ITIL 3 vs. ITIL 4 – What has changed and what is new?

ITIL is a well-established IT Service Management (ITSM) framework used globally. Since its introduction, Information Technology (IT) has become a major part of modern business strategy, and digital transformation has introduced new business models that have pushed the need for ITSM to respond to rapid change. An effective IT Service Management framework that addresses these challenges is critical to business success. Recognizing these drivers for change, ITIL 4 Foundation was released in February 2019. In this article, you’ll learn about ITIL v3 vs. ITIL 4, and what has changed with the new revision.

Infographic: ITIL 3 vs. ITIL 4

What is ITIL? A quick review

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework was initially developed by the United Kingdom (UK) government in 1980 to address the need for standard practices and common language for managing IT services. Since its inception, ITIL has grown to be considered one of the most widely adopted ITSM frameworks in the world.

To learn more about ITSM, read the article ITIL Service Strategy: What and Why of ITSM.

ITIL 3 and ITIL 2011 – A brief overview

In May 2007, ITIL v3 was released. The core concept introduced in ITIL v3 was the ITIL Service Lifecycle. This lifecycle-based approach is grouped into five book volumes covering best practices in the following phases of the service lifecycle: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement.

Covered in the five phases of the service lifecycle are a collection of 26 processes and four functions related to how to successfully provide and manage IT services. While the 26 processes are spread across the five volumes, the four functions fall under Service Operations only. ITIL v3 defines a process as a structured set of activities designed to accomplish a specific objective. Functions are defined as a team or group of people and the tools or other resources used to carry out one or more processes or activities.

In 2011, there was a refresh of the ITIL framework. The 2011 refresh included updates to resolve errors and inconsistencies in documentation and the diagrams across the entire library. Since the material of the framework was basically the same in the 2007 and 2011 versions, no recertification training was required for people with existing certifications in ITIL.

But a lot has changed in the world of IT and business in general since 2011. Recent trends have shown a convergence of IT strategy with business strategy. From this environment, a service-based economy has emerged, where many successful companies have IT-enabled services at the core of their strategy (e.g., Uber, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, etc.). One of the criticisms of ITIL has been its perceived failure to keep up with strategic trends in IT and business, such as Lean, Agile, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Cloud Computing, and other factors.

ITIL 4 – Overview of key components

So, finally, ITIL 4 Foundation was released in February 2019. Within ITIL 4 are four key components that make up the framework. These components are: the Service Value System (SVS), the Service Value Chain (SVC), the 4 Dimensions of Service Model, and the 7 Guiding Principles.

The primary concept of ITIL 4 is the Service Value System. The SVS is a strategic concept that describes how all components and activities of an organization should work together as a system to enable value creation. The Service Value System’s objective is to turn opportunity / demand into business value. The Service Value Chain operating model is at the core of the SVS. The SVC defines the activities necessary to respond to demand and deliver value.

In support of a holistic approach to service management is the 4 Dimensions Model of Service Management. The model represents key perspectives that collectively promote effective and efficient delivery of products and services to stakeholders.

At the forefront of ITIL 4 are the 7 Guiding Principles. These principles should be used as recommendations to guide the organization during the decision-making process. There are 34 practices in ITIL 4. A practice is defined as a set of organizational resources and competencies designed for conducting operations or achieving an objective. Practices include the processes, procedures, people, vendors, skills, data, tools, etc. necessary to successfully deliver IT.

ITIL 3 vs. ITIL 4 – The main differences

The main difference in ITIL 4 is its approach to IT Service Management. ITIL 4 places emphasis on adaptability to changes in the business and technology, by incorporating Agile, DevOps, and Lean concepts with traditional ITIL best practices to make an ITSM framework better equipped to evolve along with the industry.

Another significant change is the addition of the Service Value System. The SVS shifts the focus to value creation, from ITIL v3’s focus on the services themselves. The reasoning for this change is that by focusing on value creation, IT Service Management activities will now work in conjunction with other activities throughout the business, thereby promoting holistic systems thinking, breaking down silos, and encouraging collaboration.

Overall, ITIL 4 updates and modernizes existing ITSM knowledge; but it does retain many relevant aspects of previous ITIL versions. The table below summarizes some of the notable differences between the two versions.

Framework Area ITIL v3 ITIL 4
Service Lifecycle to Service Value System Service Lifecycle: Five phase service-focused Service Value System (SVS)
Processes to Practices 26 processes grouped across the five areas of the service lifecycle 34 practices grouped under three categories (General, Service, Technical); includes many of the previous 26 processes
ITIL Guiding Principles to 7 Guiding Principles 9 principles first introduced in ITIL v3 (2011) under ITIL Practitioner only Condensed down to seven principles included in the Foundation level as a core element
The 4 Ps to the 4 Dimensions The 4 Ps of Service Design for holistic design: People, Partners, Products, Processes The 4 Dimensions of Service Management support a holistic approach to Service Management: Organizations & People, Information & Technology, Partners & Suppliers, Value Streams & Processes

For more about the benefits of ITIL, read the article 5 ways ITIL can help your small business grow.

ITIL 4 – The future of IT Service Management

Excluding several noteworthy changes and the reorganization of content, ITIL 4 is not a major overhaul of the framework. However, the philosophical change from being service-focused to value-focused is a significant new aspect of ITIL 4. Applying ITIL 4’s new 7 Guiding Principles in daily decision making will assist practitioners in moving to a focus on value. These enhancements in ITIL 4 continue to improve the ITSM framework, making it more dynamic and able to evolve with future changes in technology and business.

To learn more about the steps in implementing ITIL, download this free ITIL implementation diagram.

Advisera Hugh Shepherd
Hugh Shepherd
Hugh Shepherd is a freelance consultant currently living in Bangkok, Thailand. He has over 20 years of professional experience spanning the military, telecommunications, information technology, cable television, and management consulting industries. He holds a master’s degree in technology management and an MBA. Over the course of his career, he has earned certifications and/or gained expertise in IT service management (ITIL, ISO 20000), telecom business processes (TM Forum), enterprise architecture (TOGAF), and cybersecurity (CISSP, CEH, Security+, ISO 27001). Previously, Hugh worked on various ICT projects in Washington, DC; New York City; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; and numerous other cities across the United States. While living overseas, he has done pro bono advisory work in cybersecurity and business strategy for several small businesses.