5 Things ITIL 4 Makes Very Clear

By Doug Tedder


The long-anticipated release of the ITIL 4 Foundation volume has garnered a lot of attention.  It’s been eight years since the last release of ITIL®[1]. This latest iteration of ITIL still has many concepts that will be familiar to long-time service management practitioners, but also incorporates elements of other approaches, including DevOps, Agile, and Lean.

While there are a lot of concepts that will be familiar to long-time service management practitioners in ITIL 4, there are five things that ITIL 4 does a very good job of clarifying.  In this blog we will look at these areas to understand how they will enable IT service management to better serve the organization.

Clarification #1:  ITIL still is not a “cookbook” – and that’s a good thing

Each organization has its own unique value streams, enabled and realized by their unique value chains.  Organizations need flexibility to respond to ever-changing business needs, while at the same time, they need the consistent approach that business demands. Constructs such as the Service Value System (SVS) introduced in ITIL 4, provides the flexibility that organizations need to satisfy both requirements – but it requires thought and planning.  Now more than ever, IT Service Management (ITSM) can’t be (nor should it be) a paint-by-numbers cookbook approach.

Clarification #2:  Good service management needs more than just the IT organization

ITIL 4 describes 34 practices that are divided into three distinct groups: Service Management, Technical Management Practices, and General Management practices.  IT can’t – and shouldn’t – do this alone.  For example – Risk Management is a general management practice that applies across the organization, not just IT.  Same with Organizational Change Management and Portfolio Management – these are organizational-wide practices.

Clarification #3:  ITIL is not the only way to deliver good service management

ITIL 4 incorporates other methods and approaches that can be used for effective service management.  The Four Dimensions Model and SVS provide the “hooks” for ITIL to interact with methodologies and approaches such as DevOps, Agile, Lean and others.

Clarification #4:  ITIL is more than just processes

Many organizations that have adopted ITIL have only considered the process aspect of ITIL.  For these organizations, implementation of processes became the focus of service management, rather than the creation of business value through the delivery of services.  The SVS makes it clear that effective service management is more than just processes.  Practices, Governance, Continual Improvement, Guiding Principles, and the Service Value Chain are also needed.

Clarification #5:  Value creation is a shared responsibility

Previous iterations of ITIL implied that the service provider (typically the IT organization) is solely responsible for the delivery of value to the business.  But ITIL 4 describes the ‘co-creation’ of value.  In ITIL 4, the customer and the service provider – as well as other roles, such as suppliers, consumers, and partners – all have to work together co-create value.  Furthermore, ITIL 4 makes it clear that providing value is not enough for the service provider – the service provider also has to realize value from the delivery of service.  The customer must take responsibility for value, not the service provider.


It’s important to note that ITIL 4 Foundation is only the first of six volumes that will make up this edition of ITIL.  The remaining volumes are due to be released by the end of 2019.  Now that ITIL 4 has made these five things very clear, it will be interesting to watch how the remaining volumes exapand on these areas and how organizations adopt and adapt this way of thinking.   ITIL 4 has the potential to be a game-changer for ITSM.

[1] ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.