What is ITIL: Essential Guide to ITIL 4 Processes and Framework

IT plays a crucial role in optimizing current digital technologies to help companies function smoother. Consequently, IT needs a set of uniform standards and practices that can apply to any company in any industry. That’s why we have ITIL.

This article covers ITIL 4, including what it is, ITIL concepts, ITIL frameworks, why ITIL is important, and how to put ITIL into practice. Let’s kick things off with a definition and then dig into ITIL processes.

What Is ITIL® Service Management?

ITIL®, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a framework for IT service management (ITSM) that aligns IT services with the business's needs. It is a set of volumes that has undergone several revisions over the years and consists of five books that cover all processes and stages of the IT service lifecycle.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) helps businesses improve service levels and reduce IT operating costs. ITIL’s primary goal is to provide high-quality service while enhancing business efficiency.

ITIL service management provides a set of best practices and techniques for selecting, planning, delivering, and maintaining IT services within a business that aligns the IT department's actions and expenses with changing business demands. Created by the United Kingdom's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in 1989, AXELOS developed and released the most recent version, ITIL 4, in 2019.

Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

ITIL 4 FoundationExplore Program
Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

Why ITIL® Is Important?

ITIL provides a holistic approach to ITSM. It enables businesses to collaborate with the IT team to deliver IT services to stakeholders. Some of the benefits ITIL practices allow businesses to gain include: 

  • Lower costs
  • High-quality of IT services
  • Increased business productivity
  • Improved Return on Investment (ROI)
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Improved resource utilization 

History of ITIL®

Let’s look at the history of ITIL by exploring each version.


The CCTA launched the first version of ITIL in the late 1980s to combat the low quality of IT services procured by the British government. ITIL v1 consisted of four major concepts: 

  1. Available management: Ensures that IT services (infrastructure, processes, tools, roles, etc.) are available based on business requirements.
  2. Capacity management: Focuses on and manages any performance-based issues, related to both services and resources.
  3. Contingency management: Helps in identifying vulnerabilities and helps in preventing such incidents.
  4. Cost Management: Aids in delivering and managing cost-effective IT assets and resources.


ITIL v2, released in 2001, consolidated all the ITIL-related guides into nine publications. This version’s two most circulated publications were:

  1. Service support: Provides clear processes for controlling service interruptions.
  2. Service delivery: A set of principles, policies, and constraints used for designing, building, and deploying of services. 

This version did not have an organized service lifecycle, unlike its successor, ITIL 3. 


ITIL 3 was a completely revised version of ITIL. It consisted of five core publications, which collectively formed the ITIL service lifecycle.

  1. Service Strategy: Provides a process to help understand client requirements.
  2. Service design: Gives ways to design IT services efficiently and effectively.
  3. Service transition: Pertains to planning, building, tests, and deploying services into customer environments.
  4. Service operations: Ensures access to IT services for authorized users only and minimizes the chance of service failure.
  5. Continual service improvement: Ensures that IT services are continuously aligned with changing business needs. 

ITIL 2011 3

This version updates the concepts of ITIL 3, by including a few significant changes: 

  1. Service strategy: ITIL 2011 3 proposed a new service called service strategy manager for people who create and implement an IT strategy that aligns with business requirements.
  2. Service design: Coordinates activities across all designs and implements technical standards to the service design process.
  3. Service transition: Introduces effective change management to minimize the risk of service failure.
  4. Service operations: Maintains processes for effective and efficient handling of service requests.
  5. Continual service improvement: Introduces the improvement process in a clear and concise seven-step model:
  • Identify the strategy for improvement
  • Define what you'll measure
  • Gather the data
  • Process the data
  • Analyze the information
  • Present and use the information
  • Implement improvement


AXELOS published the most recent update of ITIL in February 2019. ITIL 4 integrates the latest trends in technology and service management while providing a basis for organizations undergoing digital transformation.

ITIL4 consists of two primary components: 

1. The four-dimension model:

  • Organizations and people: People in the organization should understand their roles and responsibilities in creating value to the organization.
  • Information and technology: Includes the information, knowledge, and techniques that are required for managing services.
  • Partners and suppliers: Incorporate contracts and other agreements between organizations and their partners.
  • Value streams and processes: Provides a series of steps that an organization uses to create and deliver products and services to a consumer, whereas a well-defined process can improve productivity.

2. ITIL Service Value System: A set of activities that an organization performs to deliver a valuable output to end-users. It includes:

  • Guiding principles: Create value for your customers and your organization.
  • Governance: Controls and monitors the performance of the organization.
  • Service value chain: Provides a set of activities that a business performs to deliver a valuable product or service to its consumers.
  • Continual improvement: An iterative approach ensuring that the organization's performance meets customers' expectations.
  • Management practices: 34 different management practices designed to help organizations meet their business goals.

Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

ITIL 4 FoundationExplore Program
Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

What’s in ITIL?

ITIL is made up of a framework that is broken up into several stages, which are then broken up into over two dozen ITIL processes. Here’s the breakdown:

ITIL® Framework

ITIL’s framework consists of five service lifecycle stages, and they are:

  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service Operations
  5. Continual Service Improvement (CSI)

These stages are in turn broken up into 26 different ITIL processes, as follows:

ITIL® Processes

There are 26 ITIL processes, divided up among the five service lifecycle stages.

  • Service Strategy- Strategy management, Demand management, Service portfolio management, Financial managements, Business relationship management 
  • Service Design- Service catalogue management, Availability management, Information security management, Service level management, Capacity management, Design management, Supplier management, IT service continuity
  • Service Transition- Transition planning and support, Change management, Change evaluation, Release and deployment management, Service assets and configuration management, Service validation and testing, Knowledge management
  • Service Operations- Access management, Event management, Service request fulfillment, Service level management, Incident management, Problem management
  • Continual Service Improvement- Seven step improvement

Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

ITIL 4 FoundationExplore Program
Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

What Are the Organizational Benefits of ITIL? Why Is it Important?

ITIL provides a holistic approach to ITSM. It enables businesses to collaborate with their IT team to deliver IT services to stakeholders. Let's have a look at some of the benefits ITIL processes provide to an organization:

  • Enhances readability
  • Improves decision making
  • Increases quality of service
  • Lowers costs
  • Enables high-quality IT services
  • Increases business productivity
  • Improves return on investment (ROI)
  • Enables greater customer satisfaction
  • Improves resource utilization 

What Do I Need to Know About the ITIL® 4 Modules?

ITIL 4 Management Professional Certification consists of a stream of four modules:

  • ITIL 4 Specialist Create, Deliver and Support
  • ITIL 4 Specialist Drive Stakeholder Value
  • ITIL 4 Specialist High-velocity IT
  • ITIL 4 Strategist Direct, Plan and Improve.

These modules are designed for IT professionals who want the technical and practical knowledge to run solid, IT-enabled teams, services, and workflows. If you want to become an ITIL 4 Strategic Leader or Managing Professional, you must complete all the modules. Once you do, you will have a much more solid grasp on what ITIL is and what it does.

How Do I Put ITIL® into Practice?

There are a handful of widely accepted ITIL implementation practices. They are best summed up as follows:

  • Don’t view your ITIL qualification as the end of a long journey; look for opportunities to leverage your new skills.
  • Start with your “why,” as in “Why did you gain this qualification?” Ideally, it’s to help improve your organization. If you’re unclear as to the “why,” consider how your new knowledge will benefit your organization. Define the “why” in terms of business value.
  • Look at your new skills as an ongoing process, not just a means to an end. Focus on the outcomes, not the practices and processes themselves.
  • Never toss away your ITIL study materials. Keep your books and notes handy for future reference. Memories aren’t perfect!
  • While the ITIL training courses follow a nice, logical order, real-life seldom does. Be flexible enough to implement what needs to be done rather than following a set order learned during your training.
  • Don’t be a lone wolf and try to single-handedly implement changes. Yes, you’re excited about your new knowledge, but don’t forget to work with others, seeking their help and their unique knowledge!
  • Don’t assume you know and can do everything now that you’re ITIL certified. Stay grounded and be ready to listen and accept other people’s advice to stay on top of what is ITIL. 

What Is ITIL Certification and Is It Worth It?

ITIL has five levels of certification, including:

ITIL Foundation: An entry-level certification, which includes ITIL service lifecycles and service management practices. 

ITIL Specialist Modules x3: This next-level ITIL certification in ITIL features three modules that cover different specialties:

  • Create, Deliver, and Support
  • Drive Stakeholder Value
  • High Velocity IT

ITIL Strategist: Helps individuals direct, plan, and improve ITIL processes.

ITIL Leader: An advanced-level certification that covers digital and IT strategy.

ITIL Master: The most certification level enables individuals to explain the advanced methods of ITIL techniques and management practices.

As for its value, ITIL has consistently remained a widely used and popular resource over the last few years, meaning that certified professionals are in high demand. So yes, certification is worth it. And if you’re wondering where you can get that valuable ITIL certification, we have you covered!

Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

ITIL 4 FoundationExplore Program
Earn Upto 19 LPA or More - Upskill Now

Get ITIL Certified Today!

If you would like to boost your career in this field, enroll in Simplilearn's ITIL 4 Foundation today!

With this training, you'll be able to get the best ITIL certification path while giving you the guidance you need to crack the ITIL exam successfully. Additionally, consider this ITIL Tutorial to help you supplement your ITIL knowledge!

About the Author

Karin KelleyKarin Kelley

Karin has spent more than a decade writing about emerging enterprise and cloud technologies. A passionate and lifelong researcher, learner, and writer, Karin is also a big fan of the outdoors, music, literature, and environmental and social sustainability.

View More
  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.