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What Is ITIL?

By | May 5, 2015 in ITIL

If I type “What is IT” into my favorite search engine then the suggestion “What is ITIL” appears near the top of the list of suggestions, so I guess lots of people must be asking this question.

What is ITIL?

Unfortunately this is one of those questions that is very easy to ask, but quite difficult to answer. I followed the links that I found when I searched for “What is ITIL”, but the explanations I found were often written in language that would be quite hard to follow if I didn’t already know what ITIL® is. Here are some examples:

The Short Answer

I guess if you’re reading this article then you’d also like to know what ITIL is, and that explanations like these have left you still searching, so here is my attempt to answer the question. I’ll start with a one sentence explanation, just so you can compare my attempt with the ones I found on my internet search.

ITIL is a way of ensuring that investments in IT create real value by providing a consistent, structured framework for planning, building, and running IT services.

A Longer Answer

If my short answer leaves you no wiser, then let me give you some context as a basis for a more long-winded explanation that I hope will be a bit easier to understand.

We are becoming increasingly dependent on IT, both in our personal lives and in the organizations where we work. We invest significant amounts of time and money on purchasing and using IT equipment, so we need to make sure that our investment delivers the value that we need, rather than just soaking up all the resources we make available before letting us down when we most need it.

Obviously, we all want IT to deliver the value we need. ITIL is simply a way to help ensure that we do all the things we need to do to make sure that happens.

Services and Service Management

Organizations don’t get any value just from their hardware, or their network, or the applications they use; it takes all of these things and many more to create value. ITIL considers IT as a provider of services that creates value.

There are lots of different definitions of what a service is, and I’m not going to quote the ITIL definition here as that would require a lot of explanation. The simplest way to think about it is that a service is something that somebody else does for you, to help you achieve something that you want. Examples of IT services are:

  • Gmail, Hotmail, or the email service you receive from your Internet service provider
  • Provision of a PC and all the required software, hardware, and support you need so that you can use it for your work
  • A customer relationship management (CRM) system used by a large organization to manage all their interactions with their customers

An organization that wishes to provide these IT services efficiently and effectively has to do lots of things, including:

  • Understanding what their customers need, and ensuring that they invest in the right services to meet that need.
  • Making sure that each service they design can deliver not only the functionality customers want, but also sufficient availability, the right capacity, and all the necessary security features.
  • Planning how to implement new and changed services so that they are properly tested, and they actually deliver what is expected.
  • Operating the services and dealing with things that go wrong.
  • Continually monitoring everything they do and planning improvements.

These sort of activities are called service management, and since we are dealing with IT services, they are IT service management, commonly abbreviated to ITSM.

So What Is ITIL?

Now that I’ve given you a bit of context I can try again to explain what ITIL is.

ITIL is the world’s best known framework for ITSM. It includes:

  • Publications describing ITSM best practice that you can adapt to suit your own environment
  • Training and exams to help people develop understanding and skills
  • An endorsement scheme for ITSM tools to help ensure they can deliver the functionality required
  • A global community of consultants, practitioners, and trainers who share ideas and promote best practice

To find out more about ITIL you can:

UPDATE: If you enjoyed this blog, you might be interested to know that in 2018 SysAid also published a video explaining the basics of ITIL:

Stuart Rance

About Stuart Rance

Stuart is an ITSM and security consultant, working with clients all round the world. He is one of the authors of ITIL 4, as well as an author of ITIL Practitioner, ITIL Service Transition, and Resilia: Cyber Resilience Best Practice. He is also a trainer, teaching standard and custom courses in ITSM and information security management, and an examiner helping to create ITIL and other exams. Now that his children have all left home, he has plenty of time on his hands for contributing to our blog - lucky us!

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