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Everything you need to know about the latest ITIL release
ITIL 4 is the latest version of the ITIL framework and was released back in February 2019. It is highly value-centric, primarily focusing on bringing different stakeholders in an organization together to co-create value for the end-users. With the arrival of new frameworks like VeriSM, SIAM, and FitSM in the IT service management landscape, there was a need for the previous version of ITIL (ITIL v3) to become more refined in the way it approaches service management as an enabler for businesses. ITIL 4, the current version of ITIL takes the best parts of ITIL v3, enhances them, and creates a framework that focuses more on delivering tailor-made solutions for organizations. The previous versions of ITIL directed practitioners to implement ITIL by the book which led them to a complex web of practical solutions. Whereas ITIL 4, is more pragmatic in this approach. Instead of idealizing processes and encouraging the practitioners to implement the same, ITIL 4 aims to deliver tailor-made solutions to organizations through “practices”. It has two significant components that are enhancements to the previous version:
Effective IT service management is more than just managing technology. It also includes different organizations within the company and the people involved in them, the company’s relationships with vendors and partners, and the different processes and technologies used within the business. These critical elements, now defined as the four dimensions of service management, are applicable to the ITIL service value system (SVS) and have a direct impact on the company’s service management. If all the dimensions aren’t addressed properly, it may result in the services becoming inefficient, or even undeliverable. ITIL 4 defines four dimensions that are essential in the process of co-creating value for customers and other stakeholders. They are represented in the following diagram.
Clear reporting lines and well-defined roles and responsibilities are key to establishing a well-structured organization, which goes a long way in delivering efficient services. But an organization without a culture to support its objectives is unambitious. It also affects the way services are being delivered within the company. This culture comprises of people—the technical, non-technical employees, administrative staff, facilities management employees, security, etc. Together as one entity, people are the single most important asset of any organization. The cultural diversity they bring to the table is of vital importance to the effective functioning of a business. Though there are technologies and machines to do all the jobs that humans do, having the right people in the right places could prove to be invaluable to an organization.
The Information and technology dimension described in ITIL 4 encompasses the technologies that support service management, workflow management systems, inventories, knowledge bases, analytical tools, and communication systems in an organization. In addition, it includes all the information created, stored, managed and used by the organization while delivering an IT service. Businesses now use technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things and blockchain to process large amounts of data, which demands rigid information management policies. Organizations should take extra care to devise foolproof policies to manage these large amounts of information and urge all stakeholders to strictly adhere to it.
No service management ecosystem is complete without the partners and suppliers. Every organization is dependent on its partners and suppliers to some extent for their service delivery. This ITIL 4 dimension includes the relationship(s) of an organization with other organizations or individuals that are involved in the design, development, delivery, and support of services. Organizations depend on their partners at different levels. Some may focus on developing core competencies internally and rely on partners and suppliers for other needs. Some may depend on their partners as little as possible. One method organizations use to address this dimension is the Service Integration and Management (SIAM), where there is an ‘integrator’ to ensure that service relationships are properly coordinated. In any case, the partners and suppliers should align well with the organization’s core values and business goals in order to ensure smooth service delivery.
ITIL 4 describes this dimension as follows: It involves defining the activities, workflows, processes, and procedures needed to achieve the agreed business objectives in addition to determining how different components of the organization come together and work in unison to enable value creation through products and services. By ITIL 4 definition, a value stream is a series of steps an organization undertakes to create and deliver products and services to consumers. These value streams are, in turn, enabled by processes that transform inputs into outputs. This dimension helps define the service delivery model, and identify processes that don’t aid any value creation for the business.
The ITIL Service Value System (SVS) in ITIL 4 can be seen as a birds-eye-view of an organization’s service management landscape. It describes the inputs to the system, the different elements of the organization that are directly involved in value creation, and the outputs (achieving business objectives).
Opportunity represents all the potential chances to create value for the end-users. Demand is the need for products or services. These two key inputs are always present in the system, but the organization doesn’t always capitalize on all available opportunities or focus on satisfying all the demands.
It is a set of recommendations by ITIL 4 that guide an organization throughout its service management lifecycle, irrespective of changes that occur in the goals, strategies, or in the structure of the organization. Axelos defines the following 7 seven guiding principles in the ITIL 4 foundation book.
Irrespective of their size, all organizations are governed by a person or a group of people (usually the C-suite or the board of directors) who take complete responsibility of overseeing the function of the organization as a whole, or as individual units. ITIL 4 governance involves evaluation, direction and monitoring activities whose ultimate goal is ensuring that the service value chain and the organization’s practices work well in line with the set business objectives.
ITIL 4 describes the service value chain as a combination of six key activities that work together to co-create value for end-users, by delivering a product or a service. The activities employ different combinations of ITIL management practices to perform a certain type of work. In addition, all these activities are interconnected and receive inputs from external sources or from within the service value chain. Below is the list of activities described in the ITIL service value chain:
Plan: The creation of plans, policies, standards and setting the direction for a certain value stream.
Improve: Ensuring the continual improvement of the practices, products, and services offered by the organization.
Engage: Establishing good relationships with all stakeholders and end-users, to provide transparency and a clear understanding of the products and services.
Design and transition: Ensures that the products and services offered continuously meet stakeholders’ demands.
Obtain/build: Ensures the availability of service components like hardware, software, services, etc., whenever and wherever they are needed.
Deliver and support: Ensures that services are delivered and supported in a way that it meets the stakeholders’ expectations.
The core idea of continual improvement (CI) in the context of service management is to constantly look for opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of IT services that enable business processes. It includes improvement across the entire organization in business units, products, services, processes, and relationships. In ITIL 4, continual improvement applies to all elements of the service value chain, the seven guiding principles and is also recommended as a general management practice. Read more about continual improvement here.
A practice or ITIL management practice in ITIL 4 is defined by Axelos as a set of organizational resources designed for performing work or accomplishing an objective. In ITIL v3 (the previous version of ITIL), the framework consists of five stages as a part of the ITIL service lifecycle. Each stage consists of a set of processes or functions that are aligned with the IT organizational structure. ITIL 4, on the other hand, describes "practices" instead of processes. Although these two words are used interchangeably, they mean completely different things in the context of IT service management. To read more about how practices differ from processes, click here.
These ITIL 4 practices combine inputs from general business management domains, the service management space, and associated technology solutions for providing IT services. The ITIL Service Value System includes a total of 14 general management practices, 17 service management practices, and 3 technical management practices.
ITIL 4 Practices
Architecture management - It provides an understanding of how the different elements of an organization are interrelated and work towards achieving business objectives. It is instrumental in the plan, improve, design, and transition value chain activities.
Continual improvement - It aligns the organization’s services with the constantly changing needs by improving products, services, and practices at every stage of service delivery. The continual improvement model contains several steps that revolve around what the organization’s vision is, where they are at the moment, where they want to be (what they want to achieve), how to get there, take action, and analyze if they have achieved their goals in the end.
Information security management - Organizations store a lot of confidential and sensitive data like customer details, application information, etc. A clear understanding of confidentiality, risks, and integrity is required to ensure that this data is secure. The information security management practice aims at achieving a balance between establishing strong information security policies, conducting regular audits for compliance with international data security standards, implementing risk management processes and training the employees on the importance of information security.
Knowledge management - Knowledge in an organization comprises of information, skills, practices, and solutions in various forms. To protect this valuable organizational asset, the knowledge management practice maintains and improves the effective use of information across the organization through a structured approach.
Measurement and reporting - This practice aids in improving forecasting and decision-making at all organizational levels, from planning to user support. It provides information that is based on facts and measures the progress and effectiveness of products, processes, services, teams, individuals and the organization as a whole. Organizations use Critical Success Factors (CSFs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the achievement of intended results. On the reporting front, data can be collected and presented through dashboards, which help support good decision making.
Organizational change management - Any successful organization is bound to undergo a lot of changes. It could be in the way people work, their behavior, their roles, the organizational structure, or the technologies used. The organizational change management practice ensures that everyone affected by such changes accepts and supports it, by providing training and awareness and tending to any adverse impacts that changes might have created.
Portfolio management - The portfolio management practice ensures that the organization has the right combination of products, services, and processes to achieve its business goals with the given funding and resource constraints.
Project management - The project management practice involves a general set of processes and activities required to coordinate and implement changes to an organization. It ensures that all projects across the company are planned, delegated, monitored and successfully delivered in stipulated time frames. The most common approaches in project management are the waterfall method and the agile method. The former is used when the requirements are well-known and the project isn’t subject to any significant change, while the latter is used when the requirements can change and evolve rapidly.
Relationship management - This management practice establishes and nurtures the links between the organization and its stakeholders at different levels. If the organization is a service provider, most of their efforts are focused on maintaining a good relationship with their consumers. The relationship management practice contributes to all service value chain activities.
Risk management - Risks are an integral part of any business. For a business to sustain in the long-term, calculated, smart risks are inevitable. But before taking any risks, there needs to be a clear understanding of those risks and their impacts on the organization. The risk management practice helps an organization understand, manage and effectively handle risks.
Service financial management - The purpose of the service financial management practice is to help the management decide on where to spend their financial resources in order to accomplish the financial objective of the organization. It is responsible for managing all the budgeting, costing and accounting activities across the business. For this to be effective, the service financial management practice needs to be tightly aligned with the organization’s portfolio management and relationship management practices.
Strategy management - It’s a management practice that defines the goals for the organization and devises the plan of action, allocation of resources required for achieving those goals. It also helps focus the organization’s efforts, defines what to prioritize in line with its objectives and acts as guidance.
Supplier management - The supplier management practice enables proper management of the organization’s suppliers and vendors and ensures that the received products and services are of high quality and do not affect the timely delivery of services. It also helps maintain a healthy relationship with different suppliers.
Workforce and talent management - The aim of the workforce and talent management practice is to ensure that the organization contains the right people, with the right competencies, skills, and abilities at all the right places, in line with the company’s business objectives. This practice includes all activities related to recruitment, onboarding, engaging with the organization’s employees, learning and development, and performance measurement.
Availability management - In an organization, for successful service management, products and services should be available as and when needed by the stakeholders. The purpose of the availability management practice is to ensure that an IT service or an asset is able to perform its function whenever required.
Business Analysis - The business analysis practice helps analyze a business or some element of it, identifies problems, communicate the needs for change in an easy-to-understand manner, and suggest solutions to solve those problems. It holds high significance in value creation for different stakeholders in the organization.
Capacity and performance management - For effective service management, the services delivered by an organization should achieve expected performance without exceeding agreed costs. In addition to satisfying current demands, they should meet the business requirements in the long term. This is ensured by the capacity and performance management practice.
Change control - While change management focuses on the people side of changes implemented in the organization, change control focuses on the changes in products and services. It could be caused by various factors like IT, applications, processes, relationships, etc.
Incident management - The incident management practice ensures that the best possible levels of service quality and availability are maintained at all times. It aims to restore normal service operation as quickly as possible, in addition to minimizing the adverse impact on business operations caused by those incidents.
IT asset management - All components that contribute to the delivery of an IT service are called IT assets. The IT asset management practice helps in planning and managing the entire lifecycles of these assets, which help the organization manage costs and risks, increase value, and help make better purchase decisions.
Monitoring and event management - It helps constantly observe services within the organization and record all associated events. These events are basically a change of state that has an impact on the product on service delivery. Monitoring and event management is highly helpful in identifying information security events, and aids in responding with appropriate solutions.
Problem management - The goal of problem management is to prevent problems and resulting incidents from occurring and to eliminate recurring incidents. It also helps in minimizing the impact of incidents that cannot be prevented. This is done by identifying the root causes of such incidents, devising workarounds and known errors.
Release management - Release management aims to build, test and deliver the new and changed services that fulfill the agreed service requirements by achieving the intended objectives. It ensures the satisfaction of all stakeholders of the organization.
Service catalog management - This practice involves activities like setting up a portal that contains all the product and service offerings, with the aim of providing consumerized IT services. It enables communication to the intended audience about the list of services that are provided by the organization.
Service configuration management - This management practice involves collecting and managing information about all the available configuration items (CIs) within the organization. CIs include hardware, software, networks, people, vendors, etc. Service configuration management provides information on what CIs contribute to the business and describes the relationship between them.
Service continuity management - Organizations are not exceptions to disasters. Such unplanned events could cause serious damage to the organization, including failure to provide critical business functions continuously. Service continuity management provides guidance for business continuity and ensures IT and services can be resumed after a crisis.
Service design - Improper design of products and services results in failure to meet the customers’ needs. The service design management practice helps design products and services that are the right fit for the organization’s ecosystem, facilitate value creation and help realize the business objectives. It includes planning and organizing people, partners, suppliers, IT, communication, and processes.
Service level management - Services delivered by an organization need to achieve a minimum level of quality as defined. The service level management practice helps set targets for these service levels, and involves all activities related to monitoring, measuring, assessing, and managing the delivery of services through service level agreements (SLAs).
Service request management - Users in an organization request for information, or an IT service whenever they have a need. These are called service requests. Password reset requests are a great example of service requests. The service request management practice involves managing these service requests in an efficient and user-friendly manner.
Service validation and testing - All new or changed products and services in an organization need to be checked if they meet the defined requirements, and should be verified through testing. This is done through service validation and testing practice.
Deployment management - Working closely with release management and change control, the deployment management practice deals with setting up new/changed hardware, software, processes or any other such component in a live environment. Different approaches include phased deployment, continuous delivery, big bang deployment, and pull deployment.
Infrastructure and platform management - For an organization’s Information Technology, the infrastructure and platform management aids in managing technology resources like storage, networks, servers, software, hardware, and configuration items used by the customers. It also includes the buildings and facilities the organization uses to run its IT infrastructure.
Software development and management - The practice of developing software applications, ranging from a single program to operating systems and large databases is significant for organizations in creating value for customers in technology-based services. It is managed using two widely popular approaches - waterfall and Agile.
Like ITIL v3, the ITIL 4 certification path also takes a modular approach, starting from the foundation, to the intermediate (Managing Professional and Strategic Leader) and master levels. The following diagram represents the complete course structure of ITIL 4.
ITIL 4 Certification Scheme
The ITIL 4 Foundation is the entry-level course and covers the fundamentals and basic terminologies associated with service management. The intermediate level is comprised of five different courses:
Completing the three ITIL Specialist courses and the ITIL Strategist course makes the candidate an ITIL Managing Professional (MP), whereas completing the ITIL Strategist and the ITIL Leader courses will make them an ITIL Strategic Leader (SL). The Managing Professional (MP) course provides practical knowledge about running successful IT projects, teams, and workflows. The Strategic Leader (SL) course targets IT professionals who seek a clear understanding of how IT influences and directs business strategies.
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