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Is ITIL Still Relevant in Today’s Digital Era?

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The Evolving Role of IT

In the last 30 years, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) has been considered the gold standard for IT operations. Companies have embraced ITIL processes, IT professionals have pursued ITIL certification, and IT systems have been designed around ITIL principles. However, with the advent of digital transformation, cloud services, and agile methodologies, one might question the relevance of ITIL in today’s rapidly changing landscape. Is ITIL still worth it?

The Foundation of ITIL: Consistency for Consistent Outcomes

To answer this question, it’s essential to understand the original purpose of ITIL and distinguish between the concept of ITIL and its implementation. ITIL was developed in the 1980s to help government organizations and later businesses navigate the complexities of IT and deliver high-quality services and solutions to users. At the time, most IT systems were built and maintained in-house or in collaboration with a few strategic partners. These systems were technologically advanced for that era, requiring strict control to ensure proper design, implementation, and rapid repair. ITIL provided a framework for designing, building, operating, and improving systems in a standardized manner, aiming for consistent outcomes.

However, the reality of ITIL implementation in organizations has deviated from the original intentions. ITIL is not a rigid set of standards but rather a reference model that companies adapt and customize based on their unique needs and circumstances. Consequently, organizations seldom implement the entirety of ITIL, instead cherry-picking and customizing elements that suit them best. Packaged ITSM (IT Service Management) systems that support ITIL also enable customization of the core ITIL processes. This raises the question: When do organizations transition from having “ITIL processes” to implementing “customized processes inspired by ITIL”? Is this shift beneficial or detrimental?

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The Changing Landscape of IT in the Modern Era

In today’s technology-driven era, both the technical landscape and the culture of IT organizations have evolved. There has been a fundamental shift away from traditional command-and-control mindsets, waterfall project management, and stringent technology standards dictated by policies. Instead, organizations are embracing a more collaborative, agile, and business-driven approach to introducing and managing technology. Business users now have more say and decision-making authority in selecting and implementing IT systems. Additionally, cloud service providers and third-party technology suppliers are responsible for many “traditional IT activities,” such as system development, operation, and improvement. Consequently, an organization’s IT department’s role has transformed into one of facilitation, integrating experiences, safeguarding company data, ensuring security, managing risks, and ensuring compliance. The modern IT landscape is vastly different from when ITIL was initially conceived.

The Relevance of ITIL in the Modern Era

Given the current emphasis on enterprise agility and solving present challenges while remaining adaptable to future ones, it raises the question: Are the “consistent outcomes” ITIL aimed for still relevant? The answer is a resounding “Yes,” but not in the way you might think. IT organizations must still strive for consistent outcomes, but rather than focusing on maintaining a fixed set of systems, they now focus on achieving consistent processes, practices, and interfaces. ITIL’s strength lies in its adaptability to changing industry needs and an individual organization’s requirements. The core ITIL processes are more crucial than ever in today’s landscape. However, organizations should no longer view ITIL as the standard for how they handle IT internally. Instead, it should be seen as an integration framework guiding how an organization’s IT department collaborates with an ecosystem of technology partners to deliver technology services to the business.

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Is ITIL Worth It?

ITIL is a valuable tool, a reference framework that can provide significant value when applied to address specific operational challenges. Companies should shift their perspective from asking, “Should we adopt ITIL?” to asking, “Does our organization face challenges that ITIL can help us solve?” If you’re reading this article, chances are you already know the answer. Now is the time to think creatively and explore how you can leverage ITIL to move forward and overcome these challenges.


For the past three decades, ITIL has been regarded as the standard for IT operations. However, the implementation of ITIL has varied from its original intent. In today’s digital era, with its shifting IT landscape and agile approaches, the focus has shifted to achieving consistent outcomes through adaptable processes. While the role and application of ITIL have changed, it remains relevant and valuable. Companies should consider how ITIL can help address their specific challenges and drive their operational success.

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