ITIL V4 – What is it and what's important? - Sunrise Software ITSM

The past three decades has seen four major incarnations of the ITIL framework, from its origins in the late 80s, to V4 released in 2019.

What’s important in ITIL v4?

Each has built on the previous framework, sometimes in very much an evolutionary mode, but with ITIL V4, that evolutionary stance has been maintained while significantly changing the actual directive. Over those decades ITIL has moved further and further away from being purely a set of IT service desk guidelines, but with V4 the concept has very much migrated to an overall business focus, with IT being just an element of that service delivery mechanism. Specifically, ITIL V4 is looking at actual value creation within the business, through four defined dimensions of service management: organisations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers and value streams and processes.


While V3 introduced the idea of service management as a ‘systems approach’ with related assets and service components, it did not apply it to the end-to-end service value systems concept. In other words, what were ‘processes’ in V3 are now described as value streams, where value can be created for customers and users. As such, it’s a far more pro-active approach to ITSM than before.

With this new direction comes a new definition – the SVS or Service Value System. This defines how each component and activity interacts in order to enable value creation, with five key components defined as guiding principles, governance, service value chain, management practices and continual improvement. Moreover, the SVS extends beyond internal company walls, interfacing with 3rd party organisations, creating an ecosystem that can, in turn, facilitate further value for those organisations, their customers, and other stakeholders. Each element of the value chain is designed to transform inputs into outputs, so adding value in each respect, with all activities potentially interconnected. It might sound like an out-take from an old Douglas Adams “Hitchhikers Guide” novel, but it reflects a modern business process – borrowing general management practices and adopting them for service management.

Expansive ITIL V4 Management Practices for Company-Wide Service Delivery and Support

Key here is the shift away from a pure “technology” approach; 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, defined as 17 individual management practices. This expansive nature of ITIL V4 reflects its company-wide approach to service delivery and support. Those services definitions cover availability management, business analysis, capacity and performance management, change control, incident management, IT asset management, monitoring and event management, problem management, release management, service catalogue management, service configuration management, service continuity management, service design, service desk, service  level management, service request management and service validation and testing.

ITIL V4 Certification: Advancing from Foundation to Strategic Leader and Master Levels

Many of the key themes of ITIL V4 are therefore familiar from previous – even the earliest – incarnations of ITIL, while being modified in terms of positioning to reflect the aim of service management across the entire company structure, not simply IT. In order to further understand the changes within ITIL V4, one fundamental stepping stone is the ITIL 4 Foundation – designed as an introduction to the latest incarnation and to aid with the understanding of viewing ITSM as an end-to-end operating model for the creation, delivery and ongoing optimisation of IT within a company.

Getting ahead with ITIL v4

For those needing advancement in ITIL V4, as the lowest of four defined levels of certification, the Foundation course will be a sufficiently comprehensive update for most. Beyond this lies the Managing Professional level which focuses on managing IT projects, through teams and workflows and is aimed at IT individuals working within both technology and digital teams across businesses. The next level up is Strategic Leader – which expands on the value of ITIL beyond IT operations to all digitally-enabled services.  Finally, is the Master certification which defines the ability for an individual to validate selection and application of a range of knowledge, principles, methods and techniques from ITIL and supporting management capabilities, to achieve successful business outcomes.

> Read our ‘Guide to ITIL‘.