Project Management

10 things you should know about ITIL

These days, you're likely to hear the term <i>ITIL</i> bandied about in many IT circles--yet a lot of IT managers don't know what ITIL really is. Tom Mochal has created a list of key facts to help you get up to speed on ITIL concepts.

This article is also available as a PDF download.

Five years ago, no one outside the United Kingdom had heard about ITIL. Now, it seems like you can't pick up a trade magazine without someone mentioning it. But despite all the buzz, many IT pros don't fully understand what ITIL is all about. Here are the highlights.

#1: ITIL stands for the Information Technology Infrastructure Library

ITIL contains a comprehensive set of best practices that are used to develop and execute IT service management. It offers a number of benefits, including increased competitive advantage through cost reduction, growth, and agility; more business efficiency through streamlining of IT processes; enhanced IT value through business and IT operational and goal alignment; and improved internal customer and user satisfaction.

#2: The organization body that supports ITIL is located in the United Kingdom

The overall ITIL approach has been available since the late 1980s and has been published on the Internet for years. However, it was largely unknown in the United States until a critical mass of large companies and media publications started to take notice. More than 10,000 organizations worldwide have now adopted ITIL.

#3: ITIL consists of a series of books giving guidance and recommendations

ITIL is undergoing some updates and restructuring to reflect technology changes. The books now encompass the following areas:

#4: To be successful, ITIL stresses the need for a strong executive sponsor

Implementing ITIL practices is a culture change initiative. People are going to complain about having to do things differently than they did in the past. You need a strong sponsor to push the change. If you don't have one, don't attempt the implementation—or look for limited success.

#5: ITIL is not project management

ITIL does not focus on creating things like projects do. Instead it focuses on delivering IT services to the company.

#6: Despite its popularity, little content is available on ITIL

ITIL is a set of approaches and best practices. It is a model for IT service delivery. It does contain some processes and templates, but it is not a methodology and does not contain all the implementation details. Companies that want to use ITIL can follow the overall guidelines and then develop the more detailed processes that make sense for the individual organization.

#7: ITIL is not a tool

You can implement many aspects of ITIL using tools, but tools are not required. If your organization is small, simple templates and spreadsheets may be all you need. If your organization is large, you may need to find appropriate software tools to help.

#8: ITIL is not an all-or-nothing proposition

Since ITIL is a series of approaches in different areas, a company can implement some or the entire overall model. There is no rule that you have to implement everything.

#9: You can implement ITIL in stages

There is also no rule that you have to implement the entire ITIL model at once. Many organizations implement ITIL in phases over a period of time.

#10: You can be certified in ITIL

There are three levels of ITIL certification:

  • Foundation. This level means you understand the terms and have a basic knowledge of the ITIL model.
  • Practitioner. This level means that you understand the model to a degree necessary to apply the specific and correct ITIL processes where applicable.
  • Manager. This level is available for practitioners who will be managing ITIL service management functions.

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