What is ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)?

IT service providers such as managed service providers or system houses have been focusing exclusively on the technical aspect of their services for a long time. While software and hardware were in the foreground, customer requirements only played a subordinate role. The best practices guide ITIL has fundamentally changed this approach, also due to new versions such as ITIL v3 and ITIL v4. What is ITIL and what does it consist of?

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ITIL: What is behind the framework for IT service management

ITIL is defined as a framework with a set of best practices for delivering efficient IT support services. The acronym stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. ITIL provides companies with the best ways to offer and provide IT services. The core element of the tried and tested standard procedures is striving to work in an economical, quality-conscious, and customer-oriented way.


ITIL was developed as early as the late 1980s by the Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), a government agency in Great Britain. The client was the British government, which was dissatisfied with the quality of the IT services it was purchasing.

From the very beginning, the recommendations from ITIL were very universal, which is why the collection of best practices quickly developed into the defining standard in the IT sector. Over the years, the “library” has been constantly expanded and revised to meet the requirements of the rapidly growing industry. Between 1989 and 1998 alone, 42 different documents were created, which were later combined under the name ITIL v1. This was followed by ITIL v2 (1999-2004), ITIL v3 (2007), and the current version of the guide ITIL v4 (2019-2020).

ITIL: Processes or practices as reference points for IT managers

As mentioned above, the goal of ITIL is to support IT service providers and managers in implementing and managing quality-based services that meet customer requirements at all times. To this end, the standard has relied on various approaches over the past decades:

  • ITIL v2 exclusively contains the two disciplines - service delivery (regulation of the binding framework) and service support (the support processes necessary to ensure service quality). In addition, various process flows are defined.
  • ITIL v3 maps the entire service lifecycle - from strategic preparation and the development of suitable solutions to the roll-out and operation of services and quality management (including continuous improvement of the product). In addition, 26 processes are mentioned that place the customer even more in the foreground.
  • ITIL v4 follows the approach of granting more freedom in the design of customized IT services. The specific processes of the previous versions were therefore replaced by 34 different practices that can be used more flexibly and adapted more easily.

The basic outline of the service lifecycle (strategy, design, transition, operation, and improvement) as well as the 26 processes specified in ITIL v3 are still valid and widely used even after the release of ITIL v4.

Which ITIL processes or practices are there?

The fourth version of ITIL describes a total of 34 different practices, most of which are already known as “processes” from the previous versions. The practices, which are also referred to as recommendation guidelines, are part of the Service Value System (SVS) introduced with ITIL v4, which consists of the following five core components:

  • ITIL Service Value Chain: Operational model with six activities (plan, improve, engage, design and transition, obtain/build, deliver and support) that builds on the ITIL v3 Service Lifecycle.
  • ITIL guiding principles: Fundamental guiding principles that apply to high-quality IT service management, such as value orientation, transparent cooperation, simplicity, or continuous optimization/further development.
  • Governance: Predefined directions, policies, and rules that IT service providers should use to deploy and manage their services.
  • Continual improvement: The striving for continuous improvement of the services offered, which also plays a role in other components such as the value chain.
  • ITIL practices (also recommendation guidelines or practices): The diverse set of best practices that provide IT service providers with a set of organizational resources designed to accomplish work or achieve a goal.

As mentioned, ITIL v4 comprises 34 practices, which are subdivided into the three categories “general management practices”, “service management practices”, and “technical management practices”. Each guideline must always be considered in relation to the six activities of the service value chain.

The following table summarizes all ITIL processes and practices (as of July 2021):

General Management Practices Service Management Practices Technical Management Practices
- Strategy Management - Portfolio Management - Architecture Management - Service Financial Management - Workforce and Talent Management - Continual Improvement - Measurement and Reporting - Risk Management - Information Security Management - Knowledge Management - Organizational Change Management - Project Management - Relationship Management - Supplier Management - Business Analysis - Service Catalogue Management - Service Design - Service Level Management - Availability Management - Capacity and Performance Management - Service Continuity Management - Monitoring and Event Management - Service Desk - Incident Management - Service Request Management - Problem Management - Release Management - Change Control - Service Validation and Testing - Service Configuration Management - IT Asset Management - Deployment Management - Infrastructure and Platform Management - Software Development and Management

What is an ITIL certification?

ITIL is one of the most important standards in information technology. Anyone working in IT management has an excellent source of information about qualitatively appealing, efficient, and customer-oriented work at their fingertips thanks to this best practices guide. Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs) offer ITIL training courses, including final exams, to familiarize participants with the contents of the IT framework and their application. Upon successful completion, the candidate receives an ITIL certificate.


All ITIL certificates are issued exclusively by PeopleCert, the Examination Institute of AXELOS (currently responsible for ITIL). Anyone wishing to offer ITIL training and exams must be accredited by PeopleCert.

Training for the ITIL certificate follows a four-stage model based on a points system:

  1. Foundation Level: The first level of ITIL certification provides a basic understanding of key elements such as the Service Value System (SVS), the service lifecycle, and the various ITIL processes or practices. Anyone interested in IT service management can take the exam.
  2. Intermediate Level: In the second chapter of the training, participants deal more intensively with IT management according to the ITIL standard and implementation of the guidelines. The level comprises two different training branches from five (service lifecycle management) or four modules (service capability process), which can be combined with each other. The Foundation Level must first be completed.
  3. Expert Level: Those who have collected enough points in the two previous levels can demonstrate their in-depth knowledge of the ITIL framework with the Expert Level.
  4. Master Level: There are no officially proposed or prescribed curricula or training for the Master Level. In order to obtain this certification level, IT managers must prove that they have carried out successful ITIL implementations in the workplace. In addition, several years of work in IT service management are necessary.

Unlike, for example, a certificate for audit security, companies as a whole cannot usually receive a certificate for conforming to ITIL. The certificate is always exclusive to an individual, which makes it particularly valuable for IT employees.

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