ITIL V3 versus ITIL 4 : what is changing?

ITIL changes and their impacts for application support.

Jean-Victor Ollivier
ITIL 4 vs ITIL v3

ITIL 4 was published in early 2019 and I had the opportunity to pass the “ITIL 4 Foundation” certification recently.
So it seemed interesting to me to share the changes that I could see with the previous version (V3), and their potential impacts on my job – as an application support engineer in the banking / finance domain.

As a reminder, ITIL is a framework of good practices for structuring and improving the management of IT services. It is the result of IT service management experiences that worked within large organizations. Although these recommendations were originally created in telecommunications, they are deployed today in many companies in different sectors.

ITIL 4 is the update of ITIL 2011 which was itself a reorganization of the ITIL V3 version released in 2007 (reorganization and simplification of V3 texts – so we consider ITIL 2011 as still being version 3). The V2 was launched in 1999 and the V1… in 1989.

According to ITIL V3, the main advantages of adopting its practices were:

• reduce costs

• improve customer satisfaction

• and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization’s resources

How ?

ITIL V3 aims to manage IT services within a life cycle, from their conception to their exploitation via the use of ITIL processes and functions: incident, request, change management, service portfolio management, management of suppliers etc.

Why this version change?

First of all, naturally ITIL evolves to improve, simplify, clarify and adapt to changes in companies organizations. As a new version appears every 7/10 years and the last version dated from 2011, then it was time to dust off ITIL.

In addition, for the past few years, ITIL has come under many criticisms: rigid framework, no reduction in associated costs, stagnant productivity.

And above all, new methodologies and new concepts have appeared: Agile, Lean, DevOps, … which seem to better meet the needs of today’s organizations. And which are sometimes considered incompatible with the ITIL V3 framework.

We therefore regularly announced the death of ITIL, like this article from 2015 for example:

What changes with ITIL 4?

Version 4 aims to respond to the above criticisms. It is therefore the overall approach of ITIL which has mainly been redesigned in order to better understand the concepts of ITIL while retaining its core practices (previously called functions and management processes).
So the famous Incident / Request / Problem management Processes (etc.) are very little modified in the end.

Here are the main messages carried by the new version:

ITIL processes are often implemented as is without understanding the associated philosophy. However, ITIL is intended to be a “good practices handbook” and must therefore be adapted to the organization and its specific context. Only the recommendations relevant to its organization should therefore be retained.

There are 7 guiding principles for ITIL4 :

  1. Focus on value : any service must bring value to the client
  2. Start where you are : increment the value starting from the nominal situation rather than restarting from scratch while adopting ITIL
  3. Proceed with iterations based on feedback
  4. Collaborate and promote transparency : do not work in silos but in concert with all stakeholders
  5. Think and work holistically : do not isolate a process or a service but always have an overall vision
  6. Keep it simple and practical : try to get to the point, do not generate “labyrinthine systems” which manage all use cases and all micro exceptions
  7. Optimize and automate

First of all, ITIL 4 is henceforth focused on creating value. Any process, tool, resource must bring value to the client without which its existence does not have to be.

Collaboration is the second flagship message. So important that it appears in the very definition of a service:

  • ITIL V3: “A service is defined as a means of delivering value to customers by facilitating the production of results in their activities without them having to worry about the costs and risks specific to the service provided to them”
  • ITIL 4: “A service is a means of enabling the co-creation of value by facilitating the results that customers want to achieve, without the client having to manage specific costs and risks”

It is opposed to the work “in silo”, which many companies had set up by copying their organization on the processes / functions of ITIL V3: Incident Management / Problem Management / Release & Deployment etc.

From now on, working in collaboration with all the stakeholders makes it possible to better define the needs and constraints of each, to involve and motivate all the teams and ultimately improve value creation.

Collaboration with all stakeholders is now seen as essential for creating value.

Third major element, already present in previous versions but which remains a pillar of ITIL is Continuous Improvement.

We are all convinced that a service offer cannot remain effective without improving /  adapting to the changing context: changing customer needs, governance, technologies, people within the organization. And in recent years there have been countless changes in contexts.

ITIL V3 has often been contrasted with Agile, Lean methods or DevOps practices and mindset. However, it has been proven on numerous occasions that these 3 methodologies work together.

Now, thanks to ITIL4, their concepts come together much more naturally:

  • Agile : Consists of developing / designing by iterations in order to quickly offer useful functionalities and to adapt quickly to feedback and changes in customer requests.
    The Agile methodology aligns very naturally with the principles of value approach, iteration, simplicity and continuous improvement (principles 1/2/3/4/6 of ITIL4)
  • Lean : Consists of improving performance and creating value thanks to the principle of continuous improvement and the elimination of waste and superfluity.
    Again, the Lean methodology will naturally adhere to the principles of value approach, holistic vision, transparency – and of course optimization (ITIL4 principles  1/3/4/5/7 )
  • DevOps : Consists of bringing together and improving the collaboration between developers and operational staff so that everyone knows the issues in both areas – with the aim of improving the quality of deliveries and the efficiency of production. The overall knowledge of the product makes it possible to understand it better and therefore to better meet the customer’s needs.
    ITIL 4 fixes one of the proven problems of V3 by separating the delivery process and that of deployment – which each have their own axes of optimization.
    Then, the DevOps approach and state of mind combine perfectly with the principles of value approach, collaboration, taking into account feedback and of course automation (principles 1/3/4/7 from ITIL4 ).

    Version 4 therefore tells us that ITIL and the “new” methodologies share certain founding principles, and even recommends that we associate them because they are complementary.

Finally, ITIL V3 was structured as described above

ITIL 4 is structured around a service value chain (described above), more flexible than previous architecture.
It also includes a necessary dimension around governance, which had been omitted in V3.

So… should I pass this ITIL4 certification?

If you are an operational, application support already certified Foundation V3, there is no really reason. As mentioned above, if you use incident, problem and change management practices on a daily basis, these have not changed. Reading the documentation and articles on the internet on the V4 seems sufficient to consolidate your current knowledge.

Passing the ITIL 4 Foundation certification and higher levels seems useful mainly for people working on projects to implement or improve ITIL practices.

In conclusion ?

ITIL4 has successfully managed to close its main flaws and thus becomes perfectly complementary to the main other current methodologies. While keeping intact what made it its main strength, namely a precise description of the practices and their dynamics. Long live ITIL 😊

You want to explore the subject further?

Here’s a link which seems interesting to me:

ITIL 4 vs ITIL v3

Jean-Victor Ollivier


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