuous Improvement. Below, we delve into each component, elucidating their roles and interplay within the ITIL SVS.


Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles in ITIL V4 serve as a set of universal recommendations that guide organisations' service management practices. These principles are adaptable to any management approach and are meant to steer organisations towards a culture of continuous improvement.


The principles include:


  1. Focus on value

  2. Start where you are

  3. Progress iteratively with feedback

  4. Collaborate and promote visibility

  5. Think and work holistically

  6. Keep it simple and practical

  7. Optimise and automate

These Guiding Principles are crucial for ensuring that decisions and actions taken at all levels of the organisation align with the overarching goal of value creation.


Governance

Governance in the ITIL SVS framework refers to how an organisation is directed and controlled. It encompasses the policies, rules, roles, responsibilities, and activities established to ensure that the organisation’s practices not only support but also contribute to achieving business objectives. Effective governance ensures that the organisation’s management strategies are aligned with its vision, guiding the service management practices towards achieving desired outcomes.


Service Value Chain

The Service Value Chain (SVC) is the central element of the ITIL Service Value System. It outlines an operating model for service management that enables organisations to transform inputs (opportunities and demand) into valuable outputs (services).


The SVC consists of six key activities:


  1. Plan

  2. Improve

  3. Engage

  4. Design & Transition

  5. Obtain/Build

  6. Deliver & Support

These activities interact in various ways, allowing for flexibility and adaptability in service management and delivery. The SVC is the backbone of the SVS, facilitating the flow of value through various processes and practices.


Practices

Practices in ITIL V4 are sets of organisational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective. The transition from processes to practices in ITIL V4 reflects a shift towards a more holistic, flexible approach to service management. Practices include roles, technology, and information, as well as processes. ITIL V4 identifies 34 practices, categorised into three types:


  • General management practices

  • Service management practices

  • Technical management practices

These practices provide a comprehensive and integrated approach to effective service management, supporting the Service Value Chain.


Continual Improvement

Continual Improvement is a fundamental concept within the ITIL SVS, ensuring that services are aligned with changing business needs. It involves regularly evaluating services, processes, and practices to identify areas for enhancement. The ITIL Continual Improvement Model provides a systematic approach to implementing improvements, from identifying what needs to be improved through analysis and planning to execution and evaluation.



The ITIL Service Value System
The ITIL Service Value System


The ITIL Service Value System is a comprehensive model that integrates various components of service management, ensuring that every action taken by an organisation contributes to the creation of value. By implementing the ITIL SVS, organisations can achieve more effective and efficient service delivery tailored to meet the evolving needs of their stakeholders.


Key Concepts and Principles

To gain a comprehensive understanding of ITIL Version 4, it’s imperative to delve into its foundational concepts and principles, which form the bedrock of its framework. This section explores these core elements, focusing on their significance and application within the ITIL V4 framework.


Key Concepts

The building blocks of ITIL V4 are its key concepts, which provide a platform for understanding how value is co-created through service relationships. These concepts include value, stakeholders, products, and services, each pivotal in effective IT service management.


  • Value: In ITIL V4, value is primarily defined by the service consumer and is a central concept in the creation, delivery, and improvement of services.

  • Stakeholders: Stakeholders in ITIL V4 include anyone involved in or affected by the services provided, encompassing service providers, consumers, and other entities like regulators and suppliers.

  • Products and Services: Refers to the outputs that enable value creation for stakeholders. Products are tangible or digital items, while services enable value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve.


The Seven Guiding Principles of ITIL V4

At the heart of ITIL V4 are seven guiding principles that inform all service management decisions and actions. These principles are recommendations that can be adapted and adopted in various organisational contexts.


  1. Focus on value: Everything done within the service management framework should directly or indirectly contribute to value co-creation.

  2. Start where you are: Assess current capabilities and resources before embarking on new initiatives to avoid unnecessary work and leverage existing assets.

  3. Progress iteratively with feedback: Tackle improvements in a manageable, iterative fashion that allows for feedback and adjustments.

  4. Collaborate and promote visibility: Work across boundaries and promote transparency to optimise outcomes.

  5. Think and work holistically: Understand how all parts of the organisation work together in service delivery and value creation.

  6. Keep it simple and practical: Simplify processes wherever possible. If an element doesn’t add value, consider streamlining or removing it.

  7. Optimise and automate: Prioritise processes for optimisation and automate them to reduce inefficiency and error.

This framework of principles steers the governance and management of IT services and ensures that every aspect of IT service management is aligned with the overarching goal of value creation. Applying these principles empowers organisations to navigate the complexities of modern IT environments with agility and confidence.


The Service Value Chain (SVC)

The Service Value Chain (SVC) represents the core of the ITIL Service Value System, providing an operational model that outlines the key activities required to respond to demand and facilitate value creation through service delivery and support. The SVC is designed as an adaptable and flexible model that can be tailored to the unique needs of any organisation, enabling it to deliver and support services efficiently and effectively.


The Six Activities of the SVC

The SVC comprises six interlinked activities critical for the successful delivery of IT services. These activities are: Plan, Improve, Engage, Design & Transition, Obtain/Build, and Deliver & Support. Each activity plays a specific role in the service value chain, enabling organisations to effectively manage their services and products.

Activity

Description

Plan

It focuses on ensuring a shared understanding of the vision, current status, and direction for improving all products and services.

Improve

Involves continual improvement of products, services, and practices across all value chain activities.

Engage

Centres around understanding stakeholder needs, transparent communication, and fostering good relationships.

Design & Transition

Ensures that products and services are designed appropriately and moved from development to production reliably and quickly.

Obtain/Build

It focuses on ensuring service components are available when and where needed and meet agreed specifications.

Deliver & Support

Involves ensuring that services are delivered and supported according to agreed specifications and stakeholders’ expectations.

Each activity is connected and influenced by the others, creating a dynamic flow that responds to changing demands and conditions.


The Role of SVC in Value Creation

The Service Value Chain's primary purpose is to facilitate value creation through IT services. By organising and linking critical activities, the SVC provides a framework that guides how services are planned, designed, delivered, and continuously improved.


  • Flexibility and Adaptability: The model’s flexibility allows organisations to adapt the SVC to their specific context, enabling the use of various practices and tools that support the SVC activities.

  • Integration with ITIL Practices: The SVC integrates closely with the 34 ITIL practices, facilitating a comprehensive approach to service management. Each activity within the SVC can employ multiple ITIL practices to provide holistic support for service delivery.


Applying the SVC in Organisations

To apply the SVC effectively, organisations should:


  1. Understand the Current State: Assess the current service management capabilities and identify areas for improvement.

  2. Define Objectives: Clearly define what they aim to achieve with the SVC implementation.

  3. Integrate Practices: Select and integrate ITIL practices tailored to the organisation’s specific needs to support the activities in the SVC.

  4. Measure and Improve: Continuously monitor outcomes, collect feedback, and adjust to improve service delivery and support.

The SVC’s adaptability makes it an essential tool for organisations aiming to deliver high-quality IT services that meet evolving stakeholder needs and create significant value.


ITIL Practices

In ITIL Version 4, practices are a core component designed to offer a comprehensive guide to achieving excellence in IT service management. There are 34 practices in total, divided into three distinct categories: General Management Practices, Service Management Practices, and Technical Management Practices. This structure reflects a holistic and integrated approach to managing IT services efficiently.


Highlighted Key Practices

Among the 34 practices, certain practices are often highlighted due to their critical importance in the day-to-day management of IT services. Incident Management, Change Control, and Service Level Management stand out due to their significant impact on service quality and efficiency.


  • Incident Management quickly restores normal service operations while minimising adverse impacts on business operations.

  • Change Control is crucial for managing changes without unnecessary disruption.

  • Service Level Management ensures that services are delivered at the agreed-upon quality levels, in line with business needs and objectives.

The integration and coordinated application of these practices enable organisations to achieve excellence in service management, leading to enhanced productivity, efficiency, and satisfaction among users and stakeholders.


Continual Improvement

Continual improvement is vital to the ITIL V4 framework, emphasising the need for ongoing development and refinement of services, processes, and practices. This concept is integral to ensuring that IT service management (ITSM) meets current business needs and adapts to evolving requirements and technologies.


The Continual Improvement Model

The Continual Improvement Model is a strategic approach designed to facilitate constant enhancement across all areas of ITSM. This model can be seen as a cyclic process comprising seven steps, which are outlined in the table below:

Step

Description

What is the Vision?

Define the overarching goals and objectives that the improvement efforts aim to achieve.

Where are we now?

Assess the current state to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

Where do we want to be?

Establish clear, measurable targets that align with the vision.

How do we get there?

Develop and plan initiatives, projects, or actions that will bridge the gap between the current and desired future.

Take action

Implement the planned initiatives, projects, or actions.

Did we get there?

Evaluate the outcomes against the defined targets to measure success.

How do we keep the momentum going?

Identify lessons learned, celebrate successes, and iterate the process for continual progress.


Integrating Continual Improvement with the Service Value System (SVS)

The Continual Improvement Model is not an isolated entity within ITIL V4 but is seamlessly integrated into the Service Value System. Each component of the SVS, from the Guiding Principles to Governance, the Service Value Chain, Practices, and Continual Improvement, is both a beneficiary and a contributor to continual improvement efforts.


Implementing Continual Improvement

Organisations can adopt various strategies to embed continual improvement into their ITSM practices.


Some of these include:


  • Creating a Culture of Improvement: Foster an organisational culture that values learning, adaptability, and proactive improvement. Encouraging staff to contribute ideas and recognising their efforts are crucial to sustaining this culture.

  • Utilising Metrics and KPIs: Establish clear metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure performance and identify areas for improvement.

  • Leveraging Feedback Loops: Implement feedback mechanisms at various points in service delivery to capture insights and suggestions from stakeholders, including customers and employees.

Challenges and Considerations

While the benefits of continual improvement are undeniable, organisations may face several challenges in implementing them, such as resistance to change, difficulties measuring improvements, and difficulty maintaining momentum. Overcoming these challenges requires strong leadership, clear communication, and allocating sufficient resources.


This diagram will illustrate the cyclic nature of the Continual Improvement Model, depicting how each step leads to the next and how the outcome of the “Did we get there?” phase feeds into “How do we keep the momentum going?”, thereby closing the loop and starting the cycle anew.


Cyclic nature of Continual Improvement Model
Cyclic nature of Continual Improvement Model


Conclusion

Continual improvement is essential to ITIL V4, ensuring that ITSM practices evolve in line with business needs and technological advancements. By adopting and integrating the Continual Improvement Model with the Service Value System, organisations can create a dynamic and resilient ITSM environment that fosters growth, efficiency, and value creation. 


Implementing ITIL V4 Processes

Implementing ITIL V4 in an organisation requires meticulous planning, a deep understanding of the existing IT infrastructure, and the willingness to embrace change across all levels of the organisation. Below are strategies for adopting ITIL V4, alongside common challenges and tips for successful implementation.


Strategies for Adoption

  1. Assessment and Planning

  • Evaluate the current state of IT services and processes.

  • Identify the gaps between current practices and ITIL V4 recommendations.

  • Develop a roadmap tailored to organisational goals and ITIL V4 principles.

  1. Training and Awareness

  • Conduct training sessions to educate staff on ITIL V4 principles and processes.

  • Promote awareness of the importance of ITIL V4 for improved service delivery.

  1. Tool Selection

  • Choose IT tools and software that align with ITIL V4 practices.

  • Ensure that the tools adapt to the changes the ITIL V4 implementation will bring.

  1. Process Integration

  • Integrate ITIL V4 processes into existing workflows in a phased manner.

  • Monitor and adjust the integration based on feedback and process performance metrics.

  1. Culture and Change Management

  • Foster a culture that supports continuous improvement and values ITIL V4 principles.

  • Implement change management strategies to handle resistance and encourage buy-in.

Common Challenges

  • Resistance to Change: Overcoming the natural resistance within teams used to the old ways of working.

  • Resource Constraints: Allocating sufficient resources, including time, budget, and personnel, for ITIL V4 training and implementation.

  • Complexity in Integration: Managing the complexity of integrating ITIL V4 processes with existing IT systems and processes.

Tips for Successful Implementation

  • Start Small and Scale Up: Focus on implementing small, manageable changes that deliver quick wins before scaling up to more complex processes.

  • Engage Stakeholders Early: Involve stakeholders from the outset to proactively ensure alignment and address concerns.

  • Continual Improvement Focus: Embed the concept of continual improvement into the organisation’s culture to keep refining processes and practices.

  • Seek Professional Guidance: Engage ITIL V4 experts or consultants for advice on best practices and to navigate complex implementation challenges.


Implementing ITIL V4 requires a strategic approach, relevant training, an adaptable IT infrastructure, and a commitment to cultural and procedural change. By overcoming common challenges and employing best practice strategies, organisations can successfully adopt ITIL V4, paving the way for enhanced IT service management and value delivery.


 

About the author

Hello, my name is Alan, and I bring over three decades of experience in the IT industry. My expertise spans IT Governance, Information Security, Project Management, and IT Service Management across diverse organisational styles and market sectors. I am academically grounded with a degree in Information Systems. I have furthered my professional qualifications with an ITIL Expert certificate, PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification, and CISMP Certification in Information Security Management. Throughout my career, I've led multi-million-pound change programmes, managed significant government contracts, and accumulated a wealth of practical knowledge and insights, often learned through overcoming challenges in the field.


This article discusses concepts and practices from the ITIL framework, a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited. The information provided here is based on the ITIL version 4 guidelines and is only intended for educational and informational purposes. 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.



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