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ITIL FAQs, part 2

ITIL v3 is finally here and CIOs have questions about the latest version. In his latest column, Brian Johnson addresses the most frequently asked questions about ITIL v3.

With the considerable investment of time and money organizations have made to comply with the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), it's only natural that the news of the ITIL version 3 refresh has triggered a flurry of inquiries. Here are responses to some of the most common questions I've received. If you have any other ITIL v3-related questions, please submit them to

How does ITIL v3 improve on previous versions?

More ITIL Q&As
ITIL FAQs, Part 1
While much of the content remains the same, there are a lot of good ideas in ITIL v3 that were not in previous versions. For example, an organization can leverage the enhanced change process to reduce the risk and downtime associated with upgrading to a production environment. Another example is in the book on Service Strategy, where a compendium of strategies and ideas are available for those involved in the strategic IT service organization. Each organization will have to determine if these shifts in guidance will benefit their specific ITIL situations.

Is ITIL v3 really a radical change in direction? We have already spent a lot of time and money following the guidance under ITIL v2 and are confused as to how we should proceed and are concerned that the previous investment was a waste.

Rest assured: Your investment in prior versions of ITIL guidance is well-protected since guidance from the earlier releases is incorporated in ITIL v3. The biggest change is in the approach. ITIL v3 moves from a process-centric to a service-centric approach that aims to better align IT services with business strategy and operations.

Under ITIL v2 my organization started with service support processes such as incident, problem and change management. Does that change with ITIL v3?

Assuming that you started with the service support processes based on an ITIL maturity assessment, then nothing will change with ITIL v3. An assessment is always the best place to start, no matter what version of ITIL you are using, because it enables you to determine your organization's IT service management maturity level. Based on that assessment, you can pinpoint the best starting point with ITIL guidance. For example, if your organization is mature in its service support or service operations processes, then it's probably time to move to the service design or service transition stages.

I understand that ITIL is a best practices framework and guidance, not a standard. Are there any IT service management standards?

Yes. ISO/IEC 20000 is commonly accepted worldwide as the standard for IT service management. Although ITIL is not a standard, it is still invaluable to organizations that set out to comply with ISO 20000 as it provides the guidance for putting the processes in place to meet the ISO/IEC standard.

Will the ISO standard change because of ITIL v3?

Not in the short term. Standards are typically flexible enough to respond to industry changes without the need to be updated. ISO/IEC 200000 was constructed around ITIL and released in December 2005. It included elements that were subsequently inserted into ITIL v3. If a revised standard appears, it may incorporate more of the ITIL v3 changes as well as elements not covered in ITIL v3. And as you implement ITIL in order to help achieve the ISO/IEC 20000 standard, bear in mind that you conform to ITIL guidance and best practices, but you comply with the ISO/IEC standard. There is no compliance when it comes to ITIL.

Can only large organizations benefit from ITIL v3?

Organizations of any size can benefit. ITIL for smaller organizations will be addressed specifically in the supplemental materials within ITIL v3. But regardless of the size of your organization, success with ITIL depends on the organization's ability to make the business case for implementing ITIL. It is imperative to secure executive commitment to make changes required by ITIL guidance and the investment of resources, and to assess the maturity of the IT organization.

What do you consider to be the biggest benefit from adopting ITIL?

By prioritizing business requirements ahead of technical considerations, ITIL enables organizations to provide IT services that are better understood, more easily maintained and more cost-effective.

Brian Johnson, one of the original authors of the first ITIL books, is an ITIL worldwide practice manager at CA Inc. He has authored more than 16 books on ITIL or related topics and is the founder of the IT Service Management Forum, a professional organization focused on IT service management and ITIL.

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