A Comprehensive Overview of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

By on May 29, 2020

What Is ITIL?

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of globally recognized practices designed to help organizations deliver their services effectively. ITIL provides a strategy for blending four dimensions—individuals, procedures, products, and associates—to deliver services. Today, organizations of all sizes and across all spectrums adopt the ITIL framework to provide high-quality and efficient services.

History and the Present-Day Status of ITIL

The British government instituted ITIL in the 1980s as a set of standardized rules to help improve the performance of IT. These standardized rules gradually gained popularity and were used by the government and nongovernment businesses entities. Since its inception, ITIL standards have undergone a series of changes and revisions. It’s currently in its fourth version, which is referred to as ITIL 4. The latest version is more inclined toward the needs of modern-day business requirements and focuses on aspects like reducing silos, increasing cooperation across the entire organizational structure, and amalgamating agile software development and DevOps into ITSM.


Though ITIL 4 stresses the need to integrate agile software development and DevOps into ITSM, it’s important to understand how the two differ .

To define it simply, ITIL is science and ITSM is the art of applying it. ITIL is made up of general guidelines any business or organization who uses IT can apply as a backbone, and ITSM is the way organizations apply ITIL guidelines to manage and deliver services to their end users and customers.

Present-Day ITIL

ITIL 4 is based on the previous versions and has reshaped most of the earlier guidelines. This new version focuses more on new ways of functioning,  such as the agile approach and DevOps methodology. This new version also introduced the concept of a service value system (SVS), which describes how varied components and activities can be made to function in a coordinated way in any type of IT-enabled business. ITIL 4 talks about four aspects capable of helping businesses successfully provide value to clients and other stakeholders.

These four aspects are as follows:

  1. Organizations and People: This dimension focuses on the people aspect organizations should take into account when planning, operating or changing service offerings. This aspect considers organizational structure, culture, and communication practices. It also looks at the competence of the people associated with the organization and their capacity for creating and delivering value.
  2. Information and Technology: This dimension focuses on the information businesses need to create value and the processing and storage components required to create and transfer value. One aspect of this is skills and security, which considers whether organizations have the right set of people to undergo and support technological changes.
  3. Value Streams and Processes: This dimension focuses on the steps organizations should take to add value and differentiates them from processes creating no value. Additionally, it helps organizations think about steps or procedures capable of being automated and those being carried out by third-party vendors.
  4. Partners and Suppliers: This aspect considers every organization as a supplier and a customer of services. It drills down into questions like which capabilities an organization wants to retain and what it wants to outsource. It also asks businesses to consider whether their workforces have the required skill sets or whether they need to have partners. If so, this aspect also includes looking at the cost incurred. Additionally, it looks at whether organizations have good relationships with supplier representatives and whether their performance lives up to expectations.

These four dimensions are interdependent, and organizations need to balance them because focusing more on one at the cost of the others can cause serious challenges.

Tools for ITIL Implementation

ITIL software tools are an essential investment for organizations wanting to scale up their productivity levels and create value in the process. Though the market is flooded with tools, finding the right one can be a tedious process. Below are the two best tools available and the features making them popular.

SolarWinds Web Help Desk

screenshot of solarwinds web help desk's dashboard showing tickets details

SolarWinds® Web Help Desk® is an affordable and flexible choice offering an interactive interface to let organizations manage service tickets. It also gives organizations the freedom to simplify and automate help desk tasks for their technical workforce. It’s a highly scalable solution suited to all organizations, regardless of scale. It also automates the entire process of help desk ticketing so users can easily create, escalate, and manage tickets. The easy-to-use web console enables organizations to automatically discover their software and hardware assets and manage asset assignments, past records, and associated service requests. It improves security by enabling FIPS mode SSL connections for data in transfer and supports cryptography compatible with FIPS 140-2 in IT environments with high safety standards. Another feature of Web Help Desk worth mentioning is its availability as a native mobile application on the iPad and iPhone, where team members can view alerts in the form of push notifications for new and updated tickets. It also comes with a fully built knowledge base users can easily search. Additionally, this tool provides the option to allow end users to resolve tickets on their own to help scale down the number of inbound tickets. Employees can also customize change approval workflows, which can vary from a single user to multiple approval levels. To provide a complete solution to the incident and problem management, Web Help Desk lets users link various incidents to a problem.

This tool also lets organizations fulfill their service-level agreements (SLAs) by letting them set up SLA breach notifications and  SLA reminder alerts they can link to specific dates. On top of this, it enables organizations to monitor the performance of their technical teams and view the status of tickets raised using help desk reports. Web Help Desk helps businesses keep track of customer support needs through factors like the customer’s location and real-time billing data, and it helps automate recurring tasks through customizable tickets with parent-child relationships. Organizations can also leverage the existing active and LDAP directories. You can easily integrate this tool with other SolarWinds products like Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and Server & Application Monitor (SAM), helping you create help desk tickets and forwarding them to the relevant IT teams. The tool’s built-in integration for remote desktop access can help teams directly launch remote control sessions.

SolarWinds Service Desk

Solarwinds Service Desk

SolarWinds Service Desk is a tool designed to help you streamline the processes of supporting and delivering services to your organization. Just like Web Help Desk, this tool meets the requirements of all businesses, regardless of their size. To support every organization’s unique management processes, this tool is equipped with different sets of modules—including modules for change, release, incident, and problem management—and configurable page layouts. This tool also lets companies customize the service experience for their employees when they’re in the process of submitting requests and tickets, as it gives them access to self-service resources and the ability to view company announcements. Service Desk allows organizations to be transparent with their SLAs by letting them create SLA policies in their service desks, including rules for auto-escalation. It also serves as a knowledge bank for employees, reducing resolution times, and scaling up the rate of case deflections. The Service Desk agent mobile application allows users to access the tool’s core functionalities on iOS or Android devices. Because of its numerous integration features and open REST API, Service Desk can plug into business workflows across the entire organization. It can also help enterprises formalize their service offerings, as it lets them create dynamic submission forms accompanied by a workflow engine designed to streamline the entire process. One unique feature of the tool is its use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. This technology allows Service Desk to assign tickets to the right teams through an AI-led ticket routing process. By giving organizations the freedom to develop their custom automation rules to assign, route, and categorize incoming tickets, Service Desk can help reduce bottlenecks.

With the help of its easily configurable widgets, organizations can get a real-time view of their service desk key performance indicators (KPIs). This data also helps enterprises visualize trends, view performance metrics, and gather data to make future decisions. This tool isn’t useful for just the IT department; it’s equally useful for other departments like HR, finance, and many more involved in providing services to employees. Various departments can also collaborate to achieve a smooth interdepartmental workflow through the feature service catalog in Service Desk, which can be used to automate tasks and approvals. Through this feature, organizations can save time and effort.

Service Desk helps organizations manage their IT assets by collecting device audit histories and allowing them to view their complete inventories. Additionally, Service Desk can send automated notifications about any potential risks the organization’s devices may be facing. With the help of this tool, businesses can also run software compliance reports. On top of this, Service Desk covers the aspect of procurement management, as it helps enterprises align their assets with purchase orders and vendor management capabilities. The browser version of Service Desk supports Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer, as long as they’re version 11 or newer. This tool also allows continuous deployment, which means organizations can stay up-to-date with the latest version and avoid the costly, routine, and time-consuming exercise of upgrade cycles.

Aside from these great features, Service Desk can be set up quickly. It was developed on the principle of codeless architecture, which means there’s no coding necessary and it comes packed with intuitive and configurable setup options. Thus, organizations can quickly implement Service Desk and make alterations to their systems to meet the ever-evolving needs of their business. By providing multiple channels of communication, like email, phone calls, and service portals, the tool gives employees flexibility when interacting with Service Desk.

Business Benefits of ITIL Implementation

Better Collaboration

This is perhaps the most significant benefit organizations receive when they implement ITIL. Once an organization starts following the ITIL framework, they start seeing a better bond between their IT department and their overall business strategy because it brings the company’s technology teams in line with other departments. This process is broadly referred to as the first stage of ITIL implementation, which is the service strategy highlighting the need to optimize IT environments to support business processes.


Gaining visibility is also a significant benefit of following the ITIL framework. However, laying the groundwork is of the utmost importance, which is possible only when companies know what challenges they’re trying to solve or what processes they’re trying to improve. Only after answering these questions can organizations deploy the best fit for them.

Customer Satisfaction

Organizations that have successfully adopted ITIL best practices agree their customers are  more satisfied because they’ve been able to provide better services. They’ve also reported lower costs and higher ROI by implementing the correct methods and delivering the right services. Additionally, they’ve been able to plan for and proactively manage risks and service disruptions.

Possible Scenarios Where ITIL Can Be Misapplied

Since its inception, the ITIL framework has been known to provide a solid foundation for organizations. However, as is the case with most frameworks, problems can arise in the ITIL framework when organizations start taking these guidelines too seriously and forget they’re ultimately a set of recommendations. Such a mistake can slow down organizations. Here are a few other mistakes organizations make regarding the ITIL framework.


ITIL originated in the times of mainframes and waterfall development methods, and the concept of delivering early and continuously was its anathema. Because of its origin in the time of risk aversion, ITIL is often not balanced with speed and efficiency. So when organizations take the risk of rolling out big changes instead of small and incremental ones, they may fall prey to issues like unnecessary delays, low use of resources, and spiraling costs. Ironically, this increases risk instead of mitigating it. Organizations should keep risk in perspective because even though it’s critical to standardize processes and manage risk, they must balance these ideals with a bias toward time and possible outcomes. To keep pace with today’s rate of change, you have to borrow the best suggestions from ITIL and combine them with other principles and frameworks. If organizations want to ensure a balanced approach to risk and speed, they must evaluate risk over the complete value chain, classify risks from low to severe, and regularly reassess their strategies.

Taking on Too Much, Too Fast

Overambitious organizations can sometimes overemphasize speed, leaving them with nothing but too many projects with too large a scope. ITIL—especially the latest iteration—provides enterprises with strong guidance on agile software development. This means organizations should make changes in phases and progress iteratively. All this can help businesses identify points where they went wrong and ultimately achieve better results.

Feeling of Contentment

Complacency occurs when we get too comfortable with our ways of doing things and stop looking at our work with critical eyes. For IT teams, this can manifest when a process implementation is considered done. They sometimes forget every business is dynamic and priorities change, so they lose sight of the critical adjustments required to adapt to ever-changing needs. Organizations should foster an environment of continuous improvement, be ruthless in identifying and eliminating wasted resources, and take care of the aspects of DevOps capable of being automated. In addition, enterprises should be open to evolving or re-engineering their existing processes.

Lack of Awareness

When businesses operate without visibility into the impact their resources and efforts are having on long-term outcomes, they can start to lack awareness.

IT teams are often caught unaware because of a lack of commitment to KPIs, because they have too many KPIs, or because they have the wrong KPIs. If businesses don’t define the right KPIs with regard to ITIL, they may miss out on essential opportunities to optimize their processes or waste time optimizing the wrong ones. When determining the most important KPIs, businesses must include quantitative metrics (like time to resolution) and qualitative ones (like customer satisfaction).

Low-Value Work

ITIL implementations originally derived in an era when the primary focus was on issues like incident handling and operational work can now put an overwhelming amount of low-value work on service desk technicians. When team members of an organization are burdened with repetitive and routine tasks, the pace of service delivery in the organization slows and the enterprise’s ability to adjust to changing priorities inevitably diminishes.

Final Thoughts

Though ITIL provides a set of standard guidelines, it doesn’t hold answers to all the questions an organization faces. When organizations look at ITIL as being both the means and the end, they’re bound to get misguided. Organizations should instead consider the ITIL framework a way of getting closer to their goals. When applied with careful analysis, ITIL can provide organizations with a roadmap the service desk team can follow to quickly deliver the results their business needs.

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