Will ITIL 4 Solve the Biggest Challenge of ITIL’s Past?

The release of the ITIL® 4 Foundation volume in February 2019 has generated a lot of industry buzz.  This long-awaited update, announced in the fall of 2017, is the first revision to the popular IT Service Management (ITSM) framework in nearly eight years.

ITIL 4 contains many concepts that will be familiar to long-time adopters, as well as a few new ideas. But will ITIL 4 solve the biggest challenge of ITIL’s of the past?  What was the challenge?  Very few people actually read the advice documented within ITIL.

ITIL’s of the Past

ITIL has long been a collection of tried-and-true best practices for delivering and supporting IT services.  But to read all of the guidance provided by ITIL was always a heavy lift.

I was first introduced to ITIL in the early 2000’s.  At that time, the ITIL core reference consisted of eight books.  But the industry primarily focused only on the ten processes and single function as described in the Service Support and Service Delivery books.  Few even knew that ITIL offered guidance on application management, software asset management, or implementation planning.  As a result, few read any of the ITIL guidance outside of what was documented in Service Support and Service Delivery.

In 2007, ITIL V3 was released, with a subsequent update released in 2011. ITIL V3 represented a significant shift from ITIL V2, moving from a process-oriented approach to a lifecycle-based, service-oriented approach.  The five core books of ITIL  V3 total nearly 2000 pages.

2000 pages of good advice that few have actually read.

Will ITIL 4 solve the challenge?

ITIL 4 Foundation provides a broad, high-level view of the evolved ITIL, and comes in at just under 200 pages.  ITIL 4 still emphasizes services, but promotes a systems thinking, value stream approach to delivering products and services via the Four Dimensions Model and Service Value System.  The Guiding Principles, introduced in 2016 as part of ITIL Practitioner, have now been (rightly) incorporated into ITIL 4 Foundation. “The ITIL Story”, discussing a fictional company’s adoption of ITIL, is incorporated into ITIL 4 Foundation to provide a real world-like context to how an organization could approach and benefit from the adoption of ITIL.  ITIL 4 even recognizes that other methodologies, such as DevOps, Agile, and Lean, should also be considered as organizations continue their ITSM journeys.

But there is much yet to be discovered about ITIL 4.  The announced titles of books that are to be released by the end of 2019 provide some insight as to what further topics will be addressed in ITIL 4:

  • Create, Deliver, and Support
  • Drive Stakeholder Value
  • High Velocity IT
  • Direct, Plan, and Improve
  • Digital and IT Strategy

Will this staged, bite-sized approach to delivering this evolved ITIL guidance help overcome the challenge?  Will people actually read what’s written in ITIL 4?  Will this approach help facilitate ITIL adoption? Time will tell.


By Doug Tedder

ITIL is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.