An essential guide to ITIL 4

Why is service management important?

In today’s world, information technology (IT) is a fully integrated part of everyone’s life. Whether using a smartphone, withdrawing cash from an ATM, paying bills, or booking tickets on the Internet, IT is present in everything we do. It often plays a supporting role, so we don’t even think about what we are using until it stops working. 

In the modern business organisation, we see the same reliance on IT and IT-enabled services. Every department, from finance and customer services through to logistics, relies on IT to carry out its role effectively and efficiently. Effectiveness refers to whether IT is able to achieve its objectives. Efficiency refers to whether IT uses an appropriate amount of resources. An efficient IT organisation will use optimal amounts of time, money, staff, etc. 

Now, more than ever, organisations need effective and efficient IT to survive. IT supports critical business processes that generate revenue, serve customers and allow business goals to be achieved. At the same time, the IT department or IT organisation is under more and more pressure to deliver better services, often at a reduced cost. It needs to find a balance between supply and demand, service cost and service quality. 

To make sure that IT can support business objectives properly, organisations need service management. Service management makes sure that the IT-enabled services delivered do what the business needs, when the business needs it. 

With effective support and good-quality IT-enabled services, organisations can adopt bold strategies, including the expansion of existing services and movement into new markets. With poor-quality services, organisations will struggle to deliver what they do now, let alone expand and offer anything new or exciting. Now, when many organisations are adopting a strategy focused on ‘digital transformation’, this topic becomes even more relevant. 


Why use ITIL® for service management?

It is worthwhile asking ‘what is ITIL and why is it important?’ ITIL is considered best practice for IT service management (ITSM). It was originally developed by the UK government, and is now adopted by many organisations in both the public and private sectors globally. 

ITIL is not a prescriptive standard that must be followed. It does not say what must be done in a service provider organisation, and there is no certificate or award for successfully adopting ITIL in an organisation. Instead, ITIL is a framework that organisations can adopt and adapt to improve the way they deliver their IT-enabled services. 

ITIL is a widely recognised source of best practice. It supports organisations as they deliver services that meet their customers’ needs, at a price the customer is willing to pay. 

In today’s economic climate, organisations cannot afford to stand still. They need to review their performance and compare it to their competitors and make sure they are improving constantly. Using best practice available in the public domain can support internal improvement.  

This thinking doesn’t just apply to the private sector. Public-sector organisations, such as local and central government departments, also need to demonstrate that they offer quality services and value for money. They might not be measured on profit, but there will be service objectives that they have to meet. 


Why has ITIL been successful?

ITIL is not academic and theoretical. It is based on the experience of ITSM practitioners and offers a practical approach that has evolved over many years. The introduction of a value system-focus in ITIL 4 means that organisations must concentrate less on technology and more on how to co-create value with either internal or external customers. Common processes and practices and a strong service management framework all help to support the focus on value. 

ITIL is successful because it is: 

  • Vendor neutral: ITIL is not linked to one supplier, or one technology, or one industry. This means it can be adopted across all types and sizes of organisation. 
  • Non-prescriptive: Organisations need to adopt and adapt the elements of ITIL that work for them and their customers. 
  • Best practice: ITIL draws on experience from service management practitioners across the globe. 

Best practice simply means: 

Proven activities or processes that have been successfully used in multiple organizations.   

ITIL is seen as being preferable to the proprietary knowledge that builds up inside organisations and the minds of staff members. Proprietary knowledge isn’t usually documented in a consistent way. It exists because it has built up over time. This means it is not challenged or improved – and can create a real risk if an experienced staff member leaves and takes their proprietary knowledge with them. 

In this chapter, we’re going to take a look at some of the key concepts related to service management.  

Products and services need to add value to consumers to be successful. Value is “the perceived benefits, usefulness and importance of something”. 

Some products and services are directly purchased by consumers, such as bank accounts and mobile phones. If a consumer doesn’t feel they are receiving value, the service provider organisation will know very quickly because the consumer will choose a different product or service, probably from a rival organisation. 

Where the service relationship is defined less clearly, the service provider organisation might have to work harder to find out if their consumers feel that they are receiving value. For example, the television package that you pay for might include a news channel that you don’t watch because you feel it’s biased, so you consume news via the Internet instead. Because you still purchase the package, it’s more difficult for your service provider to measure this and identify an improvement opportunity. 

Value encompasses more than just ‘value for money’. Some products and services are more expensive than others, but consumers choose them because they save time or convey status. Service provider organisations need to understand what it is that consumers value about their products and services. Services also need to create value for the service provider, to allow them to continue to provide the service in the future. 


Service management  

Services deliver value to consumers. If a service isn’t carefully managed, the value might be less or might not be delivered at all. An IT-enabled service needs to be measured, monitored and maintained to continue working effectively. An IT organisation can’t just put a service into the live environment and forget about it. 

ITIL provides good practices for managing IT-enabled services. It doesn’t matter what job you have in IT; your role is part of the overall service that is being offered to the consumer.  

Most modern organisations rely on IT to be effective. They expect IT to be available and responsive, and communicate with them regularly. Technology alone does not deliver a good service. Technology needs to be managed to meet the customer’s needs. The need for a more holistic approach to IT-enabled services is reflected in the four dimensions of service management described in the ITIL 4 guidance. 

The definition of service management is:  

“A set of specialized organizational capabilities for enabling value for customers in the form of services”. 

Capabilities refer to the ability of an organisation to carry out a task or activity. The more mature the organisation, the better its capabilities should be. Capabilities will be based on an organisation’s experience of customers, processes, services, tools, market conditions, etc. This experience grows over time. Where an organisation has low or immature capabilities, it may choose to source capabilities from an external organisation. 

An organisation can only develop these specialised organisational capabilities when it understands: 

  • The nature of value; 
  • The nature and scope of the stakeholders involved; and 
  • How value creation is enabled through services. 


Service management as a professional practice

Service management should be viewed as a professional practice. It is supported by an extensive body of knowledge, experience and skills that has built up as the IT industry matured and developed a service focus. 

There is a global community of professionals that supports service management, including organisations like the IT Service Management Forum. You can read more about the itSMF at, including learning about your national chapter and any resources that are available to support you. The itSMF allows service management practitioners to connect with each other and share feedback, ideas and experiences. 

The ITIL service management framework is supported by a scheme that provides quality assured education, training and certification. There are also other related training and certification schemes, covering areas such as project management, change management, business analysis, and service integration and management.  

In addition, there is a wealth of service management information available – including academic research and formal standards related to services and service management, such as ISO/IEC 20000, as well as blogs, forums and other more informal content. 

Service management has developed as IT’s focus has moved from a technology-centric approach to an end-to-end service and value-based approach. The ITIL 4 approach focuses on the consumer and the quality of service the consumer receives. IT is increasingly seen as a vital business enabler, and IT plans must be aligned to overall business models, strategies and plans. 

This is an extract taken from Chapter 1: Key Concepts of Service Management of ITIL 4 Essentials: Your essential guide for the ITIL 4 Foundation exam and beyond 

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The essential link between your ITIL qualification and the real world

ITIL 4 Essentials: Your essential guide for the ITIL 4 Foundation exam and beyondITIL 4 Essentials is an invaluable resource that provides essential guidance on the latest evolution of the framework and its key concepts. 

It offers practical tips – based on the author’s extensive experience – for applying ITSM in the real world.  

Ideal for self-study candidates and training participants, this book is the perfect study companion and professional development aid. Project managers, contractors or consultants with limited study time will also find it essential to their part-time education. 

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