What is ITIL?

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Core FrameworkWhile working in the Project Portfolio Office of a bank in Ireland I became ITIL Foundation in IT Service Management certified. The Foundation Level of ITIL is the first stage in learning the key concepts, structure, terminology and processes of ITIL.

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, and it is a trademark of the United Kingdom’s Office of Government Commerce. Its purpose is to give descriptions of important IT practices and to provide checklists, tasks and procedures that can be adopted and adapted by organizations to the degree that they choose. As such, ITIL is not a framework that must be rigidly adhered to or complied with; organizations can use as many of ITIL’s tools as they care to depending on their size, goals or needs.

The five core ITIL publications

ITIL best practices can be found in a series of reference books. Since ITIL’s inception in 1989 the number of ITIL references grew to over 30 volumes; however, in 2001, in order to make ITIL more accessible and affordable, the number of references was trimmed down to seven core books for ITIL v2, and in 2007 it was trimmed even further, to the current five publications of ITIL v3. The five core version 3 titles are:

  • Service Strategy: Aligning business and IT
  • Service Design: Guidance on the production and maintenance of IT policies
  • Service Transition: Guidance and process activities for the transition of services in the operational business environment
  • Service Operation: Delivery and control activities to achieve operational excellence on a day-to-day basis
  • Continual Service Improvement: The process elements involved in identifying and introducing service improvements.

ITIL v3 refined the principles and processes within ITIL v2, and where ITIL v2 was very process-focused, ITIL v3 revolves around a service lifecycle approach to help IT departments provide business value to organizations. Though there are several key differences between the versions the core tenets behind the practices and processes are the same.

How do you pronounce ITIL?

In the United Kingdom where ITIL originated and in Ireland where I worked people pronounce the acronym ITIL to rhyme with “little”. The IT Service Management booklet that I studied while preparing for my ITIL Foundation certification is called the “Little ITIL” – it’s catchy because it rhymes. However, while attending a PMI meeting about ITIL in San Antonio, Texas, the presenter pronounced ITIL to sound like “Eye-till”. This baffled me, as I figured that a guy giving a presentation about ITIL should at least know how the thing is pronounced, until I later learned that the acronym is pronounced in different ways in the United Kingdom and in the United States! Very strange, but it’s something to keep in mind when discussing ITIL with your peers depending on where they are.

What I like about ITIL

What I like about ITIL, aside from its excellent set of best practices, is its unassuming nature. When discussing ITIL, nobody is telling you to conform to anything; instead, it’s understood that the tools of ITIL can be applied to whatever degree you choose, and adapted to address your own organization’s distinct needs as necessary. Certification teaches you about the practices of ITIL, and also about when and where you might want to apply them. At our bank in Dublin we used ITIL in our IT service delivery and change management processes, and I came to value its principles surrounding using information technology to support business. I was a member of the Change Management group, and our principal Change Manager was a certified ITIL Service Manager – a difficult and respectable certification to achieve. All IT changes at the bank went through our change management process, ensuring that these changes were properly documented and approved. As you can imagine it is critically important to keep track of such procedures when working at a major financial institution.

If you’re interested in learning more about ITIL I recommend you find a copy of the Little ITIL and see what it’s all about. It is growing in popularity here in the United States as well as in Europe and abroad and will likely play an important role in the IT service management practices of organizations for years to come.

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About the Author


Website: Brian Crawford
I'm a Canadian and British dual citizen with an internationally-focused American MBA and an MS in International Project Management from a French business school. I am PMP, ScrumMaster, and ITIL Foundation certified. I'm particularly into travel, writing, and learning about different languages and cultures.