What is ITIL: A Beginner’s Guide



  • ITIL, also known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.
  • ITIL is a collection of best practices that aim to enhance the management and delivery of IT services
  • ITIL has 5 versions and V4 is the latest version

Are you new to the world of IT service management and eager to expand your knowledge of ITIL? ITIL, also known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a collection of best practices that aim to enhance the management and delivery of IT services. ITIL provides organizations with a framework to align their IT services with the needs of their business and customers. 

It is a widely recognized standard for IT service management, implemented by organizations across various industries and sizes. This beginner’s guide is designed to introduce you to the fundamental concepts of ITIL, its historical background, and its potential benefits for your organization. Regardless of whether you are an IT specialist or a business leader, this guide will equip you with a strong basis to comprehend ITIL and its role in IT service management.

History of ITIL

ITIL, or the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, was first developed in the late 1980s by the UK government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) as a way to standardize IT service management practices across government agencies. At the time, IT service management was still a relatively new concept, and there was a lack of consistency in how IT services were delivered and managed. 

The original version of ITIL consisted of a set of books that covered various aspects of IT service management, including service support, service delivery, and planning to implement service management. The books provided a comprehensive set of guidelines, procedures, and checklists for managing IT services, from incident management to change management to capacity planning. 

Over time, ITIL became widely adopted by organizations around the world, particularly in the IT industry. It became recognized as a standard for IT service management, and organizations began using it as a framework for delivering IT services that met the needs of their business and customers.

ITIL Five Core Framework

The ITIL framework is divided into five core volumes, each of which covers a different stage of the IT service management lifecycle. These volumes are: 

  1. Service Strategy – This volume covers the strategy for delivering IT services, including identifying customer needs and developing service offerings. 
  2. Service Design – This volume covers the design of IT services, including designing service-level agreements, technology architecture, and service processes. 
  3. Service Transition – This volume covers the transition of IT services from development to production, including testing, training, and change management. 
  4. Service Operation – This volume covers the operation of IT services, including incident management, problem management, and service desk operations. 
  5. Continual Service Improvement – This volume covers the ongoing improvement of IT services, including identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes.

ITIL is not a prescriptive methodology, but rather a flexible framework that can be adapted to the specific needs of an organization. It provides guidance on best practices, but organizations are free to tailor the framework to suit their unique requirements. 

ITIL certification is available to IT professionals who wish to demonstrate their knowledge of the ITIL framework. There are several levels of ITIL certification, ranging from Foundation to Expert.

How many versions of ITIL, and how do they differ?

There have been several versions of ITIL since its initial development in the 1980s. Here are the main versions of ITIL, along with the key differences between them: 

  1. ITIL v1 – This was the first version of ITIL, published in the late 1980s. It consisted of a set of books covering various aspects of IT service management, including service support, service delivery, and planning to implement service management. 
  2. ITIL v2 – This version of ITIL was published in the early 2000s and consisted of eight books, covering the same areas as v1, but with additional guidance on topics such as security management and application management. ITIL v2 also introduced the concept of the ITIL Service Lifecycle, which is the basis for subsequent versions of ITIL. 
  3. ITIL v3 – Published in 2007, ITIL v3 introduced a significant restructuring of the ITIL framework, with a focus on the Service Lifecycle and the integration of ITIL with other frameworks, such as COBIT and ISO 20000. ITIL v3 consisted of five core publications, covering service strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual service improvement. 
  4. ITIL 2011 – This version of ITIL is an update to ITIL v3, published in 2011. It includes some minor revisions and clarifications to the v3 publications, but does not introduce any major changes. 
  5. ITIL 4 – The latest version of ITIL, published in 2019, represents a significant evolution of the framework. ITIL 4 introduces a new Service Value System (SVS) that integrates various aspects of IT service management, including Lean, Agile, and DevOps. It also introduces new concepts, such as the Four Dimensions of Service Management, which encompass organizational, people, information, and technology factors.
ITIL Evolution

Overall, the main differences between the different versions of ITIL are the changes to the framework structure, the introduction of new concepts and best practices, and the integration with other frameworks and methodologies. Each version builds on the previous one and represents the evolution of IT service management best practices over time.

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When and why do you need ITIL? A Study Case

XYZ Corp is a multinational corporation that provides financial services to customers around the world. The company has a complex IT infrastructure, with multiple data centers, servers, and applications that support its various business processes. However, the IT department has been struggling to meet the needs of the business, with frequent service disruptions, slow response times, and high incident volumes. 

To address these challenges, XYZ Corp decides to implement ITIL as a framework for IT service management. The company hires a team of ITIL consultants to guide the implementation process, and they begin by conducting an assessment of the company’s existing IT service management practices. 

Background Case

Based on the assessment, the consultants identify several areas for improvement, including:

  1. Lack of clear service definitions and service level agreements (SLAs) – The IT department has not defined its services in a consistent and clear manner, making it difficult to measure performance and prioritize work. The consultants recommend creating a service catalog and SLAs for each service, so that the business and IT can agree on expectations and metrics. 
  2. Poor change management practices – The IT department has a high rate of change-related incidents, due to inadequate change management processes. The consultants recommend implementing a formal change management process, including a change advisory board (CAB) to review and approve changes before they are implemented. 
  3. Inefficient incident management processes – The IT department has a reactive approach to incident management, with little focus on identifying and addressing the root cause of incidents. The consultants recommend implementing a proactive approach, with incident management processes that include incident detection, logging, classification, prioritization, and resolution. 
  4. Lack of service reporting and metrics – The IT department has limited visibility into the performance of its services, making it difficult to measure success and identify areas for improvement. The consultants recommend implementing a service reporting framework, with regular reports on service performance, incident trends, and service improvement initiatives.

Over the course of several months, the ITIL consultants work with XYZ Corp to implement these recommendations, using the ITIL framework as a guide. The company creates a service catalog and SLAs for each service, implements a formal change management process, improves incident management processes, and establishes a service reporting framework. 

Result after ITIL Implementation

As a result of these changes, XYZ Corp sees significant improvements in its IT service delivery, including:

  • Reduced incident volumes and improved incident response times 
  • Increased service availability and reliability 
  • Better alignment between IT and the business 
  • Improved customer satisfaction with IT services

Overall, the implementation of ITIL helps XYZ Corp to improve its IT service management practices, resulting in better performance, reliability, and alignment with the needs of the business and customers.


The implementation of ITIL has been successful for many organizations, resulting in improved IT service delivery, better alignment between IT and the business, and increased customer satisfaction. The ITIL framework has been implemented in various industries and sizes, including financial services, healthcare, and government agencies. 

Organizations have used ITIL to optimize their IT service management practices, leading to better business outcomes. As such, ITIL continues to be an essential framework for organizations that seek to improve their IT service management practices and deliver better IT services.