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ITIL framework

IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a best practice Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) framework. ITIL is the main ITSM framework in use globally and provides a range of ITSM professional qualifications including the popular ITIL Foundation.

ITIL began in the 1980s to address the widespread poor delivery of IT services. In response the UK government requested a framework to enable a more efficient and financially responsible use of IT within the government and private sectors.

ITIL has become extremely successful in guiding organizations to manage their IT infrastructure. By doing so, it enables organizations to become more competitive by helping them deliver business benefits and achieve better returns on investment.

Since the 1990’s, ITIL has undergone 4 major revisions. ITIL v4 is the latest version and was released in 2018.

ITIL v3 version incorporated a lifecycle approach to IT service management which we shall describe below.

ITIL v3 service lifecycle

ITIL lifecycle
Suppose a company wants to give its workers the chance to work from home to help foster a better-balanced lifestyle. The company must consider several factors:

  • What computers will the staff be allowed to use?
  • What security factors must be considered?
  • What tools will be required to support such working?
  • What monitoring tools will be required to ensure efficient access?
  • What training or tools in security protocols will the staff require?

The answers to these questions can be found within each of the ITIL service lifecycle stages.

ITIL service lifecycle
By providing an IT service management lifecycle approach, ITIL focuses attention on the strategy, design, transition, operation and continual improvement of IT services. It provides coordination and control across the various functions, processes and systems necessary to manage the full lifecycle of IT services.

All the ITIL service management lifecycle is described in 5 manuals. Each manual covers one stage of the lifecycle. The 5 lifecycle stages are:

  • Service Strategy (SS) – initial definition and analysis of business requirements.
  • Service Design (SD) – design of IT services.
  • Service Transition (ST) – migration of the IT service into the live environment.
  • Service Operation (SO) – live operation and support of the IT service.
  • Continual Service Improvement (CSI) – ongoing improvement of the IT service.


Let us look at an example of a taxi company wanting to replace its drivers with driverless vehicles.

ITIL Service Strategy (SS)

ITIL Service Strategy
To be successful an organization must have clear objectives. It needs a clear business strategy which explains how it intends to achieve those objectives.

The corporate business strategy will have individual strategies for different business units, one of which is an IT strategy. The IT strategy therefore supports and validates the business strategy.

The IT strategy covers different aspects, including IT service strategy. An IT service strategy explains how IT services will enable the organization to achieve its objectives, and how IT services support the business strategy.

The ITIL Service Strategy stage of the ITIL service management lifecycle focuses on the concepts an IT service provider uses to build its IT service strategy.

It describes how the service provider must set clear objectives and performance targets for the IT service strategy to be successful in serving its customers.

ITIL Service Design (SD)

ITIL Service Design
IT services can only provide value to the business when they have been designed to meet business objectives. ITIL Service Design is the lifecycle stage where service strategy is turned into a realistic and achievable plan for delivering the business objectives.

The ITIL Service Design stage provides 2 things:

  • Guidance for the design and development of services and service management practices.
  • Guidance for converting strategic objectives into portfolios of services and related assets.

ITIL Service Transition (ST)

ITIL Service Transition
After the new service has been designed and made ready to use, it must be transitioned into operational use. This is done by testing a service design package to ensure it meets business needs. This is then deployed into the live production environment.

The stage known as ITIL Service Transition utilizes a service knowledge management system (SKMS) to support organizational learning. This helps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of all the IT service management lifecycle stages. It enables people to learn lessons, supports informed decision-making, and improve service management.

ITIL Service Operation (SO)

ITIL Service Operation
The ITIL Service Operation stage is where the strategic objectives of the organization are realized by operating the new service. This requires effective and efficient operation and support of the new service so that the customer can realize the business value which was intended.

ITIL Continual Service Improvement (CSI)


After the new service is live in its operating environment, customers can gain even more value by continuous improvement of the service. This occurs by seeking feedback from any stage of the service lifecycle to identify improvement opportunities for other stages of the lifecycle.

The ITIL Continual Service Improvement stage provides guidance on creating and maintaining value for customers. It focuses on improving the quality of service, operational efficiencies and business continuity by ensuring that the service portfolio remains aligned to business strategy.