Definition

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to building a better IT team structure
Contributor(s): Stephen J. Bigelow

The ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) framework is designed to standardize the selection, planning, delivery and support of IT services to a business. The goal is to improve efficiency and achieve predictable service levels. The ITIL framework enables IT to be a business service partner, rather than just back-end support. ITIL guidelines and best practices align IT actions and expenses to business needs and change them as the business grows or shifts direction.

ITIL traces its roots back to the 1980s as data centers began decentralizing and adopting more distributed or geographically diverse architectures. This flexibility led to unwanted differences in processes and deployments, creating inconsistent or suboptimal performance. The United Kingdom's government recognized the importance of perceiving IT as a service and then applying consistent practices across the entire IT service lifecycle, and initiated ITIL.

ITIL encompasses a framework of five core publications or ITIL books, which are periodically reviewed and updated as technologies change. Each book collects best practices for each major phase of the IT service lifecycle. ITIL Service Strategy explains business goals and customer requirements. ITIL Service Design shows how to move strategies into plans that help the business. ITIL Service Transition shows how to introduce services into the environment. ITIL Service Operation explains how to manage the IT services. ITIL Continual Service Improvement helps adopters evaluate and plan large and small improvements to IT services.

ITIL-based IT infrastructure management can be a complex specialty for any business, and is often the domain of the largest IT-centric businesses such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, along with other major enterprises in retail, finance, pharmaceuticals, entertainment and manufacturing. ITIL adoption and maintenance normally requires trained and certified experts to guide a company and its IT staff.

Ongoing development for ITIL has been vested in Axelos, a joint-venture company created by the U.K. Cabinet Office and Capita PLC. The latest version of ITIL was released in July 2011 and is often called ITIL 2011. It clarifies and expands upon many of the processes from the previous 2007 edition, often called version 3 or ITIL v3.

ITIL timeline

Axelos supports five levels of ITIL certification: Foundation, Intermediate Level Lifecycle and Capability tracks, Managing Across the Lifecycle, Expert Level and Master Qualification. ITIL certifications are granted by Axelos through accredited Examination Institutes located globally. Certification candidates accrue credits within this ITIL qualification system that unlock higher-level certification options such as ITIL Expert.

This was last updated in October 2014

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What's the best way to learn ITIL?
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Take a professionally-taught class on the subject, then spend some time actually putting ITIL's techniques into practice.

...Actually, that's what I'd say for learning practically anything. There's no substitute for real-world experience with something, and I view classes as the best way to give you the basics. You're not qualified just because you passed the class, but you are in a position to start working your way upwards and mix theory with the real world.
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I purchased a 30 day online course of ITIL Foundation 2011 from IT Training Zone. It was easy, I studied at my own pace. The 30 day course was $229.00 the 90 day course is $299.00. You will need to purchase the exam when ready at $120.00. It was a great investment for me and I really enjoyed the course.
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Well, at my company we were provided with some audio materials (about 30 hours worth) and everyone in IT was required to take and pass a short quiz (this was not a standard quiz; I believe someone at the company just made it up). 

Listening to the audio was a bit painful and most people skipped through quite a bit of it. 

By far the best way to learn it, though, is to actually see it in practice.
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ITIL is not a single term or definition so that any body can learn. It's a practice which almost every organization follow these days. So until and unless you are a part of any organization, things will not get cleared in minds. While working with so many people coming from different cultures and background, gradually anybody can understand this knowingly or unknowingly.
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