What is ITIL? In simple words please…

By Sunday, September 14, 2014 Permalink 2

For the last four weeks or so I have done some after-work study to get my ITIL® Foundation certification. In this post I share with you my understanding of ITIL® as a concept.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library or ITIL® can be seen as a set of best practices for IT service management. The classic definition that you will find in more books and the web goes like “it is intended to align the delivery of IT services to the needs of the business”. That is, in simple words is a set of guidelines to deliver IT services successfully.

Now, they say the devil is in the details and if you have good eyes, you may have noticed that there are some tricky sections with the definition shown above. Firstly, you may be wondering what does the phrase “set of best practices” mean? I mean, how do you determine that something is a “best practice”? Secondly, what is “IT service management”? if we are talking about IT, what does service management have to do with this? Finally, how does one know that an IT service has been delivered successfully? That is, how do you define success in the IT world?

If you have/had all these questions then I am kind of relieved as I had them too.

First, let’s attempt to explain the phrase “set of best practices”. ITIL® was originally developed in the 1980s by the British government as a need to improve the quality of IT services provided to them. Later, in the early 1990s large companies and government agencies started to adopt the framework (mainly in Europe). Then, for the last 15 years industry experts, consultants, and practitioners have contributed to develop and improve the library. Today, ITIL® has been adopted worldwide by multiple organisations seeking to improve their IT services. In conclusion, it seems that ITIL® is not a framework made of fast and hard rules but built from progressive improvement derived from collaborative effort. Enough said about ITIL® and “best practices”.

Second, if you background is similar to mine, computer science, then you may wondering about the phrase “IT service management”. To me, this phrase is easily explained by the fact that in the IT world nothing is entirely self-sustained; that is, hardware requires software and infrastructure, hardware and software require people, people require facilities and other people to get things done, and so on. If you put together hardware, software, people, facilities, and third-party providers as fundamental elements of IT then you may start to understand why it is said that IT provides services and why ITIL® uses the term IT service management.

Finally, what about the phrase “delivering IT services successfully”? Well, if you are in the IT industry (even in any other industry), I hope you can agree 100% with me that “if you cannot measure it then you cannot improve it” and, to me, ITIL® as framework will provide you with the measuring tools that you need to improve IT services over time (note that measuring requires policies, processes, procedures, documentation, roles, functions, tools, etc).

There you go, to me, ITIL® = Best Practices + IT Service Management => Successful IT Services

One last, rhetorical question: can it be proved that ITIL’s best practices in IT Service Management effectively lead to successful IT services?

I hope this post helps you to understand a bit more about ITIL®. Later, I hope to be back with more personal views about ITIL® and my certification experience.


Note that in this post I am not stating that ITIL® is good or bad. I am just sharing my personal understanding of ITIL® and my certification experience. Your/my perception about ITIL® is irrelevant here.


ITIL® and the ITIL® logo are registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited.


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