itil4 key changes

10 Key Changes in ITIL 4 (and My Take on Them)

You might have noticed that something changed with the Force, sorry ITIL, last month – with the ITIL 4 update releasing its first publication, the “ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 Edition” (yes, I know that seems a lot of ITILs in a single book title). This was in time for the Pink19 event and it preceded a formal ITIL 4 launch on the 28th February 2019. You might be thinking, “A new ITIL, what have they tweaked?” Well, trust me, it’s more than a tweak. It’s so much more than a tweak.

In this blog, I’ll try to quickly cover off ten key changes between ITIL v3 (2011 Edition) and ITIL 4. It’s certainly not everything that has changed with ITIL, but you probably don’t what to read a blog that’s nearly as long as the Foundation book itself (and that’s 212 pages BTW, well at least for the Kindle version).

Change #1 – the ITIL v3 processes are now ITIL 4 practices

I think many of us had already moved on from talking in “process” terms to talk about capabilities. It seems that the term “capabilities” was considered for ITIL 4, but it didn’t translate well in some regions. Hence, we have the very-similar ITIL 4 “practices” instead of ITIL processes.

Personally, I think this is great in that – and it’s not rocket science – processes alone might achieve very little (because even automated processes require people along with the technology).

Change #2 – the ITIL service lifecycle has been replaced with the ITIL service value system (SVS) and the service value chain within it

Visually, and who doesn’t love pretty pictures, this is a move from the ITIL v3 service lifecycle “lollipop”:

ITIL service lifecycle

Source: AXELOS, ITIL v3 (2011)

To this:


Source: AXELOS, ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 Edition (2019)

And the service value chain with it:

ITIL service value chain

Source: AXELOS, ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 Edition (2019)

With ITIL 4 stating that:

“The ITIL SVS represents how the various components and activities of the organization work together to facilitate value creation through IT-enabled services.”

As shown above, the center of the SVS is the service value chain, which is a set of loosely connected activities that a service provider will undertake at some point.

ITIL 4 also introduces the concept of a value stream, which is a journey weaving through, and even doubling back, these activities. The service lifecycle – which was the core ITIL v3 areas (and publications) of service strategy, service design, service transition, and service operation along with continual service improvement (CSI) – can be now be represented with a value stream which would roughly be:

Engage – Plan – Design & Transition – Obtain/Build – Design & Transition – Deliver & Support – Improve

In terms of my thoughts on this, I don’t think anyone could argue about the new focus on value and the use of value streams, chains, or systems. But while trainers and consultants might see this as a big step forward, I worry about the ITSM practitioners who have been taking the ITIL service lifecycle as “ITSM gospel” for the last however many years and whether they’ve the capacity (on multiple levels) to change their approach. Thankfully, the fact that service operation and service transition have been the parts of ITIL v3 adopted far more than the others, it might not be as big a change as it first appears.

If you’re an ITSM practitioner looking at the ITIL 4 Foundation book – or just reading this and other ITIL 4 blogs – and wondering what to do next, please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Change #3 – there’s now a focus on the “co-creation of value”

There’s also a new definition of what a service is in ITIL 4 – which really needs pointing out if you’re involved in something called IT service management.

What was defined by ITIL v3 as:

“A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.”

Is now defined by ITIL 4 as:

“A means of enabling value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks.”

So, we’ve moved on from delivering value to co-creating value. I like it, but – and it’s a big but – quantifying value, or even determining what it is, from within the IT organization still seems a very tough nut to crack.

Finally, well at least for this change, it’s definitely important to pin down what a service is; and I’m reminded of the pointy-fingered Paul Wilkinson’s many “How many people can tell me what a service is?” questions when he presents at ITSM events. I don’t know how many years Paul has asked this, but he usually only gets a couple of hands raised in a room of 100+ people. Surely, we aren’t a shy bunch?

10 Key Changes in ITIL 4 (and My Take on Them) includes the introduction of ‘co-creation of value’ which needs highlighting if you’re involved in something called IT service management. Click To Tweet

Change #4 – the nine guiding principles of ITIL Practitioner are now seven

Do you remember the ITIL Practitioner Guidance publication? It was, and still is, a great piece of writing (by some great people) delivered in 2016 – you can read more on ITIL Practitioner here.

The Practitioner book offered nine guiding principles (for ITSM):

  1.     Focus on value
  2.     Design for experience
  3.     Start where you are
  4.     Work holistically
  5.     Progress iteratively
  6.     Observe directly
  7.     Be transparent
  8.     Collaborate
  9.     Keep it simple.

These have now been chopped and changed, and added to, for what are now the seven ITIL guiding principles:

  1.     Focus on value
  2.     Start where you are
  3.     Progress iteratively with feedback
  4.     Collaborate and promote visibility
  5.     Think and work holistically
  6.     Keep it simple and practical
  7.     Optimize and automate

It’s great to see these reflected in the SVS above, rather than being something trapped at the edge of the stage. It’s also great to see the addition of “automate” to what was already a great list (of guiding principles) – more on this in a later change.

Change #5 – hmm, there are now even more ITIL 4 practices than there were ITIL v3 processes

My gut feel was that ITIL 4 would return us to the much-loved ITIL v2’s fewer processes – where less is more. Particularly given the low adoption levels of ITIL v3 processes outside of the top 6-10 most commonly-adopted.

However, there are now more ITIL 4 practices (34) than there were ITIL v3 processes (26) – plus the four “functions” – with these 34 split between general management, service management, and technical management practices as follows:

General management practices

  1.     Architecture management
  2.     Continual improvement
  3.     Information security management
  4.     Knowledge management
  5.     Measurement and reporting
  6.     Organizational change management
  7.     Portfolio management
  8.     Project management
  9.     Relationship management
  10.  Risk management
  11.  Service financial management
  12.  Strategy management
  13.  Supplier management
  14.  Workforce and talent management

Service management practices

  1.  Availability management
  2.  Business analysis
  3.  Capacity and performance management
  4.  Change control
  5.  Incident management
  6.  IT asset management
  7.  Monitoring and event management
  8.  Problem management
  9.  Release management
  10.  Service catalogue management
  11.  Service configuration management
  12.  Service continuity management
  13.  Service design
  14.  Service desk
  15.  Service level management
  16.  Service request management
  17.  Service validation and testing

Technical management practices

  1.  Deployment management
  2.  Infrastructure and platform management
  3.  Software development and management

So, one could argue that the real “ITSM scope” comparison between ITIL 4 and ITIL v3 could be made to just the 17 service management practices – which is closer to the level of ITIL v2 than v3. However, a quick scan through the general management practices highlights many more of the ITIL v3 processes (but now practices of course).

The astute among you will have also noticed that the term service management is used here – rather than ITSM – and there’s more on this later when I talk to enterprise service management.

There are also some interesting changes in the service management practices too, with that interest likely to be linked to your role. For me, these are that change management is now “change control” plus the two new areas of business analysis and IT asset management (ITAM).

In terms of the change change (can I get away with this?), if nothing else it will make it easier to talk about (or to Google for) IT-related change activities versus “organizational change management” (which is itself a general management practice). Plus, I’m super-excited about the addition of ITAM – ITSM and ITAM both work so much better when considered and operated together.

Change #6 – the 4 Ps of service management are now the 4 dimensions of service management

“The 4 Ps you say?”

Depending on when you learned about ITIL, you might remember this as “people, process, and technology” which then became “people, process, product, and partners.” If you didn’t know this, then it’s not a problem because it’s now the following four dimensions:

  1.     Organizations and people
  2.     Information and technology
  3.     Partners and suppliers
  4.     Value streams and processes

Which looks like a sexier version on the 4Ps to me.

It’s interesting that the term “processes” still remains in here – I’ll have to ask my good friend, and ITIL 4 Foundation co-author, Stuart Rance the reason. Maybe he can let me know in the comments (this is my way of working out if he reads my blogs of course).

Change #7 – CSI has changed

Sometimes in life, you feel as though you’ve stumbled upon a “best-kept secret” – something that far more people should know about and benefit from. CSI often seems like ITIL’s best-kept secret – although there’s no way it could be a secret with it being one of the five ITIL v3 books. So, maybe it has to-date been more like “most-ignored guidance.”

Anyway, putting my soapbox away, it’s interesting to see that ITIL 4 has updated its CSI model (slightly) – there’s an extra “Take action” step/box that you might miss if not comparing the ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 figures next to each other (yes, I did this). And, importantly, it’s now called “continual improvement” – to reflect more than the improvement of services. I’ll miss the CSI acronym and sadly CI is already taken.

Let’s see if the ITIL SVS and the greater focus on value (co-creation) are enough to kickstart continual improvement for people and their organizations.

Change #8 – governance now has a proper seat at the ITIL table

I normally like to joke that if you ask ten people what governance is, then you’ll get eleven different answers. Then we can often see confusion between governance and management practices.

So, it’s great to see governance sitting so prominently in the ITIL 4 SVS and a full chapter (4.4) on it in the Foundation book, although this is less than one page of text. I imagine that we’ll see much more in later ITIL 4 publications and other resources.

Change #9 – a brighter light has been shone on automation

We work in IT, so most of us will already know that “automation is our friend.” With it helping both individuals and teams to work in a “better, faster, and cheaper” way.

I know my product management colleagues are very big on the power of automation to make the lives of IT pros simpler, and the service and support that’s offered more in line with end-user or customer expectations.

Thus, the inclusion of the new “optimize and automate” guiding principle that I mentioned above is a great realization that the pressures on IT service desks, in particular, are such that failing to benefit from technology-based assistance is a big opportunity missed.

In fact, the explanation of this new guiding principle in the ITIL 4 Foundation book sells the opportunity very nicely:

“Resources of all types, particularly human resources, should be used to their best effect. Eliminate anything that is truly wasteful and use technology to achieve whatever it is capable of. Human intervention should only happen where it really contributes value.”

The phrase “use technology to achieve whatever it is capable of” is also interesting to note – with a tech-head like me reading this as a discreet way of talking to the opportunities of artificial intelligence (AI) without needing to open up a potential can of worms related to what it is, how it can help, how best to approach it, etc.

Hopefully, future ITIL 4 publications and other resources will share practical advice on what works and what doesn’t to further help ITSM practitioners seeking help on the adoption and exploitation of automation (and AI).

Change #10 – enterprise service management is and isn’t mentioned

This is a funny one to talk/write about without spending the time to read the ITIL 4 Foundation book from cover to cover.

When reading the book’s text (in a flicking-through way), there are various phrases that potentially confuse the reader (I’m sure Stuart will explain it to me in simple terms later). For instance, ITIL 4 is described as a “service management framework” – which is fine as the guidance is applicable outside IT as much as inside IT.

But then other text that I picked up on includes:

  • “Service management is evolving, and so is ITIL, the most widely adopted guidance on IT service management (ITSM)”
  • “A comprehensive and versatile toolset for ITSM practitioners”
  • “Key concepts of service management.”

Plus, from what I’ve seen so far, there aren’t that many mentions of ITSM in the book, with “service management” the preferred terminology unless “ITSM” is needed. I have no issue with this given the growth in enterprise service management interest and adoption – we can talk in service management rather than ITSM terms.

But, and it’s another big but, there’s no mention of “enterprise service management” in the book!  Or of “outside IT” or “outside of IT” for that matter. To me, this seems odd given that ITIL 4 is obviously written for non-IT use but there’s no recognition of the industry’s most commonly-used terminology for the use of ITSM outside of IT.

So, that’s my ten key changes in ITIL 4 blog done. What would you have highlighted based on what you’ve seen of ITIL 4 so far? Please let me know in the comments.

Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).

25 thoughts on “10 Key Changes in ITIL 4 (and My Take on Them)”

  1. Avatar Nas

    Thank Joe, I think this is one of best V3 vs. V4 comparing article.

    In terms of practices and processes, I think ITIL V3 content is still needed, together with other best practices content such as Prince 2, IT Risk etc. to design the processes needed to support the practices. Because the V4 Practices alone is just a summary.

    What do you think?


    1. Joe the IT Guy Joe the IT Guy Post author

      Hi Nas, thank you for the kind words! Yes, I agree, ITIL v3 is definitely still needed – at least until the more detailed ITIL 4 publications are released. In terms of using other good/best practices too – yes, you’re spot on again. ITIL 4 is very cognizant of this too.


  2. Avatar Andrea Hoyle

    Great article, IT has been dropped from Service Continuity management, I’m assuming that the scope covers the four dimensions so not just ‘IT’, the ITIL Foundation ITIL4 Edition book doesn’t provide any further clarity


    1. Joe the IT Guy Joe the IT Guy Post author

      Thank you for the comment, Andrea. You raise a great point – I can only assume that the IT has been dropped from Service Continuity Management in line with the IT being dropped from IT Service Management so that the ITIL 4 principles can be used for non-IT use case scenarios. However, the Foundation Edition section on this opens by talking about IT and services, which might be fair given that little happens these days without IT. And will also include the 4 dimensions no matter the business function delivering services. Ultimately, I think we’re going to have to wait for the more detailed ITIL 4 content from AXELOS to really understand what has changed here.
      Cheers, Joe


  3. Avatar mishan

    After reading your article, I was amazed. I know that you explain it very well. And I hope that other readers will also experience how I feel after reading your article.


  4. Avatar Alexander Petrov

    Undoubtedly, ITIL 4 needs to be treated with due respect as it is the result of the work of many experts. However, it seems to me that ITIL is still unable to provide an accurate description of the terms to become a standard in ITSM practice. Still used terms are fuzzy, common and ITIL itself is becoming increasingly separate from IT. But the first signs of the return to IT in the dialectic spiral – the introduction of automatisation as a principle.


    1. Joe the IT Guy Joe the IT Guy Post author

      Thank you for the comment Alexander. Like any documented view on anything, even when created “by committees,” there will always be varying definitions as to what something is. It’s the nature of language. I’m sure the ITIL authors deliberated long and hard on how best to describe the various aspects of ITSM fully knowing that each and every one would still be considered “not right” by some. Even automatization.


  5. Avatar Russ Bellon

    Is there any hope for ITIL 5 that we can get away from the excessive semanitc narrowing inherent in ITIL terms?

    For example, it’s maddening (to me) that “Partners and suppliers” are not “Organizations and people”. I realise that this kind of repurposing of common language to coin pointers to novel concepts is used in other technical lexicons, but none so egregiously (in mu experience) as ITIL.

    I would much prefer my 4 Ps to be something like P.O&P, P.I&T. P.P&S and P.Vs&P. Then, when using the terms in communication with actual people, they could be defined for those who aren’t familiar, rather than have people make assumptions based on the common meanings of the words we use in everyday speech.


    1. Joe the IT Guy Joe the IT Guy Post author

      Thanks for your comment. It’s not really my place to comment on why certain terminology was chosen for ITIL 4, the reasons behind it, etc. So I’ve asked my good friend Akshay Anand from AXELOS to provide an official response. I hope that this helps.


      1. Avatar Akshay Anand

        “Partners and suppliers” are external to the organisation, but are used to create new or modify existing resources. Yes, they are organisations and people too, but in the Four Dimensions model, they are separated out as they are not part of the service provider’s management and governance, but are linked to them through contracts or agreements. And you won’t find the 4Ps model in the ITIL 4 Foundation book.

      2. Avatar Roman Zillek

        I’m totally with Russ on this, for example: Why is there a differentiation between a business and a technical service when the existence of SLAs vs OLAs, catalogue items, contracts etc. define the service scope anyways ???

  6. Avatar Doug Melville

    Thankyou for th earticle, you raiased some good points, but I have a number of concerns about this. Largely because I don’t believe that the way ITIL is currently used, matches either the expectations of the ITIL founders or the needs of the service users.

    Secondly, I don’t believe that a framework designed explicitly with a technology focus is an appropriate vehicle to incorporate entire disciplines such as Knowledge Management, or simply baldly to include a bit marked ‘information’; as if this is a byproduct of technology and not the reverse.

    I believe that ITIL can be a very useful tool, provided; it is adopted in part or in full in context, without creating a straitjacket for operations, or simply used as a badge to defend an IT shop.


    1. Joe the IT Guy Joe the IT Guy Post author


      You’ve clearly had some very negative experiences of ITIL somewhere. When I read that you “…don’t believe that the way ITIL is currently used, matches either the expectations of the ITIL founders or the needs of the service users”, I can understand why you are skeptical. And it’s quite a pity, as there are many organizations that have adopted ideas from ITIL and gained enormous value from them.

      You also say that ITIL is “…a framework designed explicitly with a technology focus,” which has some truth, but I think it has moved on a long way since the 1980’s, as have we all. ITIL 4 does make references to technology, but the main focus is on how to use services to co-create value with a range of stakeholders, and these ideas are appropriate for any organization.

      I think you are absolutely right when you say that ITIL should be adopted in context, and should never be used to create a straitjacket for operations. Like every other framework it needs to be used wisely. I hope that the new guiding principles will help many organizations understand how to use ideas from ITIL effectively, so that it genuinely does help them co-create value with their stakeholders.


    2. Avatar Akshay Anand

      I agree ITIL – or any other framework, for that matter – should be contextualised. However, I think perhaps this short article may have glossed over some of the finer points about practices. Practices were categorised based on their origin. So the general management practices (Knowledge Management, Info Sec, etc.) are adopted from methods and frameworks used by the business, and adapted for use by Service Management. It isn’t the intention to recreate Knowledge Management/ Project Management/ Risk Management/ etc. frameworks within ITIL, but to acknowledge their existence, and their impact on Service Management. We don’t want to incorporate entire disciplines (as you put it) but would prefer to point to these frameworks and provide guidance on how they can be integrated with ITIL.


  7. Avatar Stuart Rance

    Responding to:
    “It’s interesting that the term “processes” still remains in here – I’ll have to ask my good friend, and ITIL 4 Foundation co-author, Stuart Rance the reason. Maybe he can let me know in the comments (this is my way of working out if he reads my blogs of course).”

    Of course I read your blogs Joe. I always enjoy them.
    Processes are included in ITIL 4 beause we need them. A process is “…activities that transform inputs into outputs…”. It’s just that things like incident management or change control are MUCH more than just processes. AND processes have to be linked together into value streams if we want to make sure we are creating value. However good you are at change control, it won’t create value by itself, it’s part of a much bigger value stream that takes demand and creates value.


    1. Avatar Stephen Tonge

      I’m probably the only person who think this, but so far ITIIL v4 looks like the ‘Kings New Clothes’. They’ve stripped away the framework (which admittedly was being used rather more rigidly than intended), and come up with some nice new concepts and diagrams, but I get the feeling like I want to know to more, without all the waffle. I have to agree with your comment about CSI being ITIL’s ‘best kept secret’, but which in reality has been completely ignored, but I don’t see how ITIL V4 is going to improve this. I know there needed a bit of an overhaul, and I was really looking forward for guidance about Digital Transformation, which has become a massive buzzword in my organisation. I like the inclusion of Measurement and Reporting as a practise. I also like the broadening of the scope to the entire organisation, particularly with Inclusion of ‘Workforce & Talent Management’ as a practice, but to be honest the whole practice thing looks a bit of a mess. I know we are looking for more flexibility but the skill would have been hang these practices on something a little more tangible. I think the writers have bottled out on this one. I am looking forward to the ITIL v4 conversion course for ITIL v3 Experts. Hopefully, my concerns will addressed. Ok, I have said what I think, now I’m being ready to be shot down big time, but that’s cool!


      1. Joe the IT Guy Joe the IT Guy Post author

        Hi Stephen, thanks for the comment and your points. First, you are not alone. Second, we are all going to need to wait on the more detailed ITIL 4 content later in the year to see what works better and what doesn’t. I’m waiting too!
        Thanks, Joe

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