5 stages of the ITIL lifecycle
The world of IT has changed drastically over the last two decades. From massive on-site servers to cloud storage, we’ve seen firsthand how quickly the management of computer processing has changed. This unprecedented advancement is new territory, so organized processes at every stage are necessary to ensure secure, cost-effective, and efficient ways for businesses to deliver services to customers.
Enter ITIL. ITIL is essentially the guidebook to information technology management, used by managers and ITSM practitioners across thousands of organizations, from state departments to enterprises.
If you’d like to join the ranks of organizations currently using ITIL standards (which include the State of California, Boeing, Disney, British Airways, Honda, and Visa, to name a few), continue reading for a basic overview of the ITIL framework.
What is ITIL?
ITIL stands for information technology infrastructure library. It is a set of best practices, available online and as a collection of physical books, for managing and delivering IT services aligned with your business needs.
The ITIL was originally developed in the 1980s by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), which provided tech support to the British government. In 2013, the ITIL was acquired by AXELOS, a joint venture between the Government of the United Kingdom and Capita, an international business processing outsourcing and professional services company.
The goal of AXELOS is to develop, manage, and operate qualifications based on best practices that are outlined by the ITIL. It’s recommended that professionals working in the IT field become familiar with ITIL best practices and know how to implement ITIL strategy.
What are the benefits of using ITIL?
As you can imagine, having a clear set of standards for IT means greater cohesiveness and output for information technology professionals, but it also has a great impact across the business as a whole. There are six important benefits to ITIL:
- ITIL builds a stronger relationship between IT and the rest of the organization.
- It improves customer satisfaction and helps IT professionals deliver better service.
- It reduces costs by dictating how resources should be best utilized.
- It helps increase the transparency of IT costs and assets.
- It helps manage crises better and outlines what to do in case of service disruption or failure.
- It provides a more stable service environment that is better prepared for organizational changes.
Becoming certified in ITIL makes ITSM professionals more valuable to an organization and more prepared to handle whatever IT issues may arise.
ITIL key concepts
Granted, ITIL is not riveting reading (but it’s great for combating insomnia). If you don’t want to dive into the entire library, we’ll give you the TL;DR. Here’s a brief overview of the most important key concepts covered in those five volumes:
- Focus on value.
- Start where you are.
- Progress iteratively with feedback.
- Collaborate and promote visibility.
- Think and work holistically.
- Keep it simple and practical.
- Optimize and automate.
The ITIL service lifecycle
The ITIL breaks down the service lifecycle into five stages, each with defined processes, recommended standards, and considerations for optimal service management and delivery:
The first stage of ITIL is service strategy. During this phase, you will need to research and collect information on your business objectives, the needs of the end-users, and the cost for both the business (service provider) and the customer to establish your overall strategy. Take a look at the processes involved at this stage.
Service strategy management
Here, you’ll be looking at the service provider’s offerings and capabilities to develop a strategy for serving customers.
Service portfolio management
There are so many services that you will need to look at and consider holistically to determine how best to service clients. Managing a portfolio is the best way to determine the appropriate mix of services for clients.
This process works to understand the real scope of customer demand. Then, IT managers can make sure the service provider has the capacity to meet those demands.
IT financial management
Organizations have budgets, and it’s the job of IT managers to maximize efficiency and calculate the best use of resources within budget constraints. In short, the goal of this phase is to identify and define the services your customers want and the services your organization can deliver.
With a strategy in place, the next logical step is designing your service infrastructure. Make sure that all the processes, systems, tools, and resources are in place to support the services outlined in the strategy. In other words, during the service design stage, you will align the organization’s strategy with its practical implementation.
The service design stage is comprised of several processes and priorities.
All contracts need to be managed to ensure services are rendered and that the contracts written support business needs.
Service level management
Both internal IT support providers and external suppliers need to have proper agreements in the form of operational-level agreements (OLAs) and underpinning contracts (UCs).
Service catalog management
The service catalog keeps a record of service details, statuses, and service interdependencies. Maintaining that catalog is vital for successful operations.
This process involves making sure all services are operating and also denoting what steps should be taken in case of their inoperation.
This process looks at services and determines what’s needed to meet business objectives in both the short and long term.
Service continuity and security management
Managing risks that threaten operations is a massive undertaking. This step details what steps should be taken in the instance of a security incident. Service design requires working with your customers to define SLAs and commit to service-level targets (SLTs) for availability, capacity, security, and continuity.
No service lasts forever—there will inevitably come a time that necessitates a change in service, which introduces an additional element of risk. To keep your product safe, this is the time to check and recheck all your processes and plans to ensure a smooth implementation and operation. While ITIL provides a flexible framework for operation, it prescribes a structured process for managing and transitioning service changes so there is minimal impact on the business.
The service transition stage has three main priorities:
- Maintain the integrity of assets.
- Ensure the seamless implementation of services with repeatable processes for future transitions.
- Manage service knowledge assets, such as the service portfolio, configuration management database, and supplier contract database.
These three main priorities are further broken down into more bite-sized subprocesses.
Transition planning and support
This process is the act of juggling multiple projects as they go through the service transition phase of the lifecycle.
This process minimizes the risk involved with adding, modifying, or removing anything that impacts IT services.
Service asset and configuration management
Asset management addresses the assets used to deliver IT services, and configuration management tracks the relationships between components of IT services.
Release and deployment management
It makes sure that releases and deployments are completed smoothly and effectively.
Service validation and testing
This process normally occurs during service transition to test new services and determine how well the service is performing.
When a change is implemented, it needs to be evaluated before it can move to the next lifecycle phase, but larger, more significant changes should trigger a formal evaluation. Each organization should determine what it deems to be a significant change.
The knowledge management process is the management of an actual system of knowledge—the Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS)—which includes a service portfolio and other important data that can be used to pass on standards and data for consistent deployment and use throughout the team.
With your strategy, design, and transition in place, you are finally ready to put those services into operation. Here, ITIL outlines best practices and processes for delivering those agreed-upon services through your service desk.
This stage includes preventing and restoring interruptions or quality reductions through one of the following processes.
Events are different from incidents. Event management involves the constant monitoring of configuration items (CIs) and then categorizing them to decide on the correct action to take.
If something goes south, IT services need to be back up and running smoothly again as quickly as possible. Incident management details exactly what to do in the event of an incident.
Problems are predecessors to events. Proactive problem management scans and then analyzes the records of incidents to identify trends and prevent a recurrence of problems.
Service request fulfillment
This process sets up how to handle changes (such as password changes) and requests for information. Most service requests are minor.
Continual service improvement
The final stage of the ITIL service lifecycle is tracking and measuring performance to identify areas for improvement. This is an ongoing process that increases efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction. Every step of the ITIL involves using the same process to deploy, so whether you’re transition planning or in charge of incident management, there are seven steps that need to be followed:
- Define the objectives.
- Determine what to measure.
- Collect the data.
- Process the data.
- Analyze the data.
- Present and use the information.
- Implement improvement.
This standardized approach is beneficial, as once you familiarize yourself with the seven steps above, they’re easily repeatable for every process of the ITIL.
Knowing the benefits of ITIL is the first step to gaining buy-in from across the organization and getting other members of IT to understand how vital the set of rules and standards is for maintaining, operating, and securing IT processes at every level.
Get started with your own service management processes by learning more about service strategy.