A Deep Dive into ITIL 4


ITIL 4 parallels the “fourth industrial revolution” which ushers in an era of digital transformation – using new technologies and new ways of working to fundamentally recast relationships with customers and blend physical and digital technologies to gain tremendous operational efficiencies. For digital organizations, the IT Department is more important than ever. In fact, in fully digitalized organizations, there is little to no separation between IT and “the business.” ITIL 4 teaches organizations to leverage IT more effectively. Likewise, it helps IT prepare to not only support the business, but to partner with it and help drive executive decision-making. In other words, ITIL 4 raises the stakes for IT; it provides an opportunity for IT to “level-up!”



What began in the 1980s as a collection of good practices for better managing IT organizations and serving IT customers has grown into a body of knowledge that, with more than two million IT professionals certified in ITIL, is used by more than 90% of Fortune500 organizations around the world. With the rapid pace of change in emerging technologies and customer needs, ITIL also continues to change. A recent AXELOS research program found “ITIL is becoming more and more important to enable Cloud and Big Data strategies.” The FORBES Insights: State of ITSM 2017 report also touts the value of ITIL, with 88% of IT executive respondents stating that ITSM is important to their digital transformation efforts. As a result, AXELOS and the greater community have embarked on the creation of ITIL 4.


History of ITIL

How We Got Here: Evolving from ITIL v2 to ITIL v3

ITIL v3 introduced the concept of the IT Service Management Lifecycle along with five phases (Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operations, and Continual Service Improvement); and publications were released for each of the five ITSM lifecycle phases.


ITIL v3 Service Lifecycle

ITIL v3 also introduced 15 additional processes organized according to these five phases, which were frequently used by IT organizations at the time to help provide IT services to customers. These additional processes included the following:

Strategy Management for IT Services
Service Portfolio Management
ITIL® SOA Intermediate Training Course
Business Relationship Management
Design Coordination
Service Catalog Management
Security Management
Supplier Management
Transition Planning and Support
Service Validation and Testing
Change Evaluation
Knowledge Management
Event Management
Access Management
Request Fulfillment

ITIL v3 also included details around additional teams or functions that support the work done as part of IT Operations, including Technical Management, Applications Management, and IT Operations Management, which included sub-teams for IT Operations Control and Facilities Management.

ITIL 4 Group Training

How is ITIL 4 Different from ITIL v3?

ITIL 4 is an evolution of ITIL v3 concepts, not a replacement. The good practices from previous versions of ITIL are still valid; however, the ITIL 4 publications have been updated to include additional modern practices and approaches for delivering valuable products and services to customers. The table below includes a summary of three key differences between ITIL v3 and ITIL 4:

26 Processes, organized according to the ITSM lifecycle phases listed below. 34 Practices, each of which may include several processes, loosely organized into three practice types.
ITIL Service Management Lifecycle

  • Service Strategy
  • Service Design
  • Service Transition
  • Service Operation
  • Continual Service Improvement
Service Value System (SVS):

  • Guiding Principles
  • Governance
  • Service Value Chain (SVC)
  • Practices
  • Continual Improvement
4 Ps of Service Design:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Partners
  • Products
4 Dimensions of Service Management:

  • Organization and People
  • Value Streams and Processes
  • Partners and Suppliers
  • Information and Technology

In addition to the above, ITIL 4 introduces the following new concepts, which we’ll dig into in further detail below:

  • Service Value Chain

  • Value Co-Creation

  • Service Relationship Model

  • Value, Outcomes, Costs, and Risks (VOCR)

  • Value Streams

  • ITIL’s Guiding Principles (updated from the ITIL Practitioner publication, released in 2016)

  • General Management Practices (which include the following new ITIL practices: Architecture Management, Measurement and Reporting, Organizational Change Management, Project Management, Risk Management, and Workforce and Talent Management)

  • Technical Management Practices (which include the following new ITIL practices: Infrastructure and Platform Management and Software Development and Management)

ITIL 4 also includes details on modern and emerging technologies like cloud computing, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), neural networks, natural language processing, machine learning, blockchain, etc. and weaves in concepts from Lean, Agile, Scrum, DevOps, and other modern ways of working. The topics included here will be further detailed in the following sections.

Practices or Processes – To-may-toh, To-mah-to

Is it really that simple? Did ITIL 4 just change the name from Process to Practice? It may appear so, simply seeing the mapping from one to the other between versions, but there are some key differences that need to be understood. First, ITIL 4 still uses the term process, and the definition has not changed. It is still defined as the activities involved in transforming inputs into defined outputs. So, what is a Practice, and how is it different?

To better understand this terminology change, think about one of the most well-understood ‘processes’ from ITIL v3: Incident Management. This is something every IT organization has been doing since there have been IT organizations. But is there just one way of resolving an incident? Or are there many distinct, dynamic workflows that are dependent upon the situation at hand? This is where ITIL 4 has elevated the idea of a “practice.” In ITIL 4, the Incident Management ‘practice’ represents all the organizational resources (people, information and technology, partners, and processes) that come together to perform the highly distinct and dynamic workflows involved in resolving Incidents. Martial Arts is a Practice. Doctors and Lawyers have practices. You get the idea. A practice is comprehensive.

How do the ITIL v3 processes map to the ITIL 4 practices?

For ITIL practitioners that are familiar with ITIL v3 processes, the table below provides a breakdown of the changes in terminology from ITIL v3 to ITIL 4.


  • The black text below shows where the practice has the same name as a corresponding ITIL v3 process

  • The blue text below shows were a practice has a changed or different name from an ITIL v3 process

  • The orange text below shows where a new ITIL practice has been named. In some cases, a practice may have existed as a concept in the ITIL v3 publications (for example, Service Design existed as a “phase” and the Service Desk existed as a “function” or team of people in ITIL v3).

  • The key icon provides additional information around the purpose of each ITIL practice, and you can click the link for more information.

As the below table shows, not only have there been changes to naming conventions, the Practices have been divided into three broad domains, based on where the practice originated:

General Management Practices have been adopted and adapted from general business management domains

Service Management Practices have been developed in service management and ITSM industries

Technical Management Practices have been adapted from technology management domains for service management purposes by expanding or shifting their focus from technology solutions to IT services

General Management Practices Service Management Practices Technical Management Practices
Architecture Management Availability Management Deployment Management (previously named Release and Deployment Management)
Continual Improvement Management (similar to the ITIL v3 phase CSI) Business Analysis Infrastructure and Platform Management
Information Security Management Capacity and Performance Management (previously named Capacity Management) Software Development and Management
Knowledge Management Change Enablement (previously named Change Control and Change Management)
Measurement and Reporting Incident Management
Organizational Change Management IT Asset Management (previously named SACM)
Portfolio Management (previously named Service Portfolio Management) Monitoring and Event Management (previously named Event Management)
Project Management Problem Management
Relationship Management (previously named Business Relationship Management) Release Management (previously named Release and Deployment Management)
Risk Management Service Catalog Management
Service Financial Management (previously named Financial Management) Service Configuration Management (previously named SACM)
Strategy Management (previously named Strategy Management for IT Services) Service Continuity Management (previously named ITSCM)
Supplier Management Service Design
Workforce and Talent Management Service Desk
Service Level Management
Service Request Management (previously named Request Fulfillment)
Service Validation and Testing

From Lifecycle to Service Value System (and Service Value Chain)

Are you struggling with the elimination of the ITIL v3 Service Lifecycle? Why did ITIL 4 do away with it and replace it with the Service Value System (SVS)? The simplest answer is flexibility. Although the Service Management Lifecycle was not intended to be prescriptive or executed in a strict sequence, many organizations and IT professionals understood it this way and started to conduct service management in a “waterfall” way. What’s worse – some organizations created functional silos within each lifecycle phase but did not account for hand-offs, activities, and value that need to occur across the lifecycle phases. This led to poor communication, lower quality, inefficiency, slow service delivery, and, ultimately, lower customer satisfaction.

By contrast, the ITIL 4 Service Value System can be thought of as an ecosystem within which service management takes place. ITIL 4 defines the Service Value System as a model representing how all the components and activities of an organization work together to facilitate value creation. In other words, there is no set order for performing activities, but activities and elements of the organization need to be coordinated and come together to create value.


Service Value System Diagram

ITIL 4 Service Value System Diagram


At the heart of the Service Value System is the Service Value Chain (SVC) – don’t get confused by the similar phrases and acronyms. The Service Value Chain is an operating model for service providers that covers all the key activities required to effectively manage products and services.


The Service Value Chain, by its very nature, doesn’t represent any specific order of activities. All six of the SVC activities, or any combination thereof, may be undertaken to deliver products and services for customers, thereby creating value. Activities may be revisited at any point, and the depth to which an activity exerts influence on a single stream may change depending on the situation. How we combine and order these activities creates value streams. These streams describe the processes and workflows by which we set about doing work and getting products and services into the hands of our customers. Rather than what may have seemed like a single-stream set of processes in ITIL v3, ITIL 4 embraces a flexible model, which allows all areas of the organization to develop useful value streams, leveraging any number of practices and activities to co-create value with their consumers.

Service Value Chain

ITIL 4 Service Value Chain Diagram


ITIL 4 Service Value Stream Mapping

ITIL 4 Service Value Stream Mapping



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A Holistic Approach – The Four Dimensions of Service Management

You may recall the Four Ps (People, Processes, Products, and Partners) of Service Design from ITIL v3. These are four aspects that need to be considered during the Design Phase of the Service Lifecycle. ITIL 4 expands on that notion, making the Four Dimensions of Service Management — namely Organizations and People, Information and Technology, Partners and Suppliers, and Value Streams and Processes — a linchpin in the planning, design, delivery, and management of every service. Each dimension lends vital insight for service management and brings balance to the Service Value System itself. If any of these dimensions is not properly addressed, the connected product or service may become unavailable, not meeting customers’ expectations of quality and efficiency.

ITIL 4 Four Dimensions of Service Management


Note that ITIL 4 has moved Products—or more precisely, Products and Services—front-and-center as the final output of the 4 Dimensions. This makes sense, as each of these concepts is considered to co-create value for our customers. Additionally, Information and Technology has been added as a key component in this model. Information represents the knowledge necessary to manage services. While ITILv3 presented technology as important process enablers, ITIL 4 recognizes that technology itself is now being provided as a service, and how we manage our knowledge and information with and between systems is vital. Software, storage, infrastructure, even information security can now be consumed through third-party suppliers and partners, making this dimension a critical component of the overall Service Management framework as well.

What is Value Co-Creation?

In ITIL v3, value was described as something we delivered to customers. But value is not the same thing as a package that is delivered to your doorstep by the postal carrier. ITIL 4 takes a different perspective, putting more of a concentrated focus on the idea that service providers and service consumers must work together to create value, thereby co-creating it. Service providers cannot and should not create products and services (see diagram below) in a vacuum. Instead, we should actively collaborate with our customers on what is of value to them.

Within the ITIL 4 publication, a service is defined as:

  • Service: The means of enabling value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks.

There are also two types of key stakeholders defined within ITIL 4:

  • Service Provider: When provisioning services, an organization takes on the role of the service provider. The provider can be external to the consumer’s organization, or they can both be part of the same organization.

  • Service Consumer: When receiving services, an organization takes on the role of the service consumer. Service consumer is a generic role that is used to simplify the definition and description of the structure of service relationships.

Just as there can be different provider roles, consumers are also divided into different roles or categories, namely:

  • Customer: a person who defines the requirements for a service and takes responsibility for the outcomes of service consumption

  • User: a person who uses the service

  • Sponsor: a person who authorizes budget for the service

In some instances, the same person may serve in several roles. In other cases, different people may fill the various roles. As a Service Provider organization, it’s helpful to understand who fills each of these roles and what each wants and needs from us.

What is the Service Relationship Model?

There are often multiple service relationships involved in providing products and services to customers; and a service provider for a consumer of that service may be a consumer of a service with a different service provider (as shown in the diagram below). The ITIL 4 Foundation publication provides an overview of the different types of service providers, including service customers and other stakeholders.

What is Value, Outcomes, Costs, and Risks (VOCR)?

In ITIL 4, there is a much larger emphasis on enabling customer value; and value is now defined as:

  • Value: The perceived benefits, usefulness, and importance of something.

In evaluating whether a product or service has value for a customer, they are looking at the outcomes (What does this product or service allow me to do? What costs or risks does this product or service remove?), not just the output of the work. ITIL 4 defines the difference between the two:

  • Output:a tangible or intangible deliverable of an activity (for example, an application, report, or other product of our work)

  • Outcome:results for a stakeholder enabled by one or more outputs (what that product allows me to do)

ITIL 4 also distinguishes cost from value. Where value is defined through the service consumer’s perception, cost is defined as:

  • Cost:the amount of money spent on a specific activity or resource.

There are two types of cost from a consumer perspective. First, there are costs that are removed from the consumer by the product or service. This might be costs associated with staff that has been outsourced, technology provided as a service (cloud services), etc. Second, there are those costs that are imposed on the consumer by the product or service. Examples may include training, network or storage utilization, procurement, etc. This is commonly referred to as what a consumer must ‘invest’ to consume a service. In the end, the advantages of using a service (the removal of costs and risks) need to outweigh the disadvantages (the addition of negative outcomes, costs, or risks).

  • Risk: a possible event that could cause harm or loss or make it more difficult to achieve objectives.

Risk may also be defined as uncertainty of outcome. When assessing the value of a service, risk may be used in the context of measuring both negative and positive outcomes. So, we also describe two types of risk. The first are risks removed from a consumer by the service (positive outcomes). This might include hardware failure if the consumer is moving to a cloud model, or staff availability if a function is being outsourced. Risk may not be entirely eliminated, only reduced, but the consumer may consider such reduction sufficient to support the value proposition of the service. Second, there are risks imposed on the consumer by the service (negative outcomes). This might be realized as a data security breach of the service provider.


How and when was ITIL 4 released?

Unlike the release of ITIL v3, ITIL 4 (sometimes referred to as ITIL v4) has been iteratively released throughout 2019 and 2020. The 2-day ITIL 4 Foundation course, exam, and publication were released on February 28, 2019 – the advanced courses, exams, and publications were released in Q4 of 2019:

Each of the ITIL 4 advanced courses (CDS, HVIT, DSV, and DPI) are three days in length with an exam at the end – except for DITS. The DITS course has an in-class assessment that you must pass as a prerequisite to sit for the certification exam. Details on each of the different courses and exams are included below. Several of the ITIL 4 practices were also released by AXELOS in Q4 2019 and Q1 2020. Additional detail on each practice is also included below.

ITIL 4 Foundation Training


In addition to releasing the ITIL 4 advanced courses, ITIL has released companion publications for each of the 34 practices. Typically, these publications are approximately 30-50 pages in length and provide a wealth of detail about each practice, associated processes and ways of working and how practices interact with each other. Students who take an ITIL course have one year of free access to My Axelos where they can download the practice publications. In a truly agile way, ITIL 4 materials, including the 34 Practices, will be more frequently updated than in prior versions. Those involved in the development of ITIL 4 content are creating material that is:


Enabling more frequent updates


Eliminates unnecessary content


Includes practice guidance, templates, and other resources


Enhances and provides clarity around relevant parts of earlier versions of ITIL


Driven by industry feedback


Links to existing and emerging practices

What does the ITIL 4 Certification Path Look Like?

The ITIL 4 certification path, similar to that of ITIL v3, has an ITIL 4 Foundation exam and associated certification. There are less ITIL 4 intermediate courses than in ITIL v3 (see diagram below), which now include three ITIL Specialist courses, an ITIL Strategist course, and an ITIL Leader course as follows:

ITIL 4’s Intermediate courses are each three days in length, and there is no recommended order in which to take the courses. Students that hold PMI’s PMP designation will earn 16 PDUs for the 2-day ITIL 4 Foundation course and 24 PDUs for each ITIL 4 intermediate course. Once you earn the three ITIL Specialist credentials and ITIL Strategist credential, you will automatically earn the ITIL Managing Professional (MP) designation (i.e., there is no “capstone” exam to take).

ITIL Leader: Digital & IT Strategy is a separate track course that focuses on digital transformation. Beyond20 proudly co-edited and co-authored the core publication, affectionately known as DITS.

When a candidate earns the ITIL Strategist and ITIL Leader credentials, they will automatically earn the ITIL Strategic Leader (SL) designation. Note: “ITIL Strategist: Direct, Plan, and Improve” (shown below) is included in both the MP and SL tracks, but it is a single course, exam, and publication. It’s a two for one deal; passing DPI once satisfies that requirement for both tracks.

ITIL 4 Certification Scheme



After you complete any ITIL course, you automatically receive a free one-year subscription to the My Axelos section of the Axelos website (Axelos owns the ITIL materials). The My Axelos website includes a wealth of information, including publications for each of the 34 practices as well as other white papers. These publications are written by some of the brightest minds in the digital transformation and IT Service Management spaces. You are able to download these publications, which means you can build your own knowledge library of ITIL resources. Every time you take a new ITIL course, your one-year subscription starts over again.

When will my ITIL v3 Certification Expire?

Your ITIL v3 certificates are still valid. However, ITIL v3 will be retired over time beginning in July 2021. Those that hold the ITIL v3 Foundation certification and want to get certified in the current version of ITIL will need to take the ITIL 4 Foundation exam.

Those that hold 17 credits of ITIL v3 certifications will be able to take a 5-day ITIL Managing Professional bridge course and exam and bridge to the MP designation (which also earns you 40 PDUs). For those that hold some intermediate ITIL v3 certifications, but do not yet have 17 credits, will be able to take ITIL v3 courses and exams until mid-2020 and can still bridge to MP. Here’s a little more on how your existing ITIL v3 credits can translate to ITIL 4.

What happens to my ITIL v3 Expert or ITIL v3 Master Certification?

ITIL 4 does not have the designation called “ITIL Expert”. The equivalent to the ITIL v3 “ITIL Expert” certification is ITIL 4 “ITIL Managing Professional” or MP. There is an advanced certification entitled “ITIL Strategic Leader” or SL that can be obtained, if a candidate already holds the MP designation, by taking an “ITIL Leader: Digital & IT Strategy” 3-day course and passing the associated exam. ITIL 4 has an “ITIL Master” designation. Details on how to obtain the ITIL Master designation will (hopefully) be coming out later in 2021.

How is the ITIL 4 Foundation exam different from the ITIL v3 Foundation exam?

The ITIL 4 Foundation exam (closed-book) is similar in format and level of difficulty to that of ITIL v3. Here are the highlights:

60-minute time limit

40 multiple-choice questions

26/40 (65%) or higher is a passing score

4 question types:

  • Standard
  • List of 4 options
  • Negative (include words like “not” or “except”)
  • Missing word (new for ITIL 4)

For students looking to enroll in an ITIL 4 Foundation course, this is a 2-day offering with the in-class exam taken at the end of the second day. We should note that both the course and the exam are now available online. Students that hold PMI’s PMP designation will earn 16 PDUs.


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How are the advanced ITIL 4 exams different from the ITIL v3 Intermediate exams?

The closed-book ITIL 4 advanced course exams are as follows*:

90-minute time limit

40 multiple-choice questions

Students must get at least 28/40 correct to pass (70%)

There are 3 question types:

  • Standard
  • List (with 2 correct items)
  • Negative (Questions that include words like “not”, “except”, etc.)

*The DITS exam is the exception, as it has a 60-minute time limit and only contains 30 questions.

Digital Transformation Realized

An obvious first step in getting acquainted with ITIL 4 is to enroll in an ITIL 4 Foundation class and determine the training needs of your staff. Yet, training is only a first step. The real benefit of ITIL 4 is putting it into practice in the real world – in your organization. Beyond20 offers a number of practical consulting engagements and workshops to help you leverage the full power of ITIL 4. These include:

  • Digital Readiness Assessment
  • Digital Maturity Assessment
  • Digital Positioning and Zone of Confluence Mapping
  • ITIL Practice Assessment
  • Value Stream Mapping
  • Customer Journey Mapping
  • ITIL Process Workshops and Reengineering
  • Meaningful Metrics Workshops

In today’s digital and highly disruptive world, organizations must change how they work in order to remain relevant in their industries and to their customers. That’s where ITIL 4 can help. The new version includes a wealth of information on how the most successful organizations are working, along with details on emerging technologies (including, but not limited to, Artificial Intelligence and AIOps, Robotic Process Automation, Blockchain, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing) – with recommendations on how to best leverage them, as well as modern approaches to work including Lean, Agile (with details on Scrum, Kanban, and XP techniques), DevOps (Continual Integration / Continual Development (CI/CD), etc.).

For the first time, ITIL 4 also introduces several practices outside of traditional Service Management, including Organizational Change Management, Project Management, Business Analysis, Architecture Management, and Workforce and Talent Management. It is a comprehensive look at IT Service Management and the practices that matter most today.

Originally published April 04 2020, updated August 08 2022