• United States



by Thomas Mendel

ITIL’s Final Breakthrough: From ‘What’ to ‘How’

Aug 25, 20046 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

After 15 years, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is finally becoming the de facto standard methodology for internal IT service delivery processes. The final breakthrough will come in early 2005, when ITIL finally makes the shift from describing service delivery processes the what to helping organizations actually implement these processes and measure service quality the how. Widespread adoption of ITIL best practices by internal IT departments will follow through to 2008.

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Client inquiries on the future of ITIL.

ITIL’s First-Time Failure

ITIL is a set of standard IT terminologies such as a high-level de.nition of a change request that the UK Central Computing and Telecommunication Agency developed in the 1980s to address the IT service support and delivery issues faced by IT infrastructure organizations.1 ITIL standards were designed to establish guidelines and a common language for operational processes, such as change management, problem resolution, and service delivery.

Until recently, the status of ITIL could be characterized by the following phrase: Many companies are talking about it, but few have actually fully implemented it.2 The fact that it was a UK government-driven initiative did not help it gain acceptance in other parts of the world; however, Forrester believes that the lack of acceptance was mainly due to:

  • ITIL standards being di.cult to implement. ITIL describes the what but not the how of IT service delivery. ITIL cant be implemented by the book in its current form.
  • ITIL not defining measurements for process improvements. Companies are often unclear on whether implementing ITIL standards actually produces tangible results.
  • ITIL being developed before the dot-com era. It doesnt take into account the extended enterprise or the fact that many internal IT service delivery organizations today have to integrate multiple external service partners into their service management systems to provide end-to-end service levels.
  • ITIL not being able to map business processes to IT processes. In the past, ITIL

    vendors have oversold the ITIL methodology, promising that it does exactly this.3

What Is Changing Now?

During the first half of 2004, Forrester witnessed important shifts in the ITIL proposition:

  • The UK government no longer sponsors ITIL. ITIL is now owned by the IT Service Management Forum (ITSMF), a non-profit vendor and user organization.
  • Infrastructure management tool vendors are using ITIL. They are increasingly implementing basic ITIL terminology and best practices in their products.
  • ITIL updates are set to ease implementation and measurability. Work is underway to make the next version of ITIL both easier to implement, by giving implementation best practices, and measurable, by adding process-quality criteria.
  • There are ongoing merger discussions with competing terminology. The ITSMF and the TeleManagement Forum (TMF) which describes service delivery processes for telecom providers in its enhanced Telecom Operations Map (eTOM) are finally starting to discuss merging the two.

The Time Is Right for ITIL

Forrester believes that by 2005, these drivers will address the four key issues that led to ITILs first-time failure; they will drive ITIL acceptance to very high levels by 2008. At that point, ITIL will be set to become the de facto best-practice service delivery standard methodology that every IT department will have to adhere to. Over the next 12 months, we will see the results of the four changes outlined above, which include:

  • ITSMF gaining ownership of ITIL. This will finally remove the government touch from ITIL and drive further innovation, mainly from the vendor side.4
  • Basic ITIL terminology filtering into many IT organizations. This will happen via infrastructure management products, which will include basic ITIL best practices.
  • Ease of use improving. The ability to easily measure service quality and perform service benchmarks against the external market will drive many CIOs to re-evaluate ITIL implementations. This, coupled with implementation best practices, will finally lead to ITILs widespread acceptance.
  • The merging of ITIL with eTOM remaining a longer-term goal, unfortunately.

    Forrester believes that a merger makes sense because eTOM does a better job than ITIL of describing telecom service providers most important services. The opportunity here lies in using the eTOM descriptions as a starting point for ITIL to better express the link between IT service delivery and business services. Doing this, however, will take at least another two years, but this relatively long time period wont endanger ITILs success. Companies have realized that successfully implementing internal service delivery best practices should be the first step for now; mapping those service delivery processes to business processes should be addressed after. Companies will need some time to go through step one, by which point a merged ITIL and eTOM will be ready to address step two.


Get Ready for ITIL

2005 will be the year when ITIL goes mainstream. Internal IT departments should therefore start planning their ITIL implementation toward the end of 2004.

Implementations will be tightly connected to the infrastructure management tools that companies use, as these tools contain more and more ITIL best practices out of the box. Rather than implementing ITIL in isolation, companies should take the opportunity to map their core IT services and upgrade their infrastructure management systems in conjunction with the ITIL implementation.


1For more information, see

2Despite significant vendor hype, fully fledged ITIL implementations by enterprise IT departments have remained the exception. The majority of companies have not advanced beyond the piloting or even exploration phases.

3 While ITIL best practices are certainly the foundation for better control of how IT delivers services to the business community, they are not a foundation for business process management or managing IT from a business process perspective. True business alignment has to be implemented in a top-down manner, not bottom up from where ITILs frame of reference originates. If an organization is to align IT with the business, it has to carefully model the dependencies of the applications and infrastructure to the business process. ITIL is a bottomup approach, which provides a view of managing infrastructure silos. A tighter integration of business and IT requires a top-down approach, a view that integrates IT results as a part of the business process management itself.

4 The need to optimize and rationalize IT processes and to define IT services that can be compared with the external outsourcing market is fuelling interest in ITIL. Through two acquisitions, HP is extending its leadership position in ITIL and IT service management (ITSM). Whether customers manage IT internally, outsource, or have a combination of both, these acquisitions will provide further depth and breadth for HP to discuss the growing acceptance of the ITIL reference model with end user organizations.