The evolution of ITIL: How the framework has reshaped IT service management

A new version of ITIL® was released this yearproviding more nuanced and practical guidance on ITSM (IT service management). 

Although ITIL 4 is markedly different from its predecessors, each iteration shares the same essential framework, concept and knowledge. Let’s take a look at how ITIL has evolved and what the latest version contains. 


A brief history of ITIL

ITIL was developed by the UK government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency during the 1980s in response to government agencies and privatesector organisations creating their own IT management practices. 

These weren’t necessarily unfit for purpose, but the government recognised the benefits of a standardised set of best practices that everyone could follow. 

The name was originally an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, but it has been referred to as ITIL since 2013. 

After its initial publication in 1989, the books in the framework grew to more than 30 volumes. Subsequent versions of ITIL were streamlined, first to nine volumes and then to five, to make the framework more accessible and affordable. 

This helped foster ITIL’s popularity and influence, and in 2005, its practices were incorporated into ISO 20000, the international standard that describes best practices for ITSM. 


Why was an update necessary?

Besides the need to keep up with the general evolution in the way organisations use technology, ITIL 4 was developed to address the flaws in its predecessor. 

ITIL 4 aims to fix two issues that its owner, AXELOS®, identified: its relevance and its relationship with the ITSM community. AXELOS conducted more than 30 workshops and research sessions, and assembled a Lead Architect Team to make the latest version “more nimble and contemporary”. 

It has done this by providing an end-to-end digital operating model for the delivery and operation of tech-enabled products and services. It has also focused on Agile, DevOps and Lean as areas for integration with traditional ITIL best practices. 

Adam Stewart, learning delivery director at QA, concludes that ITIL 4is now much more relevant to developers, practitioners and businesses. This latest iteration moves away from a traditional process-led approach to value-driven delivery for people and organisations.” 


Service value system and guiding principles

The main difference between the third and fourth iteration of ITIL is the addition of the SVS (service value system). 

Recognising that value is co-created by IT service providers and consumers, the SVS was designed to help IT teams create, deliver and operate technical products and services that fit the wider business strategy. 

The SVS is supported by seven guiding principles, a version of which was introduced in the Practitioner level of ITIL v3. It was originally designed as a set of points for organisations to consider when implementing improvement initiatives, but it’s now a core part of the framework. 

Let’s look at how those guiding principles have changed in ITIL 4:



Ready to learn more about ITIL?

Those interested in learning more about how ITIL works should enrol on our Foundation Training course, which: 

  • Outlines the ITIL lifecycle; 
  • Explains the terminology you need to know;
  • Raises your awareness of the selected processes, functions and roles involved in the framework; and 
  • Helps you prepare and practise for the ITIL Foundation exam. 

This three-day course is available in online and distance learning formats, meaning you can study in whatever way is most convenient while saving on the associated costs that come with training, like travel and accommodation. 


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One Response

  1. Dean Peters, Dr. of Business 9th May 2023

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