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ITIL 4, Part 1: Our Language Is About to Change

Wed 27 Mar 2019 Company Author: HDI Support World Magazine Author: Roy Atkinson


Process Management

ITIL Framework



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It’s no secret that ITIL®  4 (no “v”) is out. The Foundation book is publicly available from AXELOS and elsewhere.

Opinions about ITIL tend to be strong and varied, but there’s one thing almost everyone says: It has given information technology (IT) a common language. When you say, “The ITIL Lifecycle” to just about anyone who has been involved in IT over the past 10 years or more, they know what you’re talking about, even if they can’t name all five books from the previous version. 

When you say, “Incident Management” to almost anyone in an IT role, they know what you mean. They understand incident management as a process, and that’s where the changes begin. ITIL 4 has a major conceptual change, from processes to management practices. They are not the same thing, nor is it all about IT anymore. In fact, not that much of it is specifically about IT anymore.
In ITIL 4, there are 34 management practices, of which 14 are general management practices, 17 are service management practices, and only 3 are technical management practices. In only one case, IT asset management—one of the service management practices—is IT part of the name.

To begin to understand how ITIL 4 is framed, let’s consider the Service Value System (SVS) as defined in ITIL 4. It bears little resemblance to the lifecycle we’ve all grown used to. Value is now a central concept. Of course, it has always been in ITIL. But now, it’s more or less the boss of things. Value co-creation—that is the value produced by the “highly complex and interdependent relationships” among all parties—flows across the service value chain in value streams, which the astute Barclay Rae has likened to a railroad (the Chain) and the trains (the streams) that run on that railroad. 

And what is value? It is, “The perceived benefits, usefulness, and importance of something.” Who is doing the perceiving? Here’s where that co-creation comes in: We have or produce something (opportunity/demand) upon which we place value (a product or service), and we co-create value as that product or service moves through the value streams and is consumed. (Thinking of the term value added will help you see this concept clearly; value is added as the product or service flows across the organization.)

What happens at the other end of the service value chain? The services are received and consumed by the service consumer, which may be further described as:

  • Sponsor: person who authorizes budget for service consumption 
  • Customer: person who defines requirements and takes responsibility for outcomes 
  • User: person who uses services

If you were to look at the SVS diagram, you’ll see the Guiding Principles at the top and our old friend Continual Improvement at the bottom, surrounding Governance and Practices. In my next quick look at ITIL 4, we’ll delve into those.

 Roy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson. 


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