8 min read

What is ITIL? The History & Evolution of an ITSM Framework

May 31, 2022

In the post-digital transformation era, IT service management (ITSM) and its supporting frameworks are as important as ever. One popular framework is the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). While ITSM focuses on how IT teams manage service delivery, ITIL is a set of best practices for ITSM. Typically, businesses that develop an IT management strategy with the ITIL framework enjoy smoother service management.  

The first version of ITIL was developed in the 1980s, but as times and technology have evolved, so has ITIL. The latest update, released in 2019, is known as ITIL 4, and it’s been used for several years now to respond to modern IT methodologies. The overarching principles of ITIL can help you align with global ITSM standards, but the versions throughout the year have their own differences. 

Read on to learn about the evolution of ITIL, and how these changes ensure that ITIL can work in harmony with ITSM to implement best practices on a large scale. 


Introducing ITIL: A Focus on Customer Needs 

When ITIL was first developed in the 1980s by the Central Computing and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), a government agency in Great Britain, it focused on best practices for achieving better quality IT services at a lower cost. ITIL, as opposed to other IT frameworks, emphasized customer needs and requirements, rather than just the delivery of hardware and software. At this stage, there were approximately 30 books of ITIL guidance. 


ITIL 2: Gone But Not Forgotten 

Around 2000, the 30 books of ITIL’s first iterations were compiled into 9 publications and dubbed ITIL 2. Two of these publications, service support and service delivery, were especially widely circulated. ITIL 2 was heavily process-oriented and cared about what could be done to improve processes, but not why it mattered. Today, ITIL 2 is considered obsolete; businesses favor the latter two iterations. Still, ITIL 3 was able to learn from the mistakes (and successes) of ITIL 2 and create a more flexible framework built to bring value to an entire business. 


ITIL 3: Unify and Integrate 

ITIL 3 came along in 2007 and got an update in 2011 based on user feedback. While its immediate predecessor focused on IT support and delivery, ITIL 3 was the first iteration to pay attention to the entire IT service lifecycle. ITIL 3 is centered around 5 core publications: 

  • Service Strategy 
  • Service Design 
  • Service Transition 
  • Service Operation 
  • Continual Service Improvement 

These 5 publications form the ITIL lifecycle, and operate in a flexible manner. The success of ITIL 3 came from its consideration of the “how.” How should processes be improved, and how will this bring overall value to the business?


ITIL 4: A Holistic Approach 

The latest iteration was published by AXELOS in 2019. This version embraces the latest trends and methodologies in technologies and service management, and is even more flexible than its predecessors, offering the ability to customize processes and systems based on specific businesses and use cases. 

ITIL 4 centers around “four dimensions” that, together, focus on end-to-end service management. They are: 

  • Organizations and people 
  • Information and technology 
  • Partners and suppliers 
  • Value streams and processes. 

These dimensions make it so that ITIL 4 is the most holistic approach thus far. The continued success of ITIL 4 is due to its flexibility and 34 principles that are clear and adaptable for businesses of all sizes that want manage IT in a strategic and beneficial way. 


What’s Next for ITIL 4 (And Why it Matters) 

ITIL 4 was a complete revamp, and it’s likely that as technology and ITSM continue to evolve, so will ITIL. Abiding by ITIL’s best practices means aligning IT management with business goals so that IT unquestionably brings value. Many businesses even seek out employees with ITL certification. The knowledge and understanding of IT best practices is invaluable, and keeping up on the evolution of ITIL means you’re better equipped to manage IT in a scalable, harmonious way. 

 ITIL is one of several important ITSM complementary framework. To make sure all best practices are implemented in your business, try DeskDirector for free. 

New call-to-action

4 Challenges with an Automated Ticketing System – DeskDirector
Ticketing automation is “low hanging fruit” for most IT organizations: with the potential to ...
Read More
Microsoft Operations Framework: An In-Depth Overview – DeskDirector
IT service management (ITSM) can feel like solving a rubix cube: only the exact right combination ...
Read More
What Is Enterprise Service Management? All the Answers Inside – DeskDirector
Gartner expects business spending on IT to increase 6.8% in 2024, reaching $1.5 trillion by the end ...
Read More