ITIL Framework & Processes Explained

What Is the ITIL Framework?

The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework is a collection of defined and optimized processes an IT organization or department uses to deliver IT services to its customers, clients, employees, and stakeholders. These repeatable processes are constantly evolving to provide a more efficient and effective set of services and tools.

Since ITIL revolves around constantly improving its processes and delivery, ITIL reduces business cost. The revolving goal of continually improving IT processes minimizes service interruptions, reduces business risks, and creates a stable service environment that leads to improved customer satisfaction. Overall, ITIL improves accountability through standardization, and standardization helps IT organizations become more efficient in the delivery of IT services.

What Are the Benefits of ITIL?

An organization that uses the ITIL framework can expect to see these benefits if it’s properly implemented:

  • A stronger relationship between IT and business: ITIL strategically focuses on IT and the business concurrently, and strives to align IT and business goals to foster better communication.
  • Globally recognized standard: ITIL integrates easily with other frameworks like PMP and PRINCE2.
  • Greater visibility into IT costs: Utilizing ITILs metric-based strategies lets managers peer into IT processes and services to make necessary cost-cutting decisions.
  • Improved quality of IT services: Components of ITIL focus on service-level management to help a business better understand customers’ expectations and needs.

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ITIL Framework Lifecycle

The ITIL framework works on the establishment of service principles, processes, and performance measures. Within the framework, specific roles are executed as required to meet the IT service delivery goal. The ITIL lifecycle starts with a service strategy that is built around the organization’s mission, and ends with continual service improvement.

Service StrategyDefines how to implement, sustain, and excel in IT service delivery
Service DesignUses ITSM tools to create new services
Service TransitionEnsures new services successfully integrate with existing assets and service levels
Service OperationsServices are performed, including incident management and service desk tasks
Continual Service ImprovementSeeks to improve existing services and strategies

Service Strategy

Service strategy is the overall intent of the organization’s IT mission. The strategy defines how to implement, sustain, and excel in IT service delivery to its customers. Every action in an ITIL-managed organization needs to be associated back to the service strategy mission.

Service Design

Service design is tied back to service strategy by adhering to that strategy for new service offerings or improving existing services. In this stage, IT service management tools and systems are used to develop and ensure consistency with existing services. The same measurement methods and metrics need to be applied against any new or modified service to determine if an improvement has occurred.

Service Transition

Service Transition accepts the new or modified IT service and ensures it can successfully integrate with any other required assets. This new or modified service is thoroughly tested, and must exceed or meet the current service levels before moving to service operations.

Service Operations

Service Operations focuses on ensuring the IT services in operation are robust and responsive to customer needs. Incident management and the service desk reside here, and they are the best indications for notifying an organization when an IT service is not performing as expected.

Continual Service Improvement

Continual Service Improvement is a revolving process for all IT services in the ITIL framework, regardless of its performance in service operations. If an IT service is exceeding expectations, what can be done to make it more robust and efficient? Is there new software or hardware technology on the market that can improve the process or service?

Conversely, if a process or service is not meeting expectations, what can be done in service design to make sure the process or service does meet the expected outcome? Was the requirement correctly defined? Does the IT service deliver beyond its intended scope and continually miss the due date? Did an IT service incorrectly deliver an outcome the customer was not expecting?

A good place to start when reviewing an IT service that is missing a delivery date or an expected outcome is to ask questions like these. Also, incident management and the service desk should have some historical data on why a service is not performing as expected.

Introducing and Implementing ITIL into an Organization

Introducing the ITIL Framework into an organization at the startup phase is ideal. ITIL training for all employees is the first step towards success, but we recommend you don’t wait until everyone is ITIL trained. Start ITIL at the help desk or service desk, where problems are first reported. What are the most redundant concerns customers are complaining about regarding an IT service? Try to identify the root cause, and once a basic understanding of ITIL has been taught, introduce this concern as a teaching example.

Organizations already using some type of IT framework for service delivery may have to run two systems in parallel until ITIL is fully integrated into the organization. The old IT framework information can be archived, and any active tickets still open during transition need to be referenced in the old system till it’s resolved in ITIL.

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Criticisms of ITIL

One criticism of ITIL is it focuses on managing failure versus creating success. By that, we mean ITIL avoids failure by reusing processes, as opposed to creating another process that can address a unique customer need better. ITIL is also reported as being too rigid, only making the minimum number of changes per year.

ITIL language can also cause conflict. Using common ITIL terms like Release Management or Configuration Management may be confusing when other teams that use the same wording with entirely different meanings.

The most obvious criticism of ITIL is a general lack of understanding of ITIL, and the idea that somehow the word itself will help address delivery issues without overarching management of the entire lifecycle. Many IT managers lean on the word ITIL as some sort of solution, but ITIL still requires managers to manage processes.

Established Processes Do Help

Manager and employee training are the determining factors for successfully using the ITIL framework. Continually reviewing and renewing processes and services is the strength of ITIL.

A good way to look at ITIL is from a “when” perspective, and not an “if” perspective. If ITIL is truly implemented in a business, it is not a matter of “if” a process or service will change, but “when” a process or service will be updated to provide a better IT service or IT delivered product.

Read next: What Are the Differences Between ITSM & ITIL?

Don Hall
Don Hall
Don Hall has been employed as an IT Manager/Supervisor in the U.S. Government for over twenty years. He has managed programmers, cyber security, and infrastructure/networking personnel during his management career. Hall currently works as an IT Operations Officer that requires him to have general knowledge of various IT topics to assist his Command in making informed decisions or recommendations on behalf of the customers we support.

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