What is ITIL (IT infrastructure library)?

ITIL stands for IT infrastructure library. It is a framework of best practices and processes for delivering IT services. ITIL helps you determine a baseline for your IT services so that you can plan, implement, and measure improvements. IT teams often rely on ITIL to help demonstrate compliance and evaluate IT service enhancements.

ITIL is the most widely used framework within IT service management (ITSM). It is practiced by many major enterprises and is a professionally recognized certification scheme. And it is popular for a reason — ITIL provides ample direction for businesses to manage end-to-end IT services.

The evolution of ITIL

ITIL began as a series of books by the UK government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) during the 1980s. Today the ITIL framework is owned by Axelos — a joint venture between the UK Cabinet Office and Capita.

ITIL has evolved over time with multiple versions of the framework. The most current version is ITIL 4 and was launched in 2019. ITIL 4 builds on the same principles of the previous version but embraces a wider range of use cases — including customer experience and digital transformation. The latest version also helps to reduce work silos, increase collaboration and communication, and integrate modern methodologies like agile and DevOps into ITSM.

What are the components of ITIL?

The components of ITIL provide structure for planning, delivering, and managing IT services. With ITIL 4, the main components are outlined in seven guiding principles:

  1. Focus on value

  2. Start where you are

  3. Progress iteratively with feedback

  4. Collaborate and promote visibility

  5. Think and work holistically

  6. Keep it simple and practical

  7. Optimize and automate

When it comes to applying these ITIL principles, there are 34 management practices that help define core success factors, service design, and implementation activities. There are also useful tools within these practices like templates and checklists.

The 34 practices are grouped into three categories. Here is the full list of ITIL management practices:

General management practices

  • Strategy management

  • Portfolio management

  • Architecture management

  • Service financial management

  • Workforce and talent management

  • Continual improvement

  • Measurement and reporting

  • Risk management

  • Information security management

  • Knowledge management

  • Organizational change management

  • Project management

  • Relationship management

  • Supplier management

Service management practices

  • Business analysis

  • Service catalog management

  • Service design

  • Service level management

  • Availability management

  • Capacity and performance management

  • Service continuity management

  • Monitoring and event management

  • Service desk

  • Incident management

  • Service request management

  • Problem management

  • Release management

  • Change enablement

  • Service validation and testing

  • Service configuration management

  • IT asset management

Technical management practices

  • Deployment management

  • Infrastructure and platform management

  • Software development and management

This list may seem overwhelming — but the idea is that all of these practices are intended to be simple, practical, and flexible. This lets individual organizations adapt the ITIL framework to their specific needs or style of working.

What are the benefits of ITIL?

ITSM encompasses a wide array of activities that are all essential to how IT teams generate business value. Using an established framework like ITIL makes it easier to deliver and manage all of these activities, instead of figuring out an ITSM strategy from scratch.

ITIL also helps IT teams build a stable environment that allows for growth, scale, and change. Establishing standards and following guidelines are important for successful ITSM over time.

In terms of specific benefits, ITIL helps businesses to:

  • Deliver IT services on schedule

  • Focus on cost-efficiency

  • Increase productivity through standardization and guidance

  • Meet internal and external customer needs

  • Minimize technology risks

  • Provide better IT services overall

Best practices are best supported with the right tools. IT roadmapping software can help you manage projects, releases, and changes. Get started with Aha! Roadmaps — free for 30 days.