What is IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)?
Learn why an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is essential for your organization and how certification benefits you and your company.
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What is ITIL?

ITIL is a library of best practices for managing IT services and improving IT support and service levels. One of the main goals of ITIL is to ensure that IT services align with business objectives, even as business objectives change.

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. The acronym was first used in the 1980s by the British government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) when it documented dozens of best practices in IT service management and printed them for distribution. Today, ITIL no longer refers to "Information Technology Infrastructure Library"—instead, it is a standalone term.

ITIL has matured significantly since it was introduced in the late 20th century as a series of books that spanned more than 30 volumes. Around 2000, the second version of ITIL streamlined these publications by grouping them into sets that mapped to different aspects of IT management, services, and applications. Around this time, Microsoft standardized on ITIL to help develop its Microsoft Operations Framework.

One of the most essential parts of ITIL is the configuration management database (CMDB), which provides the central authority for all components—including services, software, IT components, documents, users, and hardware—that must be managed to deliver an IT service. The CMDB tracks the location of, and changes to, all of these assets and processes, along with their attributes and relationships to each other.

Adhering to ITIL principles helps ensure you can get to the root cause of problems in your environment as quickly as possible and that you have the right visibility into the systems and people to prevent future problems.


The ITIL framework is administered and updated by AXELOS. ITIL version 3, released in 2007, is the current version of the standard. Version 3 improved on the previous version of ITIL by adding process improvement, a stronger lifecycle approach, and more processes for aligning business and IT.

At this writing, AXELOS is updating ITIL to version 4, which will focus on fostering digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and DevOps. Some modules of ITIL 4 have already been released, with the rest planned to roll out during 2019. The Foundation level of ITIL 4 certification is already available, and the rest is coming during the second half of 2019.

Five key stages, comprising 26 processes

1. Service Strategy

This stage focuses on the ITIL service lifecycle and describes how to design, develop, and implement IT Service Management. It includes the following processes:

  • Strategy Management for IT Services: Assessment and measurement of IT strategy

  • Service Portfolio Management: Defining and documenting IT services

  • Financial Management for IT Services: Determining IT service costs and budgeting

  • Demand Management: Forecasting future demand for IT services and budgeting resources

  • Business Relationship Management: Managing the feedback and improvement of the IT services

2. Service Design

This stage describes how to design services and processes. Processes include the following:

  • Service Catalog Management: Define services available in a service catalog

  • Availability Management: Processes around management and monitoring of IT services

  • Information Security Management: Creation, management, and assessment of Information Security services

  • Service Level Management: Creation, management, and feedback process for SLA's

  • Capacity Management: Monitoring and optimizing the service capacities

  • Design Coordination: Coordination of process and policy designs

  • Supplier Management: Selection and management of vendors as well as performance monitoring

  • IT Service Continuity Management: Development, implementation, and maintenance of BC/DR services

3. Service Transition

This stage explains how to manage the transition of a new or changed service with a focus on ensuring that all service management processes balance. It includes the following processes:

  • Transition Planning and Support: Responsible for moving a new service into production

  • Change Management: Overall responsibility of change requests and risk management of change

  • Change Evaluation: Measure the impact and performance increase/decrease of a change

  • Release and Deployment Management: Codifies the lifecycle of IT service updates

  • Service Asset and Configuration Management: Monitors the asset lifecycle of IT services and related hardware

  • Service Validation and Testing: Tests the impact and benefit of an IT service before release

  • Knowledge Management: Responsible for documentation and curation of support documentation for the IT services

4. Service Operation

This stage guides you in ways to ensure that services are delivered and are running smoothly and reliably. It includes the following:

  • Access Management: In relation to data and physical access, controls the rights assignments of people

  • Event Management: Coordinates with incident and problem management to manage the entire event

  • Service Request Fulfillment: Manages the lifecycle of a service request, from definition to closing it out

  • Incident Management: Triage and resolution of individual service disruption events

  • Problem Management: Defines causal relationships between incidents and finds/resolves root cause issues

5. Continual Service Improvement

This stage covers how to re-align IT services as business needs change. CSI consists of seven steps that cover what can and should be measured; gathering, processing and analyzing data; and presenting and using information.

Problem management

ITIL makes a distinction between “incident management” and “problem management.” Incident management is the individual problem that your users deal with, such as an offline printer, for example. Problem management examines root cause of a problem, what can be done, and which resources can be engaged to prevent it from happening again.

Problem management steps include:

  • Raise a problem management case

  • Categorize and prioritize issues

  • Systematically investigate (root cause analysis)

  • Identify changes needed to resolve and work with Change Management

  • Verify the problem resolution

  • Close out the problem

Incident management

An ITIL incident is an unplanned interruption in service, and incident management is used to restore service. For example, if a network node fails and reduces throughput, that would be classified as an incident. The goal of incident management is to restore service as quickly as possible.

The incident management process focuses on determining the root cause of an incident. If multiple events are occurring simultaneously, incident management can help determine if all of those events are part of the same incident or distinct from each other.

Implementing ITIL Incident Management will help you improve service levels, and meet service level availability requirements or a specified service level agreement (SLA).

IT Service Management

ITIL is a library of best practices used in IT Service Management (ITSM). There are several ITSM tools available that incorporate the ITIL processes mentioned earlier—these tools automate the service management process and provide analytics so you can see your service levels and adjust resources to meet your SLA. ITSM tools also can help organizations manage large amounts of data and dynamic environments that come and go quickly.

To learn more about ISTM, check out "IT Service Management: A Complete Guide."


If you want to implement ITIL within an organization, you will need ITIL certification. AXELOS offers ITIL certification training and testing through strategic partners. The ITIL foundation certificate is the bare minimum certification needed to evaluate and implement the ITIL framework in your environment. ITIL certifications last for three years and must be renewed through an AXELOS approved partner. Each ITIL exam costs about USD 300.

In addition to making you a more valuable resource for your company, ITIL certification can improve your own employment prospects. ITIL is a well-respected framework, and companies look for IT professionals who have learned the methodology and certified that knowledge by passing a series of exams.

Certification levels

There are five levels of training and certification for ITIL v3, each more advanced than the previous:

  1. ITIL Foundation: Covers the basic concepts, elements, and terminology in the ITIL framework.

  2. ITIL Practitioner: Covers the Continual Service Improvement approach and organizational change management, communication, and measurement and metrics.

  3. ITIL Intermediate: Consists of two parts. The Service Lifecycle track focuses on the basics of the core ITIL phases, and the Service Strategy track concentrates on the management of the Service Strategy phase of the Service Lifecycle, with a focus on ITSM.

    • Service Lifecycle modules include Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement.

    • Service Strategy modules include Operational Support and Analysis; Planning, Protection, and Optimization; Release, Control, and Validation; and Service Offerings and Agreements.

  4. ITIL Expert: Requires full understanding and demonstration of the entire ITIL scheme. Passing this level includes completion of the ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle Capstone Course (MALC).

  5. ITIL Master: Requires five years of leadership in IT service management and a demonstrated ability to apply the principles, methods, and techniques from ITIL in the workplace.

Foundation exams

The most popular ITIL certification is the Foundation exam. It tests key concepts in IT service management and is your first step in developing a mature, ITIL compliant organization.

The future of ITIL

ITIL will continue to help organizations ensure that they are supporting the best processes for their environment. As the underlying capabilities of businesses continue to change rapidly, ITIL processes should change with them. For example, an ITIL Change Approval Board (CAB), which typically reviews whether changes should go into production, may have to adapt to the speed of change by adapting to a policy-driven approval process.

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ITSM is how an organization ensures its IT services work the way users and the business need them to work.

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