ITIL is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a set of tips, techniques, processes and concepts for managing an IT enterprise.  ITIL focuses on infrastructure, application development and operations. ITIL is without a doubt the most widely accepted approach to enterprise management.  It provides a full set of best practices.

I’ve come to believe that all CTOs should learn ITIL.  I don’t believe ITIL holds all the answers for enterprises, but it has many useful models and many best practices that can be of enormous benefit, so enterprise class CTOs will increasingly find a familiarity with ITIL comes in handy.  For CTOs in vendors, integrators or startups, you will be interacting with enterprise technologists and should understand the power of ITIL as well.

ITIL came out of the UK and the name ITIL remains a registered trademark of the UK’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC), so I should tip my hat to them.  The OGC and the many other contributors to the ITIL have done enterprises everywhere a great service and they deserve our thanks.

The reference library of ITIL is provided in five core texts:

  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service Operation
  5. Continual Service Improvement

Benefits of ITIL, asserted on the ITIL site, include:

  • reduced costs
  • improved IT services through the use of proven best practice processes
  • improved customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery
  • standards and guidance
  • improved productivity
  • improved use of skills and experience
  • improved delivery of third party services through the
    specification of ITIL or ISO 20000 as the standard for service delivery
    in services procurements.

The following info on the books of ITIL v3 is condensed from Wikipedia’s entry on ITIL:

Service Strategy

Service strategy encompasses a framework to build best practice in developing a long term strategy. Topics include: general strategy, competition and market space, service provider types, service management as a strategic asset, organization design and development, key process activities, financial management, service portfolio management, demand management, and key roles and responsibilities of
staff engaging in service strategy.

Service Design

The design of IT services conforming to best practice, and including design of architecture, processes, policies, documentation, and allow for future business requirements. This also encompasses topics such as Service Design Package (SDP), Service catalog management, Service Level management, designing for capacity management, IT service continuity, Information Security, supplier management, and key roles and responsibilities for staff engaging in service design

Service Transition

Service transition relates to the delivery of services required by the business into liveoperational use, and often encompasses the “project” side of IT rather than “BAU” (Business As Usual). This area also covers topics such as managing changes to the environment. Topics include Service Asset and Configuration Management, Transition Planning and Support, Release and deployment management, Change
Management, Knowledge Management, as well as the key roles of staff engaging in Service Transition.

Service Operation

Best practice for achieving the delivery of agreed levels of services both to end-users and the customers (where “customers” refer to those individuals who pay for the service and negotiate the SLAs). Service Operations is the part of the lifecycle where the services and value is actually directly delivered. Also the monitoring of problems and balance between service reliability and cost etc are considered. Topics include balancing conflicting goals (e.g. reliability v cost etc), Event management, incident management, problem management, event fulfillment, asset management, service desk, technical and application
management,  as well as key roles and responsibilities for staff engaging in Service Operation.

The above is just a short introduction.  For more info, I recommend the booklet The Visible Ops Handbook: Implementing ITIL in 4 Practical and Auditable Steps, by Kevin Behr, Gene Kim and George Spafford.  The book is a very fast read and will leave you with enough of an understanding of the power of ITIL to let you decide how fast to move your organization into implementing it.

Looking for other research topics? Browse our reports directory here. Would you like to task us with research on these or other topics? As A CTOlabs Pro subscriber you may use our “Ask The CTO” section and let us know what we can do for you.
Related Reading:
Technological Dimensions of Cyber Defense
What is the Cyber Conflict Studies Association?

8 responses to “ITIL for CTOs”

  1. ITIL is great, but it's ISO-like and SOX-like in that it's about visibility, it's guidance and best practices, without being directly implementable. Are there more resources out there like Microsoft's MOF?

  2. Thanks all for the comments and the leads to more information. I appreciate that.
    Bob Gourley

  3. Bob,
    I appreciate the kind mention of Visible Ops! The whole point of Visible Ops was to show folks where the high performers focused.
    The approach we outlined has now been validated by a large empirical research study at the IT Process Institute. The study was designed to get to the heart of the questions "Where should I start" and "What controls and processes correlate with high performance?".
    If you want to know where to start your ITIL efforts, Visible Ops outlines a proven path to adoption and results.
    thanks again!

  4. Kevin what an honor for me to have you commenting right here on my blog! Thanks.
    However, I have some bad news for you. I still see so many places that just don't know about ITIL or Visible Ops. I don't want to call those places out in public, yet, but they include large government organizations that should be looking for best practices every where they can.
    I guess the point is that we need to keep spreading the word!

  5. Let's do the work and spread the word then! I am @kevinbehr on Twitter and am blogging regularly at
    I am also consulting many clients including 2 of the top 5 internetcos on how to build flow into their IT orgs.
    Think Goldratt,Spear, CMMI-SVC meets Behr/Kim!
    amazing stuff and I am glad to know you like it!
    Kevin Behr

  6. Kevin, Thanks again, and it is good to connect to you on Twitter.
    I'm starting to hear more and more folks use the term ITIL and I continue to spread word of Visible Ops as absolutely great context.

Leave a Reply