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At the start of 2019, ITIL 4 will be launched, as most in IT service management already know. Formerly known as “Information Technology Infrastructure Library,” ITIL is a set of detailed practices for ITSM with a focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business. ITIL describes processes, procedures, tasks and checklists which are not organization-specific nor technology-specific, but can be applied by an organization for establishing integration with the organization’s strategy, delivering value, and maintaining a minimum level of competency.

From a very high level, ITIL is sometimes (or most times) is considered quite rigid. As I wrote for earlier this year (2018), “while ITIL has been considered a gold standard of IT, ITIL nowadays is an old-school approach to most current service management environments that is not suitable in the business landscape, especially relating to ITSM. You can find evidence of this in the fact that this year there will be an ITIL update in which practical guidance on how ITIL is to be adopted in conjunction with agile also will be included.”

This is certainly the case – in regard to the update to include agile – but there are other changes coming for ITIL in its latest version.

Known Changes of ITIL 4

Here is what we know about ITIL’s 4 update:

  1. ITIL 4 is not a made-from-scratch new ITIL version nor will it include entirely new processes. As a TOPdesk colleague of mine pointed out, this probably explains why there is no ‘v’ between ‘ITIL’ and ‘4’. Thus, even though ITIL v3 was a big change from ITIL v2, this update probably won’t tremendously change much.
  2. The people who developed ITIL 4 plan to provide more guidance regarding how to put ITIL into practice. That’s a good place to start for the continued longevity of the framework.
  3. ITIL 4 will address how ITIL relates to concepts such as agile, lean and DevOps. Without this, there’s a very good chance that the future of ITIL doesn’t or would not have much of a future.

Some additional changes in the new ITIL 4 include:

  • Considerations made for the end-to-end life cycle over a fragmented life cycle;
  • Presentation of a holistic view rather than a process focus;
  • Flexible value flow and moving away from operational silos; and
  • Evolution to continual improvement versus major releases (again, a major issue that needs addressing given the current landscape).

Why the Update

Most pressingly, the update to ITIL 4 is likely driven by the rise of agile, lean and DevOps, increasingly popular approaches, as I’ve previously mentioned. Organizations want the ability to immediately respond to changes in the market and in technology. The rise of continuous delivery proves this. ITIL’s reputation is not this. Perhaps the update will create some flexibility for the framework, or at least the perception of flexibility in the framework.

Is ITIL still relevant? It’s trying to be, yes. Here’s the point: ITIL is perceived as rigid, but it is not in and of itself. The problem is that those who implement ITIL tend to take a legalistic approach and the framework is often interpreted too rigidly. On its own, ITIL is simply a collection of guidelines and best practices that can be applied as appropriate.

ITIL is still important to service management as most organizations work with these processes, which is unlikely to change en masse immediately.

Apart from combining ITIL with agile approaches, other unanswered questions are related to implementing it. For example, version 3 has 26 processes but no instructions or guidelines to tell which processes are suitable for which kinds of organizations. Perhaps ITIL 4 will help you more with deciding what parts are relevant to your situation, a much-needed improvement for the framework and its place within an organization.