Over the past decades, ITIL has become a de facto standard in the IT industry. Today, the well-known framework for IT support and IT Service Management from the English government is indeed a strong brand that is associated with focus on quality and control. Almost every self-respecting IT Manager or IT Services Consultant would say that they are fully aware of its concepts and terminology and that they have the ITIL “best practices” in their toolbox. Almost every IT services offer takes care to sufficiently refer to ITIL based practices and common terminology, even though most would also add their dedication to combining it with a more targeted, often more “pragmatic, down-to-earth” approach while applying them.
Clearly, the framework has also evolved. The refresh in 2007 (with further improvements in 2011) translated some of the well-known concepts to today's context of "value creation" through services. The framework now acknowledges the concepts of working with outsourcing options and the impact of them on strategic decisions for IT support. It has increased awareness that the way tools are implemented can help improve efficiency. It has taken further steps to introduce an even more dynamic view on continuous improvement compared to the somewhat dated "customer orientation" and "quality management" principles. And together with these examples, several other improvements have been applied over time to each of the now five 300-page core books, that further add to the value of ITIL compared to previous versions.
Is it worth the effort to actively work with the ITIL materials including the core books and the upcoming complementary materials? Absolutely. For almost any IT professional, the ITIL set of books provides a relevant and interesting source of knowledge that should be part of the personal library next to other relevant management books. As many other accredited trainers, I have been teaching the entry-level ITIL Foundation training in its multiple versions and in several languages and flavors and locations to very varying groups of professionals coming from every part of the IT industry. All of them have consistently taken home some very useful insights from it. The ITIL Foundation training indeed is and deserves to be a standard part of the training plan of IT professionals today.
When teaching the basics of IT Support and IT Service Management to various groups of IT professionals, ITIL is indeed still the best "body of knowledge" we have. Some of the core ideas that help to see the bigger picture even for young IT professionals in support functions and other important IT functions have been around since the first versions of ITIL and are still there.
• working with the needs of the (internal or external) business in a customer-oriented way
• focusing on delivering integrated services rather than only considering the hardware products used for it
• hiding the complexities of the IT support organization from the user so they do not need to care about them
• using tooling to work together across IT support teams from a "horizontal" point of view
• expanding focus of support activities beyond only restoring the service to proactively caring about root-cause analysis, availability and capacity, and other relevant aspects.
All of these concepts matter, and they are still relevant as an expression of common sense. Also, learning about IT Service Management is still relevant and ITIL is the industry reference for that. In addition, many people see how ITIL based practices can be combined with other frameworks like Lean (for) IT, ISO standards and/or bodies of knowledge for (project) management, governance and within the domain of IT.
Yet, some training participants (and other practitioners) have also raised the question as to how and where to set the limits of applying ITIL compared to these other frameworks and compared to the reality of actual small and not-so-small organizations of various types and levels of maturity and formalization today. Somehow the benefits of ITIL seem to be documented quite well even within the core set of books, and many cases have tried to document or even “value” the benefits of working according to best practices like those documented in the ITIL library. Yet very limit structured discussion seems to exist on the intrinsic limits of applying the ITIL models even though multiple seasoned practitioners seem to somehow agree on some of them in practice.