An Introduction to ITIL

What do we mean by “best practice”?
What is IT service management?
What are the objectives of IT service management?
What does IT service management involve?
What are the benefits of IT service management?
Why did ITIL come about?
What are the benefits of ITIL?


The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) documents industry standard best practice for IT service management (ITSM). It is the most widely accepted approach in the world and is derived from input from both public and private sectors around the world. ITIL forms the foundation for a number of other frameworks and standards, including ISO/IEC 20000 and the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF). ITIL is also supplementary to other business focused frameworks, e.g. COBIT and the EFQM Excellence Model, and it provides a key reference for those organisations wishing to use Six Sigma to drive process improvement initiatives.

ITIL background

  • First issued in 1987, then refreshed in 1998 (Version 2), 2007 and 2011 (both iterations of Version 3)
  • ITIL 4 (Foundation book) was published in 2019
  • Documents a non-proprietary “best practice” for ITSM
  • It has become a de facto global standard
  • Enables organisations to improve use of IT in a variety of areas
  • Managed by AXELOS Ltd, on behalf of the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC)
  • Independent accredited training available
  • Promotes business and operational effectiveness in the use of IT

ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.

What do we mean by “best practice”?

By “best practice” we mean the best identified approach to a situation, based upon observation from effective organisations in similar business circumstances. A best practice approach means seeking out ideas and experiences from those who have undertaken similar activities in the past, then determining which of these practices are relevant to your situation. You can try them out and see if they work in your business environment, before incorporating the proven practices in your own documented processes. Best practice is all about not “re-inventing the wheel”, but learning from others and implementing what has been shown to work.

The guardians of this best practice are the IT Service Management Forum (click here for the itSMF website), who are an independent not-for-profit organisation based in the UK but with regional operations in most major countries.

What is IT service management?

A set of integrated practices and processes underpinning core business processes by linking infrastructure management with business needs. Within ITIL 3 this is split into five core areas: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. Each of these volumes provides a wealth of information on ITSM, as well as providing detailed coverage on specific processes such as:

  • Service Strategy
    • Business Relationship Management, Demand Management, Financial Management, Service Portfolio Management, Strategy Management
  • Service Design
    • Availability Management, Capacity Management, Design Coordination, Information Security Management, IT Service Continuity Management, Service Catalogue Management, Service Level Management, Supplier Management
  • Service Transition
    • Change Evaluation, Change Management, Knowledge Management, Release and Deployment Management, Service Asset and Configuration Management, Service Validation and Testing, Transition Planning and Support
  • Service Operation
    • Access Management, Event Management, Incident Management, Request Fulfilment, Problem Management
  • Continual Service Improvement
    • Continual Service Improvement process, Service Reporting

ITIL 4, published in 2019, provides a new perspective on service management, with the service value system (SVS) being a new view on the original service management framework that was publicised in earlier iterations of ITIL. The SVS is supported by a set of 34 ‘practices’ which have been sub-divided into three categories: general management, service management, and technical management. Within FoxPRISM, the previously documented ITIL 3 processes have been linked to the relevant ITIL 4 practices (where applicable). This is identified in the menu structure of the respective practices.

Relevant ITIL 4 sections within FoxPRISM are annotated with specific references to where further information can be found in the official book entitled ITIL® Foundation, ITIL 4 edition (ISBN: 9780113316076). It should be noted that FoxPRISM is not a complete replacement for this book but provides a precis of this book of knowledge, breaks the content down into segments and enables rapid interchanging between related information. FoxPRISM also provides much added value content, such as processes related to the defined practices, example KPIs and metrics, document templates, etc.

What are the objectives of IT service management?

The objectives of IT service management are:

  • To align IT services with the current and future needs of the business and its customers and users
  • To improve the quality of the IT services that are delivered
  • To reduce the long-term cost of service provision

What does IT service management involve?

Adopting IT service management means that you are adopting a “service culture” which focuses on your business requirements; to achieve this involves at least the following:

  • Analysing the real business and customer needs
  • Planning the services, products and support to underpin those needs
  • Implementing the systems, practices and processes to deliver those services
  • Continuously monitoring, controlling and improving IT delivery and support

What are the benefits of IT service management?

Effective implementation of IT service management best practice within an IT service operation will enable the business to realise the following benefits:

  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Reduced risk in service provision
  • Reduced cost of delivery and support
  • End-to-end service visibility
  • Simplified IT operating model
  • Increased productivity within the business
  • Better supplier and partner management
  • Compliance with best practice which can be audited (and therefore proven)
  • Faster “go to market” capability for the business

Why did ITIL come about?

ITIL was first published in the late 1980’s and came about as a result of the appreciation of the importance of IT to UK Government and businesses in general; in particular the recognition of the following:

  • Pervasive nature of IT/IS
  • Increased business dependency upon IT/IS systems
  • Demand for 24×365 service availability
  • Immediate and visible impact of IT failure
  • Massively increased complexity of IT requirements
  • Radical distribution of IT
  • The need for measurable ‘best practices’ for service delivery and support

What are the benefits of ITIL?

There are many benefits that can be achieved from adopting ITIL for ITSM including the following:

  • Services focused on business and customer need
  • Continuous improvement in service quality
  • Consistent terminology
  • Greater productivity
  • Best use of scarce skills
  • Improve recruitment and retention
  • Better information flows – IT, customers, users
  • Staff have appropriate standards and guidance
  • Compliance to procedures can be audited