Introduction to ITIL: Definition, Function and Application in practice

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL for short: from the definition to the comprehensive benefits for your company and the various processes that ITIL improves to a look into the future of the framework.

What is ITIL?

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a framework for IT service management that helps companies to make their IT services more efficient and effective.

It defines processes, procedures and functions for IT Service Management (ITSM) and provides a comprehensive collection of best practices to help organizations plan, monitor and review their IT services.

ITIL is focused on satisfying the needs of customers and employees by ensuring continuous improvement of IT services. It is important to know that the ITIL framework is not a matter of mandatory standards, but of so-called best practices. So we are talking about suggestions that have proven themselves in practice and can thus also help your company.


History and Origin of ITIL

ITIL was developed in the early 1980s by the UK government to provide a unified framework for IT Service Management. The first version of ITIL was published in 1989 and has been continuously developed since then to meet the changing needs of companies in the field of IT.

  • Between 1989 and 1998, a total of 34 different documents were created, which were later referred to as Version 1.
  • From 1999 to 2004 followed version 2, which has a structure according to the tasks in ITSM.
  • In 2005, ISO 20000 created an ITIL-oriented certification model for organizations, which was last updated in 2018.
  • ITIL v3 was published in June 2007 and its structure is based on the service lifecycle.
  • In July 2011, an update of ITIL v3 was published under the title “ITIL 2011 Edition”.
  • Since 2014, ITIL has been a trademark of AXELOS, a joint venture between CAPITA and Cabinet Office.
  • From February 2019 to September 2020, ITIL 4 was created, which is currently the most up-to-date version.
  • Following the successful implementation of ITIL 4, AXELOS has taken the decision to discontinue the previous version of the world’s leading certification in IT Service Management, ITIL v3, by the end of 2021.

So ITIL was originally used only by government agencies and public institutions, but over time it has become more widespread and is now used by businesses and IT organizations worldwide in a variety of industries and sizes.

Benefits and Aims of ITIL

ITIL has established itself as a valuable tool for IT service management and is now a recognized best practice framework in the IT industry. We list the benefits it offers companies and the specific aims it pursues here:

Benefits of ITIL:

  • Improved customer satisfaction thanks to better support
  • Common language, which simplifies communication and prevents misunderstandings
  • Better control and monitoring of IT processes through defined responsibilities and comprehensive documentation
  • A continuous improvement of the services (called Continual Service Improvement)
  • Reduction of downtime and disruptions
  • Increase efficiency and cost savings
  • Flexible customization options to meet the different conditions and needs of companies
  • Strengthening the role of IT as a strategic partner in the company

Aims of ITIL:

  • Improvement of IT services for the end users
  • Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the IT department
  • Increased transparency and better monitoring of IT processes
  • Creation of a common understanding and use of language for ITSM within an organization

In the short term, however, you will first incur costs if you want to reap the benefits of ITIL. In addition, there must be precise and conscientious preparation for ITIL in order to lay the perfect foundation.

That’s why you should always rely on ITSM tools that are ITIL-compliant. If you are unsure about this, you should get external support that has the relevant experience with the framework and its establishment – like REALTECH with SmartITSM. Because we support the ITSM processes with suitable tools that allow the processes to be implemented in an ITIL-compliant manner.

What is the Difference between ITIL and ITSM?

The terms ITSM and the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL for short) are often used interchangeably, although they are not the same thing. ITIL is a framework that supports IT Service Management (ITSM). In principle, other frameworks are also available for this purpose, but they are not as widely established.

The main focus of ITIL is to improve the efficiency and predictability of processes, incidents and request management. Basically, it’s a guide to help companies implement ITSM, among other things.

ITIL, in short, is a widely accepted set of best practices designed to help organizations get the most value from IT by aligning their IT services with business strategy. For this purpose, methods such as checklists, tasks and processes are used, which any company can easily implement.

In summary, ITIL processes can be part of ITSM, but not every ITSM in comparison uses or follows all standards defined in ITIL.

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Overview of the most important ITIL Processes

ITIL defines a set of processes necessary for effective and efficient IT service management. These processes cover the entire lifecycle of an IT service, from planning and monitoring to review and optimization.

Each ITIL process therefore has a specific objective and helps to ensure that IT services meet the needs of customers and business units. We will discuss the most important ITIL processes in the following:

Incident Management

Incident Management encompasses the entire organizational and technical process behind the response to detected or suspected incidents or malfunctions involving IT areas and devices. The service levels agreed with the customer are naturally taken into account in this process and provide a kind of framework. The purpose of Incident Management is to minimize the negative impact of incidents by restoring normal service operations as quickly as possible. Incident Management is the most common ITIL process. As already mentioned, it runs via the service desk. There, inquiries are forwarded to IT, which issues a ticket is created for each incident. Concrete examples may look like the following:

  • the company laptop breaks down
  • an employee or a customer has forgotten his password
  • the internet connection in a department does not work
  • a new company cell phone is needed

The tickets created are assigned and processed according to a defined workflow in order to resolve all incidents as quickly as possible.

Problem Management

Multiple incidents that are due to the same cause are defined as a problem. Problem Management is the process of identifying and managing the causes of incidents in an IT service. However, Problem Management is not just about finding and fixing incidents. It’s also about identifying and understanding the underlying causes of an incident and finding the best way to address those causes – even for the future.

It is closely connected to Change and Incident Management, because it offers the possibility to define standard answers or solutions in order to solve tickets automatically. Alongside Incident and Change Management, Problem Management is one of the core components of ITSM systems.

Change Management

As technologies evolve, markets change, and businesses grow, the IT infrastructure must change and adapt to meet the new requirements. It is precisely at this point that Change Management should come into play. Change is defined as the process of change in daily operations itself. It doesn’t matter if the change relates to a new office printer or the implementation of a brand new technology throughout.

In addition, changes in organizational procedures or processes can also be referred to as “change”. This means that changes are not only processes of change, but also adaptations of software or approaches in a company. They are defined when changes requiring approval have to be made that affect several employees, processes or the entire company.

The aim is to avoid disruptions and errors by fundamentally changing the entire company. In addition, Change Management should play a key role in helping employees and customers alike gain a positive attitude toward change.

Configuration Management

Configuration Management consists of identifying and tracking the individual configuration elements (assets) or individual CIs (Configuration Items). This is done including their characteristics and functions within a company. It is a process of maintaining computer systems, servers and software, and other technical components (e.g., electronics, machinery, or control elements) in a desired, consistent state. In the case of software, this refers above all to version levels, patch levels, and bug occurrences).

All ITSM processes need this data to function smoothly. In short, it ensures that neither minor nor major changes are applied undocumented. This includes versions, components, attributes and relationships. There is also close contact with Change Management processes.

Configuration Management enables companies to ensure at all times that their systems and all assets function as expected, even in the event of changes.

Knowledge Management

According to ITIL, knowledge management is a process in IT service management that aims to strategically manage, share and use knowledge within an organization.

A Knowledge Management system is a perfect solution for both IT teams and other business units. Here you can save your best practices for frequently occurring IT issues and make them available to all employees. End users can thus solve problems on their own and supporters can draw on existing expertise.

ITIL Certificate: Overview, Requirements and Benefits

ITIL certification is an internationally recognized qualification level for IT professionals and consultants specializing in IT Service Management. It enables IT professionals worldwide to master the common language and improve their standing within the IT community, as ITIL is the de facto standard in IT Service Management .

Overview of ITIL Certifications

The ITIL certification scheme provides a modular approach to the ITIL framework and consists of a set of qualifications. These focus on different aspects of ITIL Best Practice in varying depth with practical relevance. There are a total of 11 levels of ITIL certifications:

  • ITIL 4 (as of 2019)
  • ITIL 4 Foundation
  • ITIL 4 Managing Professional
  • ITIL 4 Specialist Create, Deliver and Support
  • ITIL 4 Specialist Drive Stakeholder Value
  • ITIL 4 Specialist High-velocity IT
  • ITIL 4 Strategist Direct, Plan and Improve
  • ITIL 4 Strategic Leader
  • ITIL 4 Strategist Direct, Plan and Improve
  • ITIL 4 Leader Digital and IT Strategy
  • ITIL Master

Moreover, these certificates are only valid for 3 years, are no longer valid indefinitely as with ITIL3, and must therefore be recertified.

Requirements for ITIL Certification

To earn ITIL certification, the following requirements must be met:

  • Education: There are no formal education requirements, but it is recommended that prospective candidates have a background in IT Service Management and ITIL.
  • Exam: Participants must take an exam offered by authorized testing agencies. Exams vary in difficulty and length depending on the level of certification.
  • Course Attendance: Participants must attend an authorized ITIL training course conducted by accredited training providers.
  • Practical experience: Some certification levels, such as the Master Level, require extensive practical ITIL experience in IT Service Management before sitting for the exam.

It is important to note that the requirements for ITIL certifications may be adjusted from time to time. Accordingly, it is advisable to obtain information about the current requirements directly from an authorized training provider or examination body.

Benefits of ITIL Certification

ITIL is the best known framework for ITSM. By completing an ITIL certification, you will learn all the relevant terminology. IT professionals in all industries and regions use and understand them. You can then prove your ITIL knowledge with the respective ITIL certificate. Specifically, ITIL certification offers you the following benefits:

  • improved, more efficient and competent use of the ITIL framework
  • professional development and opportunities for better pay
  • better exchange with IT professionals in all industries and countries
  • development of a holistic view of the interplay of IT and business processes

Application of ITIL in practice

The best framework is only as good as its implementation. Only if you pick up your employees in the best possible way will they successfully apply ITIL in practice. To give you a better picture of a successful implementation, we look at typical challenges in implementing ITIL.

Challenges in the Implementation of ITIL

ITIL is a framework and not a template that can simply be put over every company. So if you want to implement the framework in your organization, here’s what you should consider:

1. ITIL is a theoretical framework for efficiently linking IT and business processes, not a means to an end that in itself represents a best practice approach for everyone.

2. Use ITIL in daily work. This is the only way to discover and benefit from the full potential of the framework. So don’t start with theory, apply ITIL in practice and find out for yourself which processes drive your business forward.

3. Introduce the ITSM processes step by step and do not attempt a 100% solution. Your employees should be picked up with simple, understandable processes that make immediately comprehensible benefits transparent to contributors.

4. The introduction of an ITSM tool in parallel with the processes should ensure that the tool not only supports the employees, but that its forms and logic form the backbone for the processes. The following applies here: ITIL cannot be introduced with a tool, but it also cannot be introduced without one.

5. Provide your employees with the necessary knowledge to use the framework efficiently and invest in foundation training.

6. Do not overestimate your internal company processes and remain realistic. If basic Incident or Change Management workflows are not yet mature, you should focus on them rather than ITIL implementing them as soon as possible.

Criticism and Application Problems

One of the biggest challenges when introducing new IT measures is convincing your employees to use them. This is because people are usually critical of new things and changes and prefer tried and tested methods and approaches. As a result, many projects are never or only insufficiently applied, even though they offer great technological advantages.

If this is not to happen, you must make it clear why the change is necessary and needed, e.g. to safeguard existing jobs and to be able to operate competitively in the future. The three most common hurdles in applying the ITIL framework and its associated processes are as follows:

The specifications of ITIL can ensure that their employees no longer seek their own creative approaches and instead rely exclusively on the framework.

You must always adapt the ITIL framework to the different aims and conditions in the company, because it does not offer a general solution for everyone. It is therefore necessary to plan well how ITIL is to help one’s own company progress from an individual point of view.

The ITIL framework can lead to defensive reactions among IT departments, as they may feel, for example, that they have to completely change the way they work. To counteract this, you should accompany the introduction with well thought-out Change Management.

The Future with ITIL

Digitization plays a major role in all companies today, and IT provides most of the services. Thus, IT teams are at the center of digital transformation. Cloud computing, blockchain, AI and IoT: they are all driving new ways of working and are being implemented by Agile, Lean and DevOps experts.

To keep up in this world, IT organizations are looking for ways to increase business agility while providing more stability and predictability. And this is exactly where ITIL can help, because the framework, properly implemented, promotes the user-friendliness of the IT infrastructure, collaboration and knowledge sharing within the company.

The latest update to the IT Infrastructure Library, ITIL 4, developed by the community for the community, was created based on the diverse views and best practices of over 2,000 IT professionals across all roles, industries, and communities worldwide, including Agile and DevOps.

The streamlined and practical guide, which can be adapted to new technology and integrates existing work methods with basic ITSM practices, helps to understand the following:

  • How the service economy works in today’s world.
  • How to keep track of all processes using the basic ITIL principles.
  • How to integrate Lean, Agile and DevOps techniques into ITSM.
  • How to create simple and practical value streams to respond to customer demand while creating value for all relevant stakeholders.
  • How to develop practices to achieve optimal results with low risk.

ITIL 4 is certainly a paradigm shift for IT teams in terms of business and customer value. It supports a more adaptive approach based on your team’s needs and ways of working. The fundamental principles of ITIL 4, in short, promote collaboration, efficiency and constant feedback, making processes even more powerful for the future.

Conclusion on ITIL and Recommendations for potential ITIL users

In summary, ITIL is an intelligent framework that pays off when implemented correctly, because ITIL as a theoretical superstructure can serve as a very good guide for implementing comprehensive IT solutions. The introduction of the processes described in ITIL is best done using a concrete IT solution such as ITSM. With SmartITSM , REALTECH offers a complete solution that enables companies to live, support, and automate ITIL processes.


ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a framework for IT service management that helps companies to make IT services more efficient and effective. It defines processes, procedures and functions for IT Service Management (ITSM) and provides best practices to help plan, monitor and review IT services.

The aims of ITIL are:

  • Improvement of IT services for the end users
  • Increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the IT department
  • Increased transparency and better monitoring of IT processes
  • Creation of a common understanding and use of language for ITSM within an organization

ITIL defines a set of processes necessary for effective and efficient IT service management. These processes cover the entire lifecycle of an IT service, from planning and monitoring to review and optimization. The most important processes are: Problem Management, Incident Management, Change Management, Configuration Management and Knowledge Management.