Why you should care about the new ITIL


A new version of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) was released on May 30, and network managers could be forgiven for saying “Who cares?”

After all, previous iterations of the widely deployed set of IT best practices have largely focused on helping CIOs and other executive-level thinkers better map out their business computing philosophies. For many sysadmins, discussions of ITIL carried a “head-in-the-clouds” flavour and simply didn’t apply to their more hands-on responsibilities.

With Version 3, however, ITIL has changed in ways that could help network managers better communicate their needs to upper management and ultimately create smoother running infrastructures.

First and foremost, ITIL has caught up with today’s technologies. When Version 2 really began to gain traction in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many of today’s enterprise software platforms had either not arrived, or existed in crude forms of the versions they have evolved into today.

As concepts such as business services management and enterprise resource planning added more intelligence to the IT process, some of the steps outlined in ITIL became irrelevant, as the software itself was already taking care of them. Version 3, however, reflects the modern IT landscape. For net managers, this development brings the process closer to their day-to-day concerns, and for those charged with helping to architect the networks of their companies’ futures, tapping into the library’s blueprints could lead to more efficient pipes.

In general, ITIL has become more prescriptive than descriptive in the new version. Where in the past the process outlined what should be done, it often fell short of describing how to carry it out. This swing towards the more practical in part takes the form of real-world examples culled from surveys and conversations with organizations that have met with success around ITIL in the past.

With more inherent practicality, ITIL should become that much more relevant to those professionals charged with keeping the infrastructure running.

Another key upgrade to keep in mind is the improved ITIL return on investment measurement mechanisms in Version 3. A number of points of guidance are included to help IT leaders quantify the benefits of going with ITIL to the higher-ups.

One of the stumbling blocks around previous iterations was that it wasn’t easy to convey the benefits of adopting a unified best practices framework to those who ultimately had to sign the checks to pay for its recommendations.

While ITIL proponents admit that calculating ROI has been, and to an extent still is, an inexact science, the new iteration has gone a long way to help paint a clear picture of the ITIL payoffs for organizations that choose to follow its suggestions.

Finally, regardless of the degree to which a network manager plans to sink his or her teeth into ITIL, it would serve them well to at least become familiar with the basic tenets of the latest version and to understand why there is so much talk about it coming from the CIO’s office down the hall.

With its more practical nature and “how-to” feel, it will be no surprise if this already popular mechanism soon affects a wider swath of an organization — including those actually working with the technology.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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