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Published on 29 January 2020

ITIL4®: A New Paradigm for Service Management?

ITIL4®: A New Paradigm for Service Management?

The Service Management community has experienced a major change in 2019 with the release of ITIL4 from AXELOS. After a training in December last year and navigating with this framework for many years in my previous and current positions, find below my review of the new platform available to those handling management of IT Services in their daily job. Big news ahead!


Compared to ITIL v3, should we consider ITIL4 an update/upgrade from the last release in 2011 or a notable shift to a new pattern for IT Service Management? This article will try to provide insights on these new released guidance (not “best practices” anymore) regulating service management for modern organizations, and what is the mindset behind it.

What about ITIL4 new main concepts?

ITIL is the most adopted #ITSM framework around the world for companies of various sizes in all kind of industries. What does it look like now in its version 4 and what could be the potential impacts for practioners and organizations?

Released in 2019, the ITIL4 framework expands itself to the wider context of customer experience, value streams and digital transformation. It has evolved beyond the delivery of services to promoting value co-creation. New core concepts are focusing on generation of this co-creation of value with involvement of multiple stakeholders apart from the users themselves, with 2 key bricks the Service Value System (SVS) and the 4 Dimensions (4D) as illustrated below on Figure 1.

Figure 1: SVS and 4D, the 2 core concepts of ITIL4

Thus, organizations are now encouraged to maximize creation of value with their customers by facilitating the outcomes they want to achieve, but also with other surrounding stakeholders (regulators, suppliers, external providers, etc.), as well as themselves, to generate more impact around all the services provided and the perceived value. This looks interesting!

Novelties of the redesigned framework

Concept 1: The SVS to lead to value co-creation and bring more agility and resilience to service management

The SVS brick is designed to promote "how all the components and activities of an organization work together to facilitate value creation", in other words how to deliver the value expected by customers, based on opportunity/demand. The ITIL4 SVS includes the following elements that we will try to analyze in the rest of the section:

- Guiding principles,
- Governance,
- Service Value Chain (SVC),
- Continual improvement,
- Practices.

Should we see make any parallel between SVS and Service Management System (SMS) from ISO 20K? This is only the Foundation content, with a high-level overview, but it gives an idea of where the ITIL leadership community wants to go and why the service lifecycle from ITIL v3 was abandonned... a strong denial for ITIL v3 service lifecycle principles? And that it could not be "reshaped" to fit the modern IT World requirements?

Guiding principles:

Fundamentally, guiding principles “guide an organization in all circumstances, regardless of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or management structure”. These 9 items are defined to encourage organizations in continual improvement also: focus on value, work holistically, keep it simple, design for experience, progress iteratively, collaborate, start where you are, observe directly and be transparent (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: The 9 guiding principles

As regularly observed during audits, these “basic” principles are often underestimated in many organizations. The new framework encourages all organizations to define them as core values across the IT department teams, to promote a generic scheme/pattern in order to deliver more efficiently. To help leverage these 9 principles, communication is key to create an impactful and lasting momentum. No major news there.


This component is less detailed at this stage and divided into 3 steps: evaluate, direct and monitor. Let’s see with time how this part of the framework ties in with COBIT, especially its 2019 version. So far, no significant information was shared around governance.

Service Value Chain

This 3rd component is the central and critical part of the SVS, again should we see similarities with ISO 20K? As illustatred on Figure 3, the SVC consists of the 6 usual phases of service management (Plan / Improve / Engage / Design&Transition / Obtain&Build / Deliver&Support) to deliver the expected value for products or services representing the desired outcomes from the customers (without assuming risks and costs).

Figure 3: The Service Value Chain, a flexible approach to create value

Any parallel to ITIL v3 is difficult to produce for this component, SVC is stated as “a set of interconnected activities that an organization performs to deliver a valuable product or service to its consumers and to facilitate value realization”. Thus, this component should help to define practices (see below) in a flexible manner, even combining efforts from various practices (probably reason why products/services are plural on Figure 3) to promote the value (co-)creation. More explanations from higher level books would be required to see how to articulate this information in a practical context. Unfortunately, I was left unsatisfied and hungry for more.

Continual Improvement

Aligned with the previous version of the framework, this component remains essential as all organizations must improve and make their services evolve to the constantly changing needs of their customers and the technologies available on the market. The continual improvement model with 7 steps (see below on Figure 4) is slightly reshaped compare to ITIL v3 but with the same mindset to keep it recurring and cyclic, as well as involving all parties contributing to the different services provided to avoid working in silos. It should be easily tied with the SVC presented above to maximize benefits to all stakeholders involved in the organization. However, no more PDCA[1] or DIKW[2] are mentioned in the syllabus.

Figure 4: The Continual Improvement lifecycle

The 34 Management Practices

The major change! From 26 “processes” with ITIL v3, they have now been helpfully split into 34 “management practices” of 3 types (General Management (14), Service Management (17) and Technical Management (3), see Figure 5) to gain more granularity on certain aspects, deployment and release activities are now separated. Similarly, differentiating “Organizational Change Management” from “Change Control” makes clearer some aspects that were confusing in the past with the old version of Change Management. Essential information, the ITIL v3 distribution of the processes across the service lifecycle phases has been abandoned.

Figure 5: 34 Management Practices in ITIL4 supported by the SVC

Practices are distinct from processes: fundamentally a practice is defined as a combination of activities to complete an objective, or like we need to say now an outcome. This includes processes, but other factors such as human resources, technology, costs, etc. to perform these activities should also be taken into consideration. Thus, all ITIL4 practices seem to have been refreshed to reflect the evolution of ITSM and current ways of working and the framework still state that organizations should define tailor-made processes, aligned with their specific requirements.

Surprisingly, no flow-charts are available in the current training provided, so typically what would be the impact for incident management? This “flexible” approach will probably represent the biggest challenge for company to adopt this new framework. The SVC design approach to create a more comprehensive approach towards practices and value co-creation seems very challenging at this stage for current ITIL practioners.

Finally, as no more detailed processes are defined, Agile ITSM is also introduced and other frameworks and integrate with new ways of working including DevOps, Lean, IT governance and leadership. Overall, intentions are clearly to make this framework a more flexible and scalable operating model but at what cost for the core ITIL concepts?

Concept 2: The 4 Dimensions

One of the major impacts is the replacement of the traditional 4P[3] from ITIL v3 by the 4 Dimensions approach impacting the SVS in all its components. The 4D are all critical to promote an efficient and effective service delivery: none should be omitted in the design of value co-creation approach and encouraging them work in synergic manner is highly recommended. The list of 4 dimensions is as follows :

   1. Organizations and People,
   2. Information and Technology,
   3. Partners and Suppliers,
   4. Value Streams and Processes.

Surrounding factors should not be omitted, especially from risk management perspective: there are six environmental factors (PESTLE), and as a result they must be considered, positively or negatively, as they coexist around the 4D:
- Political,
- Economical,
- Social,
- Technological,
- Legal,
- Environmental.

Each dimension was revisited to follow new trends on the market such as technology (e.g. Cloud) and data (e.g. API), managed services, offshoring, role of integrators, etc. In few words, what seems as key takeaways is:

   1. Organizations and People: cultural aspects are emphasized, together with culture of trust with talent and competence programs, leaders should steer the organization towards a positive and productive environment.

   2. Information and Technology: what caught my attention most, in today’s world where “data is the new oil”. As stated, social media, (cyber)security, UI/UX, as-a-Service solutions, etc. nothing cannot be omitted. Result is that all service providers should be ready to invest in new technologies to stay ahead of their competitors.

   3. Partners and Suppliers: in today’s world where outsourcing with nearshoring or even offshoring approaches are becoming the new standard for many organizations to refocus on their core business, the management of partners and suppliers, as well as contract management should be integrated effectively as a new dogma.

   4. Value Streams and Processes: if the core concept has shifted to value co-creation, value and processes remains as gears to articulate the delivery of any organization. A value stream is a specific journey through the service value chain, starting with demand and ending with value creation. Each value stream may also include contributions from many different practices.


What a change... with a step too far? If v2 to v3 symbolized a significant upgrade of the framework towards service delivery improvement, this version 4 makes practioners almost start from scratch. From my understanding and perspectives, after 8 years navigating with ITIL v3[4], this represents more than a major disruptive change in the framework (with significant overlaps with other frameworks).

Clearly the service lifecycle described in v3 had too much dust on top of its concepts and needed to be modernized to fit with actual agile and modern practices around digital transformation (Scrum, DevOps, AI/ML, etc.), but a complete revamp of the framework including removal of the service lifecycle approach seems quite surprising as the previous design (with workflows) could be customized successfully to fit most organization needs. As mentioned, it seems a denial of the previous framework. This more flexible architecture seems to contain more generic guidelines and will probably require more work to be deployed efficiently, and in my opinion more time to be adopted to allow work in synergistic ways across an organization.

Will it bring benefits to the first ones attempting to revisit their practices? Let’s figure it out in few months, when more companies and practioners have spent time working with this redesigned framework. The other upcoming books will unveil more about the framework, and how the novel certification scheme (see below) allows all practioners to adopt it. To be continued in #2020!

Figure 6: ITIL4 Certification Scheme

[1] Plan, Do, Check, Act

[2] Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom

[3] People, Product, Partners, Process.

[4] AXELOS states that ITIL4 does not invalidate earlier versions of ITIL, and the processes as specified in ITIL v3 are therefore still valid guidance.

Gregory FRANC

Practice Leader APAC

Article written by
Gabrielle Guerrini