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What is the role of ITIL within IT service management?

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In our three-part blog series on delivering IT service excellence, we consider “what is the role of ITIL within IT service management?”

Technology is an industry that moves at speed with a heavy emphasis on innovation. So, it’s hardly surprising that a great deal of value, in the form of time and resource savings, lies in relying on tried-and-tested ITIL framework.

Not only when it comes to developing your IT strategy but, importantly, when devising a roadmap to delivering IT service excellence.

There are any number of successful businesses, such as Barclays, Disney and British Airways, using ITIL to develop their service strategies. And as a tried-and-tested framework, it’s the natural starting point for of today’s IT leaders.

Customise the wheel

However, although the benefits of pre-laid foundations are doubtless, no two businesses or user bases are the same. So, while there is no need to reinvent the wheel, you will need to customise it.

Factoring in the four ‘Ps’ of people, processes, products and partners, any successful IT service strategy needs to support the journey of the user. To do so, facets of the ITIL framework should be borrowed from to meet these needs.

But “borrowed” is the key point. Developed over thirty years, the ITIL framework now features 26 processes, eight of which lie under service design. This makes it necessary to shut out the noise and focus most on the parts you need to meet your goals.

Here we’ll consider the three main elements of ITIL service strategy – incident, problem and change management – and why they’re important to IT service excellence.

Incident management

An IT service may undergo a fault and interruption that can be restored without the underlying cause being fully understood. However, the fix will be temporary, whether that recurrence is in days, months or years from the first incident being logged.

Incidents are categorised according to a tier system, with major incidents posing the greatest issues or risks and often requiring specialist teams or outsourced experts to manage.

What is expected: Your teams or service provider will be expected to use the processes you put in place to restore a service as quickly as possible.

Example service user incident: An email account holder encounters one of more errors, such as the system ceasing to respond after performing certain actions, or emails getting stuck in the ‘outbox’ folder during transmission.

Why it’s important: Incidents are key indicators of a larger problem and observing their patterns and circumstances, as well as fully log users’ issues, can contribute to identifying a root cause during problem management.

Problem management

Incidents are brought about by a problem, which will remain open until its cause is identified and resolved. Until then, any number of incidents could arise from the same problem.

What is expected: When effective problem management is in place, your team or service partner will use techniques to identify the underlying cause and ensure all related incidents are investigated and ultimately, resolved.

Example service user problem: An employee’s email account profile is corrupt and causing a number of functions to regularly fail. Creating a new profile to store the user’s data will solve the problem and ultimately, cause any incidents to stop.

Why it’s important: Monitoring the success of problem-solving can provide learnings that help prevent future incidents. Ensuring your teams and systems effectively differentiate between incidents and problems and manage them accordingly is ITIL best practice. It allows you to prioritise workflows, identify the right skills and people for a task and beat the fastest path to a resolution.

Change management

With complex and ever-evolving service models, a thorough and robust change management process isn’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have. Technological changes have the potential to affect almost every part of your business – people, technology and processes.

As a result, change management is the ITIL process which most highlights the need to think holistically and act as a single entity, rather than a collection of departments. If you approach change management with the mindframe that everything is interrelated and consider the relationships between all things, you’re less likely to overlook potential issues. You’re also less likely to omit anyone from essential communications and training.

What does good change management look like?

  • Supports business goals – The changes you put in place are designed better the business in the long-run. But the process for managing the consequences of the changes is equally important to ensure success.
  • Manages risk – All changes involve some element of risk and your change management approach needs to identify and mitigate these risks insofar as possible. This may include developing stakeholder analyses, readiness assessments and a change-risk matrix.
  • Enables continuity – The saying ‘time is money’ may be old, but it’s true. Poorly planned change has the potential to interrupt your business operations, whether due to infrastructure problems or user issues, which can have knock-on effects for your systems and cyber security.


Robust change management should include a process, an individual or team responsible for considering all facets and change advisory board. Implementing these layers of examination should ensure you have all bases covered and a continuity plan for worst-case scenarios.

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