A while ago I had posted some thoughts on the impending release of ITIL 4. Well, the ITIL 4 Foundations material has been fully released and I have taught my first class – everybody passed the exam!!! – so here are some more fully formed thoughts around the new release now that I’ve had a chance to engage with it in some depth.

It’s funny – change is hard, and this whole ITIL 4 introduction and learning about it has been a personal reminder of that. I attended a seminar a few months ago with a bunch of smart folks who were heavily invested in the whole ITIL 3 version and there was some initial skepticism. I had a lot of my own personal skepticism. But after studying the ITIL 4 material and teaching my first class and then noodling over lessons learned from that, I am starting to appreciate the underlying logic to the new stuff. I find myself turning to the new ideas naturally when preparing conceptual presentations. I guess what I am saying is that despite the uncertainty in my original musings, it turns out to have been a shallow trip through my personal ‘trough of despair’ and I’m on the way to being an ITIL 4 early adopter.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I still think you should hold on to your v3 volumes and combine much of the old materials with the ITIL 4 approach. (Of course, I still have my old v2 ‘red’ and ‘blue’ books too). But- the ITIL 4 framework is more tightly defined, and modular. It is also up-front and clear about defining a management system. This was always a weakness of previous versions, the systems thinking was implied; in ITIL 4 it is more explicit.

The Service Value System (SVS)

The core of this approach is the Service Value System (SVS)- there’s that word – ‘system’ front and center. The SVS is a modular concept that overpins and tightly integrates the other parts of the framework.

Source: AXELOS, “ITIL Foundation, ITIL 4 Edition” (2019)

The SVS emphasizes that IT manages services to generate value in response to demand. This seems obvious, but these central points were sometimes buried a bit in the previous ITIL versions. Now- in ITIL 4 – they are emphasized as the inputs and outputs of the core of the management system.

The components of the Service Value System are arranged to clearly support the entirety of activities undertaken to deliver value in the form of IT Services.


The Guiding Principles

These principles have roots in the ITIL Practitioner volume that was a late breaking entry to the v3 Library. Seven of them have been retained and they are intended to be universal enough that any organization can use all of them to define and develop a culture amenable to service management.

The Guiding Principles are also the most obvious evidence of the attempt to make ITIL 4 a comprehensive service management framework that is not only compatible with, but complementary to and integrative of other IT management approaches. ITIL is clearly being positioned as the overarching system that can provide guidance for managing the entire IT shop while incorporating and integrating other management methods and disciplines, such as Lean, Agile and DevOps.

The guiding principles are:

– Focus on Value (Lean)
– Progress Iteratively with Feedback (inspired by Agile)
– Think and work holistically (avoid those silos- cf. DevOps)
– Start where you are (inspired by Agile)
– Collaborate and promote visibility (a key concept – cf. SixSig, LEAN, Agile, DevOps)
– Keep it simple and practical (Agile)
– Optimize and Automate (DevOps)

The more I think about these, the more I like them. They do help overlay the idea of a ‘management system’ and I think they are key to making ITIL more accommodating of other frameworks, principles and approaches. They also bring the concept of developing an organizational culture support service management to the forefront, and this is another positive.

There is also a concerted effort to avoid reproducing ‘silos’ in the form of ‘process silos’ and I think some of the guiding principles can be used to help emphasize this as well.


Continual Improvement and Governance

The guts of the Continual Improvement material is pretty similar to that found in v3- but it is made a key part of the Service Value System. This is an advantage of the SVS concept; such central ideas as Continual Improvement clearly wrap the entire framework. It was never the intention to have CSI relegated to be an afterthought as the ‘fifth book’ – but that was often how it was interpreted and applied. It’s not to be forgotten now.

The same principle applies to governance. It is front and center and also wraps around the SVS. This is also a good thing.


Processes become Practices

You have to remember that the processes have been renamed ‘practices’ in the new version. This can be a challenge for you when you are teaching your first ITIL 4 Foundations class. That said, I think the rebranding is a positive.

Similar to the concepts of Continual Improvement and Governance, the practices are central to the SVS, BUT…
they have been explicitly decoupled from any specific phase of the Service Value Chain. This avoids some misinterpretation which arose from v3 – which placed each practice (process back then) in a particular book that represented a lifecycle phase. This caused some confusion – because the processes were always intended to apply throughout the lifecycle.

Some notes on specific practice areas while we await deeper coverage in the intermediate materials:

Change Control is NOT Change Management. This helps keep it straight from managing organizational change and project changes. I also think it more clearly describes the objective of the practice.
– The concept of a change authority is more clear and applicable to different organizational approaches.
– The idea of seeking to automate change approvals is front and center – I expect that to be expanded in the intermediate guidance

Problem Management has been simplified– which is good overall– but I the definition of a Known Error doesn’t seem particularly useful. (I’ll cover that quibble in more depth in a future post)

They have separated and clarified Release and Deployment as two separate and distinct processes. Which is EXCELLENT –
– There might be some hope now for mortals to actually understand the difference between Change, Deploy and Release.
– A Deployment is the act of moving functionality from one environment to another.
– A Release is the act of making that functionality available for use. A Release can include multiple Deployments… whew! That makes a lot more sense.

Continual Improvement is a practice – but is also a part of the SVS – which is good and makes sense – but can be confusing to new learners.

In this post we’ve started to get into the guts of the new ITIL 4 materials, and my editors are telling me it’s a little long. In a previous post I had wondered what the heck happened to the concept of the lifecycle that we all knew and loved so much, and pondered whether it would make a return in the intermediate materials. Well… on further reflection I think it’s still there, some thoughts about that in my next post.

Bill is just one of our ITIL Experts at Service Catalyst. We would love to discuss with you how you might lay the groundwork to realize the benefits from ITIL or any of the other frameworks discussed in this article. You can contact us at sales@service-catalyst.com or call us at +1.888.718.1708