ITIL 4: an enabler for multi-sourcing IT service innovation

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The much anticipated ITIL 4, the next evolution of this practical and flexible IT management framework, has arrived, promising to support organizations on their digital transformation journey. It’s also proving highly effective for multi-sourcing service integration (MSI), also known as service integration and management (SIAM), as an enabler for innovation by providing a sound basis to seamlessly integrate the end-to-end management of multiple IT service providers.

ITIL is an approach to IT service management (ITSM) that has been adopted by many organizations around the world. It has been designed to provide a cohesive set of best practices gleaned from the public and private sector internationally. ITIL (formerly an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library) promotes the idea that IT services are aligned to the exacting needs of business and support of its core processes.

ITIL’s systematic approach to IT service management was developed to help organizations manage risk, put in place cost-effective practices and enhance customer relations – providing a robust, agile and scalable IT ecosystem going forward.

An energized ITIL

When DevOps and the concept of agile and innovation landed, many were ringing the death knell for ITIL. This, however, was somewhat premature, perhaps because it was misunderstood. ITIL isn’t a rigid framework – it was never developed to be an unwieldly behemoth that would obstruct innovation. It actually encourages agility and innovation as part of business value creation.

The truth is that the majority of best practices in ITIL are the same as those promoted in agile and DevOps. ITIL, for example, has never supported a highly complex change management process.

ITIL is critical for multisourcing service integration (MSI). Over the last 15 years, the enterprise IT environment has become more complex with the rise of new hybrid technologies and services, which are provided by an ever-increasing number of suppliers. The challenge for CIOs is to get their multiple suppliers to work together effectively and overcome the complexity of governing them uniformly.

MSI allows for the end-to-end management of multiple IT service suppliers, integration and governance through a single customer-facing IT interface. An effective implementation of MSI rests upon the guidance provided by ITIL. This extensive body of knowledge has much to offer and needs to be adopted and re-focused to embrace multi-tenant capabilities.

An organization called AXELOS runs the ITIL® and PRINCE2® professional standards. As Keith Holland, an experienced service management practitioner, explains in his whitepaper, “An Introduction to Service Integration and Management and ITIL,” MSI is an adaptation of ITIL that focuses on managing the delivery of services offered up by multiple suppliers. “MSI is a service capability and set of practices in a model and approach that build on, elaborate and complement every part of ITIL practices,” he says.

ITIL’s processes and best practices have, for some time, been a proven and powerful tool for organizations to maintain and improve their service management, and they have a key role to play in MSI in the absence of another authoritative model.

ITIL 4 marks the biggest change to the framework since ITIL was published back in 2007. This more agile and customizable version of ITIL encourages collaboration, integrating agile and DevOps and providing best practices that are both interwoven in and adaptable to MSI.

ITIL 4: a nimble approach

ITIL 4 doesn’t leave its heritage behind. It still focuses on automating processes, advancing service management and integrating the IT infrastructure into the overall business picture. Version 4, however, develops a new, agile way of thinking that is crucial to digital transformation.

There was a huge amount of input to get ITIL to this position. AXELOS worked closely with twelve lead architects, sixty-one authors and reviewers and hundreds of practitioners around the globe. In addition, its ITIL development group includes more than 2,000 international members. “This huge collaboration has now produced a framework that will support practitioners and organizations to meet the challenges that will come with the fourth industrial revolution,” explains Mark Basham, CEO at AXELOS.

ITIL 4 has been developed to provide a practical and flexible foundation to support organizations with their IT and digitally enabled product delivery going forward. It also provides a baseline of best practice from which organizations can innovate and transform to retain and grow their positions in the digital economy. At the same time, it highlights reliability, stability, security and governance, all central processes in past versions.

Moving from traditional, process-lead delivery, ITIL 4 focuses on co-creating value collaboratively between the organization and its stakeholders. It also covers IT service management, development, operations, business relationships and governance in a holistic way, pulling together all the functions across an organization to ensure they are working together to achieve common objectives. The end-to-end picture that ITIL 4 provides integrates many of today’s innovative concepts, including “Lean IT,” agile and DevOps. Orange Business Services has been quick to see the benefits of this approach and is offering training to its IT service management staff to attain ITIL 4 certification.

Geared for change

One of the key strengths in ITIL 4 is its adaptability. It provides a set of best practices that have been designed to plug into the fast pace of change both business and technology are going through. In today’s highly competitive digital markets, this isn’t an option – it is a necessity.

Find out more about multi-vendor IT governance and management in our Multisourcing Service Integration whitepaper.

Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.