Our Blog

Looking to learn about all things ITSM, ESM, Self-Service, Knowledge Management, AI, and more? We've got you covered.

Resource Center

We’re committed to providing resources that help you address all of your ITSM software needs.

Webinars & Events

Stay up to date on our latest ITSM, ITOM or ESM webinars and events now

EV Blog

Stephen Mann | July 28, 2020

ITIL 4: Where Is It Now?

It's now over a year since the first ITIL 4 publication, ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 edition, was released in February 2019. Since then, much has been written about the changes to the ITIL best practice within ITIL 4 – such as the service value system and service value chain – plus how they affect your organization. But you still might be wondering what the real impact has been on the IT service management (ITSM) industry since ITIL 4’s introduction.

To help, this blog shares my observations on where ITIL 4 is right now and where it will be in another year’s time.

A quick recap of the key ITIL 4 changes

As already mentioned, much has been written about the new elements of ITIL 4 and how this new version of ITIL differs from ITIL v3/2011. I'll not go into the detail here, but it is worth quickly mentioning a few of the key changes upfront related to ITIL processes.

So, what has changed with ITIL 4?

  • The ITIL v3/2011 service life cycle is no more – well, it's not officially part of ITIL 4 now. Instead, there are the service value system and service value chain. These underpin ITIL 4’s focus on value co-creation.
  • ITIL v3/2011’s 26 processes and four functions have been replaced by 34 management practices.
  • ITIL Practitioner’s guiding principles, from 2016, have been adapted and included within the main body of ITIL 4 best practice.
  • Continual service improvement is now continual improvement.
  • The method of ITIL 4 best practice delivery is now online-subscription based, giving subscribers access to regular updates rather than having to wait a considerable time for the publication of new books (and a new version of ITIL).

There are, of course, many other changes to be aware of, but for me the above are some of the most important.

Now back to the real purpose of this blog – where is ITIL 4 right now?

The publication of ITIL 4 content – the 34 ITIL 4 Practice Guides

In addition to the ITIL 4 Foundation Edition publication of early 2019, and associated exam, the first 15 PDF-download-delivered ITIL 4 Practice Guides were made available online via an AXELOS facility called My ITIL at the end of 2019. The guides include Knowledge Management, Service Level Management, and Change Enablement (also known as “change management” and “change control” in previous ITIL versions.)

At the end of February 2020, another twelve ITIL 4 Practices Guides were also made available, giving a total of 27 ITIL practice guides (of the 34) available at the time of writing this blog in mid-March.

The publication of ITIL 4 content – the four ITIL 4 Managing Professional publications

Beta versions of the four ITIL 4 Managing Professional publications – the content that supports the ITIL 4 Managing Professional qualification – were also made available online at the end of 2019. People paying for an online subscription to these beta-version publications would also receive physical copies of the four publications once released at the end of February 2020 (which has happened, with the online content no longer in beta).

The four ITIL 4 Managing Professional publications are:

  1. Create, Deliver and Support
  2. Drive Stakeholder Value
  3. High Velocity IT
  4. Direct, Plan and Improve.

The uptake of ITIL 4 exams

The first available ITIL 4 exam was the Foundation qualification in early 2019. The higher-level Managing Professional exams are now available, along with a Managing Professional transition module and exam for those already holding the higher-level ITIL v3/2011 qualifications. AXELOS describes this module as follows:

“The ITIL 4 Managing Professional transition module is designed to allow ITIL v3 candidates who have already invested to easily transition across to ITIL 4. They can gain the designation of ITIL 4 Managing Professional via one course and one exam.”

How this fits into the full ITIL 4 exam-portfolio structure is shown in the AXELOS diagram below:


ITIL 4 Exam Structure 
(Source: AXELOS)

The ITIL 4 Strategic Leader qualification, on the right-hand side, will be made available later in 2020. The ITIL Master qualification is available via the submission of a proposal and project-based work package, along with an interview-based assessment.

In terms of ITIL 4’s level of success to date, I’ve not seen any official statistics on exam-taking volumes and pass rates yet. However, the following quote from Claire Agutter – of training provider ITIL.zone – offers a qualitative view on the level of ITIL 4 Foundation qualification’s level of adoption a year on:

“Take up for ITIL 4 training and examinations has been good, although not as strong as the change from ITIL v2 to v3 – perhaps a reflection of the increased complexity of our market and showing that training budget is being spent on other areas like DevOps and Agile.”

It will be interesting to see the official ITIL 4 exam-related statistics for both ITIL 4 Foundation and Managing Professional once made available, especially the split between the people who are upgrading their earlier ITIL qualifications and those who are brand new ITIL-qualification seekers.

The adoption of ITIL 4 by organizations

As much as I’d love to point out a dozen high-profile organizations that have successfully transitioned their IT service delivery and support operations from ITIL v3/2011 to ITIL 4, such case studies and success stories are still in the process of being created (after all, the first 15 new Practice Guides were only made available at the end of 2019).

There are, however, already a few opportunities to find out what other organizations have been doing in terms of ITIL 4 adoption. For example, this webinar by Nargis Mirza of the UK Home Office called “How to Develop Service Management from an ITIL v3 to ITIL 4 Structure.” Or this “Amadeus and ITIL 4 Case Study” available on the AXELOS website, with more case studies to follow.

As expected, it’s taking time for ITIL 4 to bring about change in the organizations that have used ITIL during the last three decades.

Where will ITIL 4 be in 2021?

Yes, it may seem a long way out but 2021 is only another few months off.

By the start of 2021, the remaining ITIL 4 Practices Guides will have been published and all of the ITIL 4 qualifications will be live (which will require an additional ITIL 4 publication – Digital and IT Strategy – for the ITIL 4 Strategic Leader qualification).

More importantly, for organizations seeking to benefit from ITIL 4, I expect there to be a wealth of ITIL 4 customer case studies available. Both from AXELOS and other organizations that operate within the ITSM and ITIL ecosystem, from managed service providers, through ITSM tool vendors, to other advisory and consultancy organizations. With each wanting to highlight how ITIL 4 adoption has benefitted their customers.

Ultimately, it’s hard to predict how successful ITIL 4 will be in a world that loves DevOps and now has a number of viable alternatives to ITIL. But what I do know is that AXELOS has done all it can to pull together service management best practices from around the world, in ITIL 4, and to make far easier to digest than with the ITIL v3/2011 publications.

By 2021, we will have a much better idea of the success of ITIL 4 in terms of both individual and organizational adoption.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm ITSM.tools. Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.