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A set of guidelines designed to improve service management processes and streamline incident management, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a standard dating back to the late 80’s
Today, ITIL is a series of five core volumes outlining procedures for aligning information technology services with the needs of the businesses they serve. While many experts may argue that strict adherence to ITIL guidelines with no room for flexibility makes for a poor ITSM process, the impact of ITIL on the business world is impossible to deny. An overwhelming number of companies use ITIL as a rough outline for the creation of their own IT procedures, and it’s usefulness has spawned numerous service management standards across the industry.
As we quickly approach the release of a new version of ITIL in 2018, it’s time to take a look back at where ITIL started, how it has evolved through the years, and the impact ITIL has had on IT service management.
The Late 80’s
The 80’s was a tumultuous time for computers in business. It was slowly beginning to dawn on the world that computers were going to be an integral part of daily operations. MS-DOS, Unix, and other command-line based operating systems were still in widespread use. Mac OS and Windows had just begun to show the world what a GUI operating system could bring to the table in terms of accessibility and flexibility. Usenet was the preferred method of internetwork communication, and “The Internet” as we know it today was still in the not-so-distant future.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact catalyst for the creation of ITIL, it’s generally agreed that the perfect storm of emerging technology use and poor management of technology assets made the need for a standardized set of guidelines painfully clear. Huge corporations were struggling to implement their own policies for managing information technology, even those on the bleeding edge. Communications giant AT&T suffered massive outages in 1990 due to a minor failure in their switches. They weren’t the first or the last to feel the fiery wrath of poorly managed infrastructure.
The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) was a branch of the UK government in the 1980’s. Possibly as a result of political pressure and the demand for greater efficiency of resources, the CCTA developed a set of procedures and guidelines to govern IT service and management processes. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library was born, a set of books that ran from 1989 until 1996.
These guidelines were roughly modeled after W. Edwards Denning’s plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, and their influence can still be seen in current ITIL processes.
2000 to 2006 – Consolidation and Simplification
Starting in the late 90’s, the wide adoption and recognition of ITIL as a valued outline for IT management spurred the need for an updated version of ITIL. Work on ITIL v2 began just before the turn of the century. Around this same time, the British standard for IT Service Management, BS15000 would be developed and later evolve into the ISO 20000 standard version 1. It’s important to make note of this as both standards were based heavily on ITIL framework. The need for standardized service management procedures was increasing.
In the year 2000, ITIL Service Support (Version 2) was published by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the department the original CCTA was merged into the year after the initial publication. The initial print of these books was broken up over the course of a year, and between 2000 and 2001 nine sets of books were published. The most popular and widely used were the support and service sets that covered ITSM processes.
Version 2 of the ITIL guidelines ran until late 2006 when the ITIL Version 2 Glossary was published. The very next year, ITIL Version 3 was released.
2007-2011 – Refinement
Over fifteen years after its initial release, ITIL Version 3 was launched in May of 2007. It featured five core reference books: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. This ITIL edition was the final consolidation, further refining the ITIL library into fewer core references to allow for easier adoption of its policies.
By this time, many service management frameworks had emerged that made use of ITIL’s guidelines. The ISO 20000 standard, HP’s ITSM Reference Model, IBM’s Process Reference Model for IT, and Microsoft’s Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) had all made use of ITIL as a base for their service processes.
Version 2 of ITIL was officially phased out in 2011, and certifications or bridge certifications for individuals moving from Version 2 to Version 3 were eliminated.
The 2007 edition of ITIL was again revised in 2011, though it underwent much fewer changes than it’s transition from Version 2. The same core books are present, and no bridge certifications were required upon their release. ITIL 2011 was largely updated to maintain consistency, and ITIL procedures have largely been the same since Version 3 was released in 2007.
2011 to Present – ITIL 2018 On The Horizon
With over a decade from its last major update, ITIL procedures have remained the same through a huge number of transitional technology releases. The widespread use of smartphones, advanced machine learning capabilities, and the massive increase in interconnected technologies has prompted demand for an updated ITIL outline.
The current owner of the ITIL intellectual property, AXELOS, announced in late 2017 that a new ITIL guideline was being developed for 2018. Citing research indicating that ITIL framework was still integral to the ITSM process, AXELOS CEO Peter Hepworth announced that 2018’s ITIL guidelines will “take ITIL best practices into the future.”
AXELOS encourages members of the IT service community to participate in their learning and development program for ITIL 2018 to create the best series of service management guidelines to date. With a long list of industry leaders already on board the development team for the new guidelines and an active line of communication for individuals looking to get involved, it’s hard to argue that 2018’s ITIL guidelines may be the best ever. It remains to be seen how the updated framework will integrate into today’s technology-driven world, but the world won’t have to wait long to find out.