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ITIL 101: An Executive Guide to the IT Infrastructure Library

ITIL 101: An Executive Guide to the IT Infrastructure Library

ITIL is a framework of best practices for delivering IT services. What's the big deal about it, and why is it considered so important in corporate computing? We explain the basics before you hunker down with the books.

What is ITIL?

The IT Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, is just that: a library of volumes describing a framework of best practices for delivering IT services.

Developed by the British government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) during the 1980s, it at first consisted of more than 30 books, developed and released over time, that codified best practices in information technology accumulated from many sources (including vendors' best practices internally, consultancy) around the world. IBM, for example, says that its four-volume series on systems-management concepts, A Management System for Information Systems, known as the Yellow Books, provided vital input into the original ITIL books.

When CCTA, along with several other agencies, was rolled into the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the OGC adopted the project as part of its mission to work with the U.K. public sector as a catalyst to achieve efficiency, value for money in commercial activities, and improved success in the delivery of programs and projects.

The goal wasn't to create a proprietary product that could be commercialised; rather, it was to gather best practices that could assist with what the government recognised was an increasing dependence within the government on IT combined with a painful lack of standard procedures that were increasing costs and allowing errors to perpetuate. It quickly became apparent that distributing these best practices would profit both public and private-sector organisations.

The books weren't authored by CCTA personnel, nor are they now, although the Crown holds copyright, and owns the names ITIL and Information Technology Infrastructure Library. Instead, experts in each discipline produce the text, which is then rigorously reviewed, first by the ITIL Advisory Group, then by reviewers recruited from the ITIL community in a formal quality-assurance process before publication.

Over the years, ITIL's credibility and utility became recognised, until now its practices have contributed to and are aligned with the ISO/IEC 20000 Service Management standard, the first international standard for IT service management; it is based on British standard BS15000.

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