ITIL has ruled as the principal guide to IT best practices for decades. In fact, if you’ve been in the IT field for less than about three decades, ITIL is probably all you know. Short for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, ITIL is used to refer to both the set of manuals that define IT best practices as well as the certifications issued for passing an examination demonstrating the mastery of these best practices. But where did it all start? Where did ITIL come from?
During the 1980’s, as information technology became essential for the operations of both governments and businesses, the British government became dissatisfied with the level of IT service quality they were getting. They charged the development of a framework for more efficient, fiscally responsible usage of IT resources. The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) undertook this challenge and developed the Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management (GITIM) guidelines. These guidelines evolved over time to become ITIL. GITIM became standard best practices for both the British government and European private industries, and gradually spread throughout the world during the 1990’s.
Though there were differences between the original GITIM, the original concept was very similar. It was a guideline for IT service, support, and delivery. In the year 2000, the CCTA was absorbed into the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), but their brainchild was now fully functional on its own.
Also in 2000, Microsoft used the framework for ITIL to develop the Microsoft Operational Framework, or MOF, which is just one example of how IT departments around the world have used the concepts of ITIL to develop their own in-house best practices.
Version 2 of ITIL was released in 2001. It was a redevelopment of The Service Support and Service Delivery manuals, but was largely like the original ITIL in terms of concepts. It was merely an update according to lessons learned and technology advancements.
The third version of ITIL was released in 2007. This marked a shift in ITIL as more of a lifestyle approach to IT best practices. It focused a greater degree of importance on the business integration of IT.
ITIL 2011 is also considered the third version of ITIL, as it is not actually a new version. It represents an update which took care of many errors and inconsistencies found in the version 3 released in 2007. There aren’t actually any new concepts introduced. No IT workers were required to recertify for the 2011 version, although it did include revised syllabus and exams that were designed to reflect the changes made in version 2011.
ITIL remains the go-to standard for IT departments, both in the government and within the private sector, around the world. The primary difference is that it’s hard to obtain a printed copy of the manuals, as the body of work is quite large and printing and shipping costs have skyrocketed since the introduction of ITIL in the 1990’s. Most IT workers elect to acquire the digital version instead. Tests can usually be taken online, as well.
ITIL certifications are available both on an individual and on a department-wide basis.