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Processes

ITIL 4 is coming. What is it, and is it still relevant?

By Niek Steenhuis on November, 1 2018

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Niek Steenhuis

At the start of next year, ITIL 4 will be launched. But what does that mean? What will change? And is ITIL still relevant or not? We asked Bas Blanken, service management consultant & agile expert.

First of all, what do we know about ITIL 4 so far?

A few things. Back in 2017, Axelos, the organisation behind ITIL, announced that there would be an update in 2018. This update has since been pushed to the first quarter of 2019.

Apart from that, we know three things:

  1. ITIL 4 won’t be an entirely new ITIL version, with entirely new processes, which probably also explains why there is no ‘v’ between ‘ITIL’ and ‘4’. While ITIL v3 was a huge expansion of ITIL v2, the core of ITIL probably won’t change much for ITIL 4.
  2. The people who developed 4 want to provide more guidance regarding how to put ITIL into practice.
  3. ITIL 4 will address how ITIL relates to concepts such as Agile, Lean, and DevOps.

Why is an update needed?

The most important reason for updating ITIL 4 seems to be that last item in the list above: the rise of Agile, Lean and DevOps. These approaches are becoming increasingly prominent, because companies have to be able to respond faster and faster to changes in the market and in technology. ITIL has a reputation for being unwieldy and rigid. This update is an attempt to bring back flexibility.

ITIL 4 is also an answer to a practical problem in IT. Many IT departments cooperate with DevOps or agile teams on daily basis, and the different approaches tend to clash. For example, a service desk that works with strict SLAs forwards calls to an application management team that has adopted an agile approach and works with constantly changing priorities. How do you combine those two approaches?

Is a new ITIL version still relevant in this agile world?

Absolutely!

As Bas mentioned in a previous blog post, it is not a rigid system in and of itself. Rather, the framework is often interpreted too rigidly. ITIL is just a collection of guidelines, which can be applied as you see fit. I expect that this aspect will be emphasized in the update.

Besides, I think ITIL is still hugely important to service management. Nearly every organization works with these processes! And I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Even if you decide to process incoming calls in a more agile manner, you’re still practising Incident Management.

What do you think the update will bring?

Apart from the question of how to combine ITIL with agile approaches, I expect the update to answer the following question: ‘Say I want to implement it, where do I start?’ Version 3 has 26 processes, but no instructions or guidelines to tell you which processes are suitable for which kinds of organizations.

Let's hope ITIL 4 will help you more with deciding what parts are relevant to your situation, for instance by distinguishing between different maturity levels. Such guidance would benefit a lot of organisations.

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