It's all about ITIL! Do you know your ITIL history from v1 all the way to the upcoming ITIL4?

In episode 46 of the ITSM Crowd we were joined by some of the ITIL aristocracy. Ivor Macfarlane was part of the ITIL author team from version 1 onwards, Karen Ferris was an author for v3 and a lead architect for ITIL Practitioner, and Stuart Rance was a v3 author, lead architect for ITIL Practitioner and is part of the ITIL4 team of architects.

You can watch the episode below, and ask follow up questions to our panel using the hashtag 'ITSMCrowd' on twitter.

You can read the full transcript below, but in brief we covered:

  • ITIL v1 - who wrote it, why, and how did it evolve into v2?
  • ITIL v3 and ITIL Practitioner - including a top tip to display these 9 guiding principles in your workspace
  • ITIL4 - what's coming next

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Coming up....

In September we'll be talking to Chris Pope from ServiceNow about continual improvement (and automating it!) - date TBC.

On October 24th at 4pm UK time we're joined by Hannah Foxwell from Pivotal and Daniel Breston from Virtual Clarity to talk about HumanOps - what is it, why it's important, and its implications for service management. See you then!

Not a fan of video? Read the full transcript of the session here.

The word Claire in a speech bubble

Welcome everyone to a brilliant episode of the ITSM Crowd, I am really, really looking forward to this one, my name is Claire Agutter, I’m going to be the host for today’s session.  And this one is all about ITIL, you might have heard unless you’ve been living under a rock that there is a new version of ITIL coming out very soon.  So, we thought what we’d do is take an opportunity to look at where ITIL actually came from. This is something that’s been of huge significance for service management practitioners, it’s been a massive part of my career, so it’s a really nice opportunity to have a bit of a retrospective look at where ITIL has come from, where we are right now and also where it’s going as well.   So, I am joined today by an amazing panel with I dread to think how many years of ITIL experience between them.  I am going to let them introduce themselves, so starting from the left on my screen, Ivor if you’ve like to say hello?

Ivor in a speech bubble



Hi, I’ve been doing ITIL since 1989, been involved in V1, V2, V3 all those kinds of things, so just very old. 

Karen in a speech bubble


Yes, I’ve been involved, well I did my ITIL Manager's Certificate as it was back then in 1995, so I’ve been involved since then and have been involved with some of the publications and contributions to ITIL over the years.

Stuart in a speech bubble


Hello, yes, I’ve been involved in ITIL about the same length of time as Karen since mid to late '90s, so I did my Managers Certificate in V2 and then did all the V3 stuff and I contributed to V2 and V3 and various other publications.

The word Claire in a speech bubble

Thank you very much, so you’ll spot there’s a theme with our guests today. What we’ve done is we’ve invited people who have not just been involved with ITIL but who have actually helped to shape ITIL by contributing to the ITIL publications.  So, you know in terms of the ITIL aristocracy I guess, we’ve got the cream of the crop here today.  We are also going to take live questions throughout the broadcast, if you’ve got anything that you would like to ask our panel, so if you just put your questions onto Twitter use the #itsmscrowd, we will pick those up and we will get to them during the broadcast if we can, so I’ll be keeping an eye on those as we go as well.  I got involved with ITIL when it was version 2 so I took my V2 Foundation when I was working on an IT Helpdesk and then very quickly progressed on to take my V2 Manager's and since then I’ve taken all of the ITIL V3 Certs as part of my job and being a trainer.  I’ve then taken a lot of other related service manager qualifications but for me ITIL really kind of changed the course of my career and it’s been something I’ve been involved with for about 20 years now.  But I didn’t come in at the very beginning, so I am going to ask you to kick us off please Ivor and just share a little bit about version 1 of ITIL where it came from and what the reason for the creation of ITIL actually was.

Ivor in a speech bubble

Okay, thank you, I wasn’t quite at the very beginning but as they say in the trade, very close.   I was working for the UK government civil service and I did what people in big organisations do, I applied for a job because it was a promotion.  And then after I got the job I asked what it was, and I was in a branch, joined a branch called GITIMM Government IT Infrastructure Management Method.  And they had a silly corridor conversation and decided it wasn’t going to be a Method, it was going to be a collection of books, so they changed the name to the IT Infrastructure Library.  A library with a collection of books.  A guy called Pete Skinner who was the man who invented this idea, a real father of this idea. Peter realised that UK government was creating great software but wasn’t getting any benefit out of it, it wasn’t running properly.  So, they decided that what they would do was go out to the private sector, because this was the height of Thatcherism.  And therefore, private sector obviously got everything right, public sector got everything wrong, this was the directive from the top of government.  So, this branch was formed basically to go out and look at what private sector did, what good guys did, write that down produce some books that UK government would then follow so that we would actually deliver services effectively, we didn’t use that word so much then.  How we actually make the good IT good and deliver value.  We were right in some respects that UK government was abysmal at delivering IT, what we’d failed to spot was that practically everybody else was as well.  So, we started writing the books and then people started knocking on our door from the private sector saying this is good, we are going to buy this book including a little company from Holland called Pink Elephant, who said can we sell your books in Holland. And we said you can sell them anywhere your like, and so to our surprise these books of guidance we were writing, service management help desk was where we were starting functional based books.  Not even processed base, functional based these books started getting sold and picked up by the private sector, banking industry probably first and then the Netherlands just took to it like a duck to water.  So, we found that we were writing guidance that was being picked up by much wider audience than we had expected.  We were all of us, sort of sure that somewhere in the US there was something way better than this and we were just doing some little British or European thing.  And it was amazing when we discovered that we’d actually been the first people in the world to write it down.  Now if we’d thought that we were the first people doing this, and it was going to be taken up around the world for sure, we would not have been allowed to do it.  It really was I think an accident that there was such a big gap in the market that we happened to plug.  But it happened, and it started selling and it started being taken up, so we’ve started producing books.  That’s what the first book looked like (holds up book).

Very old, very naff, very 1980s that one, one of the ones that I managed and made happen on testing.  Well we produced about 40 of these between 1989 the first ones came out and we really finished with about 26 or so ITIL books. The biggest thing that I want to say before I run out of time here, is that we produced the books and this whole industry grew around it. 

We did feed the training industry, we funded the British Computer Society to have this good idea to write an exam.  I sat the first exam in March 1991 and then other people started writing software around it.  The first company to use ITIL terminology in their software they went away and re-wrote it to use ITIL terms back in 1991.  And then UltraComp wrote Red Box around the way ITIL worked and then as you know now lots of other companies are coming to do it.  So, the training industry came in around this core of the books, the software industry came in around the core of the books.  Conferences started appearing, itSMF, IMF originally. So, what happened which I think is a good hand over into what version 2 picked up from which the books became the core of a way, way bigger thing.  And I wrote the marketing book back in the late 90s of version 1.  And it was outsourced to EXIN and I was running it for them, I wrote in there that the books themselves ITIL itself is probably less than 3% of the ITIL related turnover in the industry.  And I think probably it’s even bigger now, that’s an important thing that came out of ITIL, what this little kernel of the books turned into something way bigger.  And so now people use the term ITIL to mean something actually a lot bigger than that collection of books and I think that was the real strength of it, that it became this sort of self-managing community as it were. 

The word Claire in a speech bubble


And I think community is a real big part of ITIL’s success because I know all the time I’ve been involved with it, that there always has been community and people collaborating on books and white papers and you know even though it is this massive huge financial piece.  There is this real still strong sense of community and that’s important.

Ivor in a speech bubble

It was massively important at the beginning and again we gave some seed corn to do this to make itSMF the user group happen, and David Wheeldon actually made that happen in the end along with a few other people and others.  But the books were written, my name was in this book, I didn’t write it, we got some help to write it, I have written some other stuff, but I always said that you could actually just take an extract from the phone directory and put it in an ITIL book.  Send it out for QA and it will come out back as a really good book.  This massive community would look at it, and it wasn’t that we deliberately wrote it badly, we did our best and put it out there.  But it came back from QA massively better and I think that community has taken us forward and I think if you look at where Version 2 and Version 3 have taken us you can see that.

The word Claire in a speech bubble


Tell us a little bit about the transition to Version 2 then Ivor and then we’re going to move on and Karen is going to share a bit about Version 3.

Ivor in a speech bubble

The original outsourcing of ITIL after we’d written the books was in 1995, went out to EXIN and I went with it and my job was to get the books rewritten.  So, I kicked that off and then CCTA decided they shouldn’t have outsourced it and brought it back in-house.  So, they took the work that I’d been doing and moved me out, not that I’m bitter at all!  They brought that work back in-house and then decided instead of 20 books they’d produced 5 bigger books.  And that then became a sort of internal project to take the guidance and move it from a functional based approach to a processed based approach which was modelling mirroring the international standard.  Well first the British Standard had been the first process focused approach and that I think influenced very strongly where Version 2 went. 

The word Claire in a speech bubble

Yes, so that BS1500 that became ISO/IEC20000 which is also being updated this year as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in that.  So V2 that was where I started with ITIL and the kind of the main books then that formed most of the training was Service Support and Service Delivery and they were kind of the ITIL 'bibles' for me at the time.  I had them in the boot of my car for such a long time for whenever I was working. But then we had 2007 was it Karen we moved onto Version 3?

Karen in a speech bubble

Yes, it’s interesting thing you said that Claire because a lot of people saw ITIL V2 and the panel can correct me, as the red and the blue book, Service Support and Service Delivery, and yes there a lot more in the library, for me Planning to Implement was one of the most important books. 

Very few people knew about it, if you’re talking about you know the people side of change and organisational change and transitions  that was the one to read.  But most people just saw the red and the blue book.  So yes 2007, Version 3, I remember being very excited about hearing what was coming and being involved in it.  And there was a fundamental shift that it went from as Ivor said like a shift from V1 to 2 to a process, to a lifecycle approach.  So, we came up, or we ended up with, the 5 books, Strategy, Design, Transition, Operation and Continual Service Improvement.  And I still believe that was the right way to go, it did cause some deliberation especially I think for the training organisations that had with just operations and delivery a fairly narrow and deep syllabus if you like, if that’s the word.  To shallower and wider because they had to cover 26 processes across the whole of the lifecycle.  

But I do believe that lifecycle approach is the right thing to do, so where ITIL is today with Version 3 I think it’s interesting times, I think there’s still a perception in the market place when you talk to people about ITIL, it’s 'ITIL or' not it’s 'ITIL and'.  And it’s like 'oh we are doing ITIL' or 'we’re not doing ITIL because we’re doing X' or 'we’re agile and we can’t do ITIL' and there’s still this perception and you go back to Version 1 of ITIL that always said from day one 'adopt and adapt', adapt and adopt.  This is what we’ve gathered as Ivor said, we’ve gathered this from what we believe successful organisations were doing in the area of service management.  And we pulled it together, so here you go, here’s what we believe is best practice.  Fill your boots, pick what’s fit for purpose, what works for you and you can also you know use other frameworks and approaches if you want.  But for some reason people have still gone no I’ve got to do it word for word, whatever it says that best practice, it’s word for word. 

So, I think that’s still a challenge, one of the things we did a few years ago was the ITIL Practitioner and again I was involved in that as one of the architects along with Stuart and that was a really exciting piece of work.  And that really was trying to help people who had done some sort of training or some certification and say okay, you know the theory you understand what incident management is you understand what service management is etc. Here’s the piece that you need now in the jigsaw of where do I start back in the work place.  I love what I’ve learnt but what do I now do with it, where do I start, you know so it’s not like start from the scratch it was no you’ve got somebody in the organisation.  If your organisation is not doing some sort of incident management and change management and problem management they’d be out of business.

So, you are doing something, however, discombobulated it might be.  So, this is where you need to start, and these are the things you need to pull on and what Practitioner did was also pull in from agile and lean and DevOps and started to talk about how you can integrate those sorts of mindsets and thinking into service management.  So, it was moving towards more of a service management as a practice if you like, underpinned by ITIL and other things as well.  So, I think I don’t know what Stuart’s going to say I think going forward I am hoping that we’re going to have more emphasis on that integration and stop talking about alignment.  Alignment is saying we never ever converge.

The word Claire in a speech bubble

Yes, and so I think at the moment that’s where we are, so we're on ITIL Version 3, the 2011 version. There was an upgrade in 2011. 

Where we are now is that ITIL is just now ITIL it’s no longer the IT Infrastructure Library because there was this feeling that maybe IT and Infrastructure isn’t all of what ITIL does.  So ITIL is kind of a word now rather than an abbreviation.

So, if we move onto Stuart now, Stuart has been involved in ITIL practitioner, he was also involved as one of the RESILIA authors and he’s now one of the lead architects for ITIL Version 4.  ITIL Version, no ITIL 4 it is not Version 4, ITIL 4, still quite a lot of the information is under wraps, so Stuart’s going to share what he can, but there may be some things that are not public information yet.  But Stuart’s kindly agreed to talk to us about the future direction of ITIL, whilst still respecting NDA’s, so Stuart I’ll hand over to you at this point.

Stuart in a speech bubble

Yes, we can edit the video later!  It’s interesting listening to that evolution because I think ITIL 4 will continue the evolution that we’ve seen already. I was really interested to see how we went from a very infrastructure focus with ITIL V1 and lots of separate stacks of this is what a service desk is and then in V2 we tried to kind of tie it altogether a bit more but there was a very strong focus on 'the purpose of IT is to meet an SLA' and all these processes will enable you to meet your SLA and if you’ve met your SLA you’ve done everything you need to and your customer will be happy.  Didn’t kind of pan out that well did it, but having said that when I first learnt about ITIL, most organisations that were running IT were quite disorganised and it was techies doing what they thought was right.  And actually, bringing in a bit of discipline and a bit of process a bit of measurement and a bit of reporting was very valuable at that time, it was a stage we needed to go through to get to where we went next.  

In ITIL V3 I think one of the most important things that changed was the definition of a service and that was important because we started talking about value finally.  We moved from saying if you’ve met your SLA you’ve done what you need to, to if you’ve delivered value to your customers, you’ve done what you need to. And that was a very different perspective it meant that you could no longer really, if you adopted it wholeheartedly, you could no longer hide because an SLA and say we’ve delivered the SLA go away.  Because the purpose of what you were doing is to actually create value by making services happen.  

And I think going into the future, we’re going to see more of that, that there will be much bigger value focus and a value system focus within ITIL.  We’re moving away from a focus on doing the processes, I'm doing incidents, you’re doing problems, she’s doing changes, towards a much more integrated value system, we are working together to create value for our stakeholders.  Some of whom are customers, some whom are not customers and that value creation is facilitated by things that we call incident and problem and change management but those aren’t goals, and none of them stands alone.  They’re all part of an integrated system, so you can see how that’s kind of not a sudden change it’s an evolution, similarly if we look at what happened when we brought in ITIL Practitioner.  

One of the bits of ITIL Practitioner that I think has gone down best in the market place is the guiding principles.  This was, we’d always said to people adopt and adapt and never told them how or what we really meant, we said adopt and adapt means you take the bits you like, and you change them to work for you.  With practitioner we introduced this idea of guiding principles, things like focus on value, work holistically, keep it simple, collaborate. And we talked about what they meant, and we talked about how you could take these guiding principles and rather than saying adopt and adapt, we said right focus on value, that means everything you need to do you need to understand how is this creating value for somebody.  We said work holistically which meant get away from focusing on your silo and think about how you fit into an end to end value. Again, that whole idea of guiding principles that you tie it all together is coming forwards as a really core part, it’s not going to be in a separate publication absolutely at the core of ITIL, as a system it creates value, it’s based on principles. 

The word Claire in a speech bubble

Yes, because I think from, speaking from the perspective of a training provider as well, some of our customers I don’t think understood how Practitioner fitted in with the rest of ITIL and I think that was a real shame because some of the value that Practitioner should be delivering was maybe missed a little bit because of that.

Stuart in a speech bubble

So, at the time we produced Practitioner and I think Karen will back me up on this, I think a bunch of us sat around the table and said what’s missing where does ITIL need to go next?  So, we didn’t really think about it in relation to an exam system, we thought about in relation to guidance.  What do people need to know, and the practitioner exams has always been a bit odd the way it sits at the side of the exam system. Where as now those ideas of systems approach, guiding principles become the core of ITIL not something else at the side.  We still have incident management and problem management and all of those things but there’s much less focus on them and what do I mean by much less focus?

You know the way people have mis-used ITIL in the past they’ve gone into an ITIL book and they’ve found a flow chart, for example,  incident management will be this, every one of those said here’s an example.  But people ignored that, they examined that, they tried to implement that whether or not it was the right flow chart for their business. It was never intended that way, three quarters of what was in the current ITIL books was examples and have gone forward into exams into canon I don’t mean into David Cannon, I mean into law. So, what we’re trying to do with so things like incident management, we’ll pare it back a bit, if we are going to give examples they won’t be in the core guidance because of the way they’re been mis-used in the past.  

What will be there is guidance, is what incident management is about, why you’re doing it, how it creates value, how it contributes to your overall system.  But don’t expect the next version of ITIL to have a flow chart that says the first step of incident management is this, the second step is this, the third step is that, the fourth step is the other.  Because it’s no longer an appropriate way of guiding people.

What else?  I am just trying to think, yes, the other thing the mistake with the process-based approach is that we had functions and we had processes and they were kind of almost separate weren’t they, we’re looking now at something whatever you do, you need to think of it from a people and organisational perspective.  From an information and technology perspective, from a partners and suppliers perspective, from a value stream and process perspective and an activity perspective for everything not just sometimes we’re doing functions and then we’ll talk about organisations and people.  

And sometimes there are processes and then we talk about activities, but if you talk about incident management then what does incident management mean in terms of organisations and people and what does it mean in terms of partners and suppliers and what does it mean in terms of activities and processes and the value systems. So, you’ll find it’s a lot more integrated, things like the service lifecycle will be going forwards in a slightly different form, but not as the core of what we’re talking about.  It would be much more around building a system that creates value for your stakeholders.  And I’ve probably already said far more than I should have done, I'll stop talking for a few minutes!

The word Claire in a speech bubble

I love that idea and I think one of the reasons ITIL often gets criticised is it’s seen as being too bureaucratic and too rigid whereas in fact I think what you’ve just got there is the fact that organisations have been doing this for in some instances decades.  And adding bits without taking anything away and you know one of the DevOps conferences I was at, somebody said that process is scar tissue that organisations build up over time.  Which made a huge amount of sense so maybe ITIL 4 is that opportunity to kind of go back to first principles and say well you know what are we actually trying to achieve with change management when we brought it in. Because it wasn’t about the forms, it was about protecting our services and it was about delivering value.  That sounds like a really positive step to me.

Ivor in a speech bubble


I hope it will go down well, I’m really pleased with where we’ve got to.  I am sure people will criticise it, however much time and effort you put in, they’ll find the spelling errors and the grammar errors and the bits they don’t agree with and that’s fine, that’s life. 

The word Claire in a speech bubble

Yes, there is definitely no one size fits all and I think as the world moves on as well and more and more processes is automated as well the whole flowchart becomes less meaningful and I think that’s where elements of DevOps thinking do come in.  Automated delivery pipelines and things they don’t fit with your twice weekly change advisory board anymore.

Ivor in a speech bubble

And that’s why everything needs to be looked at through an information and technology lens as well as through an activity in process lens and an organisational and people lens because you can’t just look at one.  And you can’t use them one at a time, it’s like the guiding principles you don’t say I am going to focus on value today and then tomorrow I’ll think holistically and then the day after I’ll collaborate, you’ve got to do all of them all the time, you know.

The word Claire in a speech bubble


Absolutely agree.  Just a question then, the guiding principles, because I think people should download them and put them on their wall.  Is there anywhere that they can go and get them?


(Yes - the link is here! 9 guiding principles)

We are coming to the end so we’re going to be wrapping up anyway but that would probably be my top tip for somebody would be to go and find those guiding principles put them on your wall.

Ivor in a speech bubble

It’s nice from the very beginning and see that we’ve gone back to in a constructive full circle.  The things that Stuart were saying, we actually were saying back in 1990 that here is advice, here is guidance kind of thing.  One of the last blogs I had published was saying exactly what Stuart has just been saying there, you need to think about functions and you need to think about process, you need to think about service you need to think about people all of them all the time.  That’s what we were trying to say before and it got lifted off into people seeing it as holy writ.

The word Claire in a speech bubble


We are coming to the end of time, but I’ve just got one question that’s come in on Twitter which I am going to put to your Stuart but if it’s not something you can answer at the moment, feel free to say.  But somebody is asking does ITIL 4 reference SIAM, DevOps, Lean anything else that’s happening in the industry at the moment?

Stuart in a speech bubble


I don’t know. I mean sure it will incorporate ideas from all of those things and nobody could sit down and write a publication about how to manage IT services that doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the world could they?

The word Claire in a speech bubble


Yes, and I think coming back to Ivor’s original bit of history as well, it’s fascinating to me how much good stuff has come out of public sector, because it was ITIL, PRINCE 2, SIAM has originated in UK government and public sector as well.  I think it’s interesting that maybe these places were the budgets are tight, but the value still has to be delivered, that really drives people to think differently.  But we’re going to have to wrap up now unfortunately, that’s been absolutely brilliant.

Thank you to all our guests!