The 5 Stages of the ITIL Service Lifecycle

ITIL has become the de facto standard in IT service management. It helps organizations in all kinds of industries offer their services in a quality-driven and economical way. The most recent version of the ITIL framework, ITIL® 4, was released in February 2019. It’s a significant update from ITIL V3 which was in widespread use for over a decade.

Whether you’re already on your certification journey or you’re just researching the field of IT service, before you start preparing for the ITIL exams, its helpful to learn the basic ITIL concepts and terms, as well as ITIL processes, to become familiar with the core components of the exam. So if you’re wondering what is ITIL exactly, and what are the specific ITIL concepts and processes, you’re in the right place.

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It is a set of best practices for delivering IT services—it standardizes the selection, planning, delivery, and support of IT services to maximize efficiency and maintain predictable levels of service. It has roots going back to the 1980s in the United Kingdom as a government initiative, and the framework is now covered in five books that are updated periodically. (There were originally 30 books!)

There are five stages of the ITIL service lifecycle:
  • Service Strategy.
  • Service Design.
  • Service Transition.
  • Service Operation.
  • Continual Service Improvement.

2. Complete ITIL service life cycle stages| Process roles tools | ITIL overview in 10 min

Why is ITIL important for businesses?

The ITIL model is an important tool for information technology companies because it provides structure at both an individual and organizational level. Using a consistent framework can minimize misunderstandings and the length of acclimation periods. Using ITIL also makes the integration of new staff and collaboration with outside companies more effective.

What is ITIL?

ITIL refers to both a standardized approach to IT service management and a series of process-related certifications an IT professional can earn. Developed from IT professionals expansive research, ITIL is a thorough series of best practices designed to guide the creation and implementation of IT strategies.

Rather than identifying specific IT instructions, the framework offers IT assessment and creation tools. ITILs goal is to make a companys IT service management process more efficient and adaptable. This allows the company to respond to changing IT needs and modern developments effectively.

What are the five stages of an ITIL life cycle?

There are five phases of the ITIL model when developing and adjusting IT practices. Although presented as sequential stages, the ITIL phases order isnt fixed. The design, transition and operation phases serve as a cycle, with teams rotating through each. Then, the strategy and continual improvement phases provide support and envelop that cycle.

To implement an ITIL strategy effectively, its important to understand the value and execution of each stage:

1. Service strategy

The service strategy phase provides the foundation for the later ITIL stages processes. Services cover any actions the IT professionals provide a company, from creating technical infrastructure to maintaining electronics and more. Service strategy planning includes several areas of focus:

2. Service design

The service design phase uses the strategies you developed in the previous phase to create actionable plans and put them into effect. During this stage, staff creates services to meet the needs of customers and ensure the company has the infrastructure to carry out new services they design. Considerations during service design include:

3. Service transition

The service transition phase allows a company to begin the implementation of new services. The services undergo testing to identify areas of strength and improvement. A service may experience several rounds of testing and alteration before receiving approval. This ensures the company has optimized the service before moving it to the next phase.

4. Service operation

During this stage, the company executes the new service, providing it to clients who purchase it or request it after its added to their existing coverage. This stage benefits significantly from the phases before it. Previous planning provides the systems you need in order to implement the new services effectively. It also minimizes the potential for complications when providing the service.

5. Continual service improvement

Just as strategy serves as the foundation to all phases of the ITIL process, the fifth stage is ongoing throughout all stages. It serves as an added layer of quality control. While working on developing, testing and implementing a service, an IT company uses strategic metrics to assess the effectiveness of all efforts.

If a phase shows that a service isnt meeting expectations, the staff can analyze data to identify areas of improvement. By applying these changes to the other stages, the company can increase its effectiveness and raise the quality of the products and services it offers.

What are the levels of ITIL certification?

While an ITIL certification isnt a requirement to work in information technology, a company using ITIL methods may prefer to hire staff with formal training or request that new hires undergo training. The certification structure includes two mid-level certification paths: ITIL 4 Managing Professional and ITIL 4 Strategic Leader. Professionals following either path must first earn a Foundation certification. Theres also a Master certification for those who complete both paths.

ITIL 4 Foundation certification

The Foundation level is a prerequisite for all advanced paths of certification. To earn a ITIL Foundation certification, professionals can take a two-and-a-half-day class that teaches the basic concepts of ITIL. At the end of the course, professionals have an hour to take a 40-question test. They must earn a score of 26 or higher to pass. Students may also study independently prior to taking the examination.

ITIL 4 Managing Professional (ITIL MP) certification

An ITIL MP certification demonstrates which IT professionals can lead projects and teams within an IT organization. The program for earning an ITIL MP certification includes passing exams in four different modules:

ITIL 4 Strategic Leader (SL) certification

An ITIL SL certification shows a professional has gained the skills to manage all digital services within a company, as opposed to just IT services. Earning an ITIL SL requires passing the following modules:

ITIL Master certification

An IT professional who completes all the modules for the ITIL MP and ITIL SL certifications can qualify for an ITIL Master certification. To be eligible for an ITIL Master designation, a professional must first serve in a leadership position in an IT role for at least five years. This shows an advanced understanding of all ITIL concepts and modules.

Benefits of using ITIL

The ITIL system is an effective and tested method of organizing IT behaviors within a company. Benefits of using it include:

Please note that none of the products mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


What are the phases of ITIL life cycle?

The ITIL service lifecycle is a process approach to the best practices laid out within the ITIL framework, and it is broken into five phases: service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement.

How many processes are in ITIL?

ITIL v3 defines four functions of Service Desk, Application management, Technical Management, and Operations Management.

What are the 4 pillars of ITIL?

ITIL® v3 is built on 26 processes which have been segregated into 5 service lifecycle stages. These are: Service Strategy.

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