New ITIL V3 Shifts from Processes to Service Lifecycle

The updated ITIL framework reinforces the importance of a service lifecycle and emphasizes a business-driven, top-down approach and IT/business integration.

Last week the U.K.’s Office of Government Commerce released an updated version of ITIL, called ITIL v3, emphasizing a top-down approach that may help in getting executive-level support for ITIL initiatives.

Born in the late 1980s, ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) started as a British government project to document IT best practices. Since then it’s grown into a framework for IT service management and has become an international standard (ISO/IEC 20000). The last update, version 2, was published in 2000 and focused on what should be done to improve processes; the version 3 update, started in 2004, focuses on service-driven lifecycle, emphasizes executive support of ITIL best practices, and details specifically what should be done to improve the processes.

Rob Stroud is an ITSM and ITG evangelist at CA. He says that “ITIL version 3 will differ a little from the current guidance. The current 10 core books have been condensed into five core volumes that leverage the lifecycle approach of a service from strategy to retirement. The new guidance reflects the continuing maturity of the best practice as it evolves and also provides guidance to take you into the future and work with the complexities of aligning IT and the business.” Stroud served as an advisor and reviewer for ITIL v3 books.

“The guidance is aimed at assisting the best-practice use that we’re seeing in the industry and there are a lot of opportunities with ITIL v3 for us to look at how we can leverage it, and other frameworks, to better integrate IT with the business.”

Gary Case and George Spalding are co-authors of “Continual Service Improvement,” the final volume in the five-book series. The authors both work for PinkElephant, a global consulting and education organization focused on the ITIL framework. We spoke with the authors last week about ITIL v3.

Case says their book looks at identifying how IT is actually performing against service-level targets at different points in time, identifying improvement opportunities based on new requirements (or even new services), and exploring how to improve the strategies of everything from design to the transition to operations.

Spalding says v2 was focused on processes such as incident, problem, change, configuration, and risk management (day-to-day processes that incorporated a service desk). V2 also incorporated some higher-level, planning-oriented processes having a longer-term focus, such as catastrophe management and IT service continuity. “Lots of people have been talking about version 3 as a complete new look at the way we’re approaching things, but we’ve been talking about a service-based IT department for years. ITIL has focused on IT as a service provider. Version 3 takes this process concept and gone one step further—we should talk about services, because processes are just enablers to get on the service bandwagon.”

Stroud agrees. “Many organizations have already made the move to a more cross-process type thought pattern, whether they have started implementing or not. ITIL is now well supported by a large vendor community, and we have been giving cross-process guidance for some time now, so if you’re using v2 today, you are well-positioned. In ITIL v3, we support all the v2 processes that are in the field to help ITIL practitioners move forward.”

In Spalding’s view, the definition of IT success used to be “Did we give the business what it contracted for and is it satisfied with what we provided?” In Version 3, IT must start asking, “How do we build the service so that it brings value to the relationship? How do we create value for the business by creating and innovating services?”

Case points out that “v2 talked about IT/business alignment. In version 3 we move to IT/business integration.” He says an end-to-end perspective is needed (looking at a service from beginning to end of the customer experience), not just a focus on technology measurements such as network uptime.

Version 3 is more prescriptive than the previous version, moving from “what you should do” to “how you should do it,” Case points out. Spalding says customers have had enough of exploring the options; they wanted solid recommendations based on experience, which Version 3 offers (in addition to exploring the pitfalls of what doesn’t work).

Version 3 also acknowledges other standards and models (such as Six Sigma) that have grown in the marketplace since the last version, and customers are encouraged to employ those techniques where appropriate.

In their book, Case and Spalding combine their own experience, that of their colleagues, and their own research. They documented what customers did; ITIL as a “best practices” framework means it looks at things customers are already doing, and readers wanted to know what is successful. Stroud notes that “ITIL is common sense. A lot of the best practices were in people’s minds. But in v3, we’ve taken the field experience and modified the guidance to reflect what is really happening in the real world.”

Spalding warns that Version 3 isn’t a magic sauce. Instead, “we are taking ITIL v2 to the next level, and for customers just getting started with v2, we aren’t going to ‘mess up’ their path.” v2 is incorporated into v3, Case says, explaining that the authors are documenting areas such as event management and knowledge management that were already in Version 2. “We’re providing more information about these topics and in the process giving them greater attention.”

As Stroud points out, “There’s always some insecurity when the world changes. The reality is you can implement ITIL v3 as your organizational appetite allows. If you’re already on that path by looking across processes, this will help accelerate your ITIL journey.”

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (

Must Read Articles