An introduction to ITIL (part 1/5)

Hi all ! This is the first part of the résumé I wrote while preparing my ITIL Foundation certification.In this article I’ll introduce you to ITIL and also explain the Service Strategy stage.Hope you enjoy it !

What is it ?

The ITIL acronym stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. ITIL is fundamentally a group of best practices designed to align IT services and operations with the needs of business. ITIL  was developed by the UK Office of Government and Commerce and nowadays it is owned by the Cabinet Office, and supported by publications, qualifications and by the APM group.

ITIL has had several versions and is currently on version 2011. In the picture below you can see the evolution of ITIL versions. The pyramid picture tries to depict the broadening of ITIL scope from the day it was launched :


Some critics argue that ITIL 2011 is not a new version of ITIL V3 but rather and enhancement to this version.

Why adopt it ?

ITIL does not define every role, tool or process within your organization. ITIL describes what needs to be done but not how it should be done.  So why should your organization adopt it ? 

Based on my internet research , as well as on feedback from fellow solution architects there is an ongoing “framework war” over which framework to choose ITIL or COBIT . ITIL suggests it offers best practices for managing IT operations, and for enabling and improving a service through its lifecycle. COBIT on the other hand, focus on governance elements required to successfully execute key policies and procedures.

From my perspective each of these frameworks serves its own purpose, and is probably adequate depending on the business scenario you are analyzing.

The main ITIL benefits can be resumed as :

  • competitive advantage not only from improved internal cost savings, but also from the improved availability of your IT services and systems.
  • high user base, and brand recognition
  • extensive certification program

ComputerAssociates put the benefits of ITIL resumed on two great pictures.The first picture below depicts the typical interaction between business and IT before the ITIL adoption. As you can see on this first picture this is a fuzzy interaction, that does not convey the value of IT to the business.


After adopting ITIL, the perception of your IT landscape to the business changes dramatically :


How to use it ?

To use ITIL you must first understand the stages of the service lifecycle:

  • Service Strategy
  • Service Design
  • Service Transition
  • Service Operation
  • Continual service improvement

This picture below shows the relationship between these stages.

ITIL v3 Service Lifecycle

As you can see, the service strategy stage is the core of the ITIL and for that reason it will also be my starting point.

Service Strategy

Purpose & Objectives

The purpose of the service strategy is to define the four Ps needed  to meet the desired organization business objectives :  perspective, position , plans and patterns.

The objectives of this stage include the answer to some key questions like :

  • What services should  we offer ? To whom should we offer which services? 
  • How do we create value to our customers, and differentiate ourselves from the competition ?
  • How do we define service quality ?

Scope & value to the business

The Service Strategy is intended for use by internal and external service providers . By articulating the service provider’s assets, activities and outcomes, we not only ensure the business sees the service provider as a value but also ensure a competitive advantage over time.  It is also on this stage that a portfolio of qualified services is maintained thus improving the use of IT investments.

Key principles

As this is a central stage on the ITIL lifecycle there are a couple of key principles to be retained. These principles are :

  1. Utility  + Warranty = Value Creation – This principle states that the customer perception of value from an IT service is given by a combination of two aspects : what the service does (utility) and how the service is delivered(warranty) .
  2. Value creation through services –  The value of a service comes from what it enables someone to do, not from what the service is made from. The value of a service is determined by the customer and by the service attributes and can change over time and circumstances.
  3. Assets,resources and capabilities – An asset is what the IT service provider uses to create IT services for its customers. There are 9 types of assets divided into two categories : capabilities assets – intangible asset types like management, organization,process, knowledge ; resources assets – basic direct inputs to the production of a service like people, information, applications, infrastructure, financial capital.
  4. Paterns of business activities(PBA) – The PBA is a workload profile of one or more business activities used to help the service provider to understand and plan for different levels of service activities.
  5. Service portfolio –  The complete set of services managed by a service provider. The service portfolio includes three categories : the service pipeline; the service catalogue(live or available for deployment) and retired services.
  6. Governance –  Governance ensures that policies and strategies are actually implemented and that required processes are correctly followed. Governance is enforced by: defining roles and responsabilities ; measuring and reporting ; taking actions to resolve any issues identified.
  7.  Business case – A business case for investing in a new service has typically the following components: introduction – explaining the business objective addressed by the service; identification of business impacts – expected financial and non-financial results from the new service ; risks and contingencies – identification of risks and mitigation strategies
  8. Risk management – The process responsible for identifying, assessing and controlling project risks. ITIL does not uses a framework for risk management but suggests that you use ISO 31000 or IEC/ISO27001.
  9. Service providers – Service providers are organizations providing services to one or more internal or external customers.
  10. Stakeholders in service management – Service providers can have internal or external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders include functions,groups and teams that deliver services. External stakeholders include : customers who buy goods or services; users who use the service on a daily basis ; third parties suppliers.
  11. Internal and external customers – An internal customer works for the same organization as a service provider. An external customer is someone who works for a separate legal entity from the IT service provider. 
  12. Internal and external servicesInternal services are provided within the same organizations whereas an external services are delivered to customers outside the service provider’s organization.
  13. Service model – Service models can be simple diagrams or complex analytical models, describing the structure and dynamics of a service.


The service strategy stage considers 3 main processes :

  • Service portfolio management – The purpose of the service portfolio management is more than the passive administration of a list of services. It is also the process that ensures that the entry or exit of a service from any stage is dependent on the approval of funding. The scope of the portfolio management encompasses , all retired services as well as present and future services to be delivered.
  • Financial management – The purpose of the financial management  is to ensure an appropriate level of funding to design, develop and deliver the IT services required.The scope of the financial management encompasses accounting (how the money is spent), budgeting (income vs expenditure analysis) and charging (how to charge customers).
  • Business relationship management – The purpose of the business relationship management is to develop a set of activities aimed at gaining the customer. These activities involve: identifying the customer needs; assisting the customer to understand the value of the services ; ensuring the service provider understands customer requirements. The scope of the BRM  depends on wheter you’re an internal or an external service provider. For an internal service provider the BRM includes the alignment of the various business units with activities of the service provider. For an external service provider the BRM is a dedicated function (sometimes also known as account manager) to one or more customers.

The ITIL Foundation Handbook also makes a clear distinction between BRM and Service Level Management(SLM). The picture below resumes this differences:


Technology Considerations

The service strategy stage considers two major technology considerations:  service automation and service analytics and instrumentation. The service automation aims not only at improving the quality and warranty of services , but also at reducing costs and risks. The service analytics and instrumentation are a set of event management and instrumentation techniques that can be used to understand the service data captured. 

Final thoughts

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. The ITIL journey does not end here. On the following articles I’ll cover the remaining ITIL stages. Please bear in mind that this was not an extensive article covering all there is to known about the service strategy. I left some aspects out, which were not really relevant to the ITIL foundation exam, but if you want to dig deeper I really recommend buying the ITIL foundation handbook.


[1] Wikipedia ; Information Technology Infrastructure Library ;

[2] IT Process Maps ; ITIL Implementation with Process Templates ;

[3] ITIL Home; The Official ITIL Website ;

[4] Compaid ; ITIL Quick Reference Guide by the Compaid Consulting Group ;

[5] ISACA ; COBIT 5 – A Business Framework for Governance and Managment ;

[6] Universal Service Management ; Framework wars: The Futility of the COBIT versus ITIL versus anything else discussion ;

[7] IT Skeptic ; Why COBIT wins in a showdown with ITIL ;

[8] ITIL News ; Why adopt ITIL ;

[9] ITIL Central; News and information for ITIL ;