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You would almost forget it among all the marketing hype, certification schemes and offerings for ITIL® 4 Foundation training, but ITIL 4 is also offering actual new content. I managed to get my copy of the ITIL Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition book last week, eager to find out what all the hype was all about. Of course, Foundation is only the high-level overview of what is yet to be published in more detail, but it gives an idea of where ITIL wants to go.


Everything revolves around value in ITIL 4: it is the core of what they now call the Service Value System (SVS). If this reminds you suspiciously of ISO/IEC 20000’s Service Management System (SMS), then you are right: the definitions of ITIL’s SVS and 20k’s SMS are pretty similar.

What is important is that services are defined as offerings that co-create value. In this definition, value is not only what the service provider thinks it is or what the customer thinks it is. Value is co-created by both the service provider and the consumer (a concatenation of customer and end-user), providing benefits for both the service provider and the consumer.

Processes or Practices?

ITIL 2011 had 26 processes across the service lifecycle, which have been interpreted as highly prescriptive by some people. In ITIL 4, The service lifecycle has sadly been abandoned and the processes have been replaced by “practices” distributed across three categories: General Management Practices (14), Service Management Practices (17) and Technical Management Practices (3). Practices are distinct from processes in the sense that practices are defined as a collection of resources to perform work or achieve an objective. This includes processes, but is much broader than that: you also need to take into account the (human, financial, information, and technological) resources to perform these activities. This is similar to how ISO/IEC 20000-1 avoids referring to the “processes” in clause 8 as such: every organisation can determine how they design their own processes and what they call them. So also in ITIL 4, no more discussions like, “ITIL says this is problem management, not incident management.”

Practices are varied and some useful additions have been made to the range of practices, compared to the ITIL 2011 processes: Information Security Management, Risk Management, Organizational Change Management, Business Analysis, to name a few. Apart from that, the classic service management practices such as Change Control, Incident Management and Service Request Management are still around.

Note that ITIL 4 has moved away from the perceived prescriptiveness in its practices: you will find no flow charts, CSFs or KPIs in the book (but maybe some of this will still come in later publications).

The ITIL Service Value System

The Service Value System (SVS) is the core of ITIL 4’s model. The SVS is in fact very similar to VeriSM™ ‘s model, with Governance (inspired by ISO/IEC 38500), Guiding Principles (re-using the ones introduced in ITIL Practitioner a couple of years ago; similar to VeriSM’s Service Management Principles), and the usual Service Value Chain, consisting of the usual Plan/Improve/Engage/Design&Transition/Obtain&Build/Deliver&Support phases of service management (VeriSM has these as Define/Produce/Provide/Respond), plus continual improvement. It is these phases that are actually more or less the replacement of the service lifecycle. All practices can be performed in any of these phases, so the ITIL 2011 distribution of the processes across the service lifecycle phases has been rightfully abandoned.

There are also four “dimensions” of, or perspectives on the SVS that need to be taken to get a full view of the aspects of service management: Organizations & People, Information & Technology, Partners & Suppliers, and Value Streams & Processes. These dimensions make service management in the ITIL world more “integral,” to use a term from my own Integral Service Management Framework, especially the human and organisational aspects.


The ITIL 4 Foundation book has managed to keep up with the times and has definitely transformed ITIL from a boring framework with endless lists, definitions, KPIs and whatnot to a far more engaging service management framework. Even better: apart from the introduction by Axelos’ CEO, there is no mention of “Best Practice” anymore: the book explicitly calls itself “guidance”. Furthermore, it seems the focus on “IT” service management has shifted to more generic “service management,”

Whether this guidance is enough to give newbies to service management the tools to get started is questionable: I have the feeling that things are still too generic at this level and there is not enough practical, hands-on guidance to get started developing an SVS. Hopefully the following publications will go into more details to really provide what is needed in practice to build an ITIL 4 SVS.

ITIL 4 has definitely take inspiration from other frameworks, such as ISO/IEC 20000-1 and other ISO standards, VeriSM, Lean, etc. This is understandable, because in the current times, the market requires a certain approach, and that approach will be similar between various frameworks.

Dolf van der Haven is the author of various books on service management, the most recent being A Guide to ISO/IEC 20000-1:2018 Service Management. His books are available on ITSM Shop.