ITIL 4 Foundation Key Concepts

This article is an outcome of my ITIL certification (in its current, fourth version) at the Foundation level. I would like to share what I learned during the training and touch on the main concepts, such as the Seven Guiding Principles, Service Value System along with Service Value Chain, and Four Dimension Model. I will also mention some of the practices that ITIL is famous for (at least the most important ones).

If you can call yourself the persistent one and by some miracle reach the end of this text, you will learn whether it is worthwhile to be interested in the ITIL library at all, and, most importantly, what to do if you are not satisfied with your training, and if your preparation seems to be doubtful. Alright then, let’s go!

So-called “introduction”

ITIL, short for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, was developed by the UK government in the 1980s to guarantee that funds allocated for IT expenditures were spent effectively. It immediately established itself as a widely used reference point for IT service management and IT in general.

The ITIL 4 version, which became available in early 2019, has been hailed as a revolution in the field of IT service management. As Lean, Agile, and DevOps have significantly affected IT and business organizations over the past 20 years, it contains new ideas, concepts, and practices from these three fields. However, with the increasing significance of automation and quick software development, several sections of ITIL were deemed insufficient and required reassessment. That’s how the ITIL 4 came to be.

The biggest changes that came with ITIL 4 are the Service Value System and Service Value Chain which concentrate on value co-creation in ITIL. These two ideas (which I will try to explain better below) aid in our comprehension of the many elements and procedures involved in creating value (which, as I believe, is ultimately what a company exists to do). Similar to how it is in Lean, in ITIL 4 it’s critical to comprehend every step involved in creating value in order to eliminate wasteful operations while maintaining systems thinking perspective on the broader picture.

ITIL 4 does not give us ready-made recipes, it offers us something much more – it helps us better understand our own organization and its environment by applying the suggested practices. With this knowledge, we are able to make good (knowledge-supported) decisions for the organization, in any given situation.

So let’s start with the basics.

Seven Guiding Principles

The ITIL 4 guiding principles in the library leverage practices known from Lean, Agile, and DevOps. This allows organizations to effectively integrate the use of different methods into an overall service management approach. Turned into concrete actions, they help when implementing ITIL 4 concepts. The Guiding Principles support all organizations in continuous improvement (continual improvement) at all levels.

The Guiding Principles are universal, so in addition to service providers, they should also be used by customers, users, or third parties supporting providers. Basically, everyone who wants to deliver value in the form of services.


As we can see above, the guiding principles are:

  1. Start where you are.
  2. Focus on value.
  3. Progress iteratively with feedback.
  4. Collaborate and promote visibility.
  5. Think and work holistically.
  6. Keep it simple and practical.
  7. Optimize and automate.

The seven ITIL 4 guiding principles are succinct declarations that lead our thoughts toward being more value-focused, collaborative, and agile. In addition, they may be used in just about any project or circumstance. Worth mentioning, they work best when combined but can be useful on their own as well.

The Service Value System (SVS)

The goal of SVS is to ensure that the organization continuously co-creates value with all stakeholders through product and service management. Key elements of SVS should be treated as interconnected parts of the overall system to avoid working in silos, competency gaps and overlapping services. Otherwise, there is a risk of not delivering the intended value.

The SVS is tasked with facilitating and enabling the transition of the process from potential (new or improved) services through efficient operation to final value creation. This is done through an interdependent cycle of activities, feedback mechanisms, design and creation, development testing, and support.

The five elements of SVS

  1. Guiding Principles – recommendations that support the organization so that regardless of circumstances, employees can work flexibly.
  2. Governance – ways to direct and control the organization.
  3. The Service Value Chain – an operating model that defines the key activities required to respond to demand and facilitate value creation through the creation and management of products and services.
  4. Practices – a set of organizational resources designed to do a job or achieve a goal, including existing processes and capabilities.
  5. Continual Improvement – an iterative organizational activity performed at all levels that ensures continuous improvement in organizational performance in line with stakeholder expectations.

The Service Value Chain (SVC)

The Service Value Chain is the SVS’s key component. It’s an operational model that outlines the steps that must be performed to properly address demand and make it possible to generate value via the development and administration of goods and services.

Service Value Chain is the core of SVS. It makes it possible for businesses to provide goods and services in accordance with their own standards, regulations, and processes. Any company can utilize SVS components to the extent that it matches its service management strategy. The organization’s methods must be in line with its culture, requirements, contracts, and clients’ expectations, which is what matters most.

It’s composed of 6 elements:

  1. Plan
  2. Improve
  3. Engage
  4. Design and Transition
  5. Obtain/Build
  6. Deliver and Support

Four Dimensions Model

To support a holistic approach to service management, ITIL defines 4 dimensions that together are critical to effectively and efficiently create value for consumers in the form of products and services. The four dimensions are the structure that must exist in your organization to ensure effective ITSM capabilities. They are relevant to SVS. They define 4 key areas that need to be addressed to ensure that products and services are delivered to the required standards and expected value.

  1. Organizations and People
  2. Information and Technology
  3. Partners and Suppliers
  4. Value Streams and Processes



ITIL 4 Practices

The contents, previously known as ITIL processes, have been explained in the form of 34 “Practices” based on many practical examples. I will not focus on all of them this time, but only on the most important ones that the Foundation level addresses. Before doing so, however, I will touch on the division into three types of practices:

  • Management Practices which have been adopted and adapted to service management from general business domains.
  • Service Management Practices that have been developed in the service management and ITSM industries.
  • Technical Management Practices adapted from technology management disciplines to service management by shifting the focus from technology solutions to IT services.

As for the most important ones covered in the Foundation training level, there are seven of them:

  1. Continual improvement – to continuously enhance goods, services, procedures, and all other components involved in the management of products and services in order to match the organization’s practices and offerings with evolving business requirements.
  2. Change enablement – to increase the amount of successful service and product changes through careful risk assessment, approval of changes, and scheduling of changes.
  3. Incident management – to minimize the harm caused by incidents, by swiftly returning to regular service functioning.
  4. Problem management – to manage workarounds and known errors in order to decrease the frequency and impact of accidents by recognizing their real and possible causes.
  5. Service request management – to handle all predetermined, user-initiated service requests in an efficient and user-friendly way in order to support the agreed quality of service.
  6. Service desk – to record the demand for service requests and incident resolution. Additionally, it should also serve as the single point of contact for all customers with the service provider.
  7. Service level management – to identify clear, business-based goals for service levels and to make sure that service delivery is appropriately evaluated, tracked, and managed in accordance with these expectations.

ITIL Foundation – Is it worth it?

ITIL Foundation provides an introduction to ITIL 4. It will bring you closer to analyzing IT service management using a comprehensive operating model. The certification validates your understanding of ITIL and its use to improve IT service management. It is one of the few certifications that combines the use of IT technology with modern business needs, and for this reason, it is a worthwhile position.

ITIL Foundation is only an introduction, which certainly already gives a lot at this stage (leaving aside, of course, the fact that it is a globally recognized and valued certification), but to get a good understanding of trends and changes in IT services you will need a higher level, i.e. Practitioner or Master.

The basic level shows the logical arrangement of many processes, but I personally feel that I have only touched on IT management topics. It’s a level that allows you to understand key concepts and key practices, which in my opinion (i.e. for someone who doesn’t boast a sizable technical background) definitely adds considerable value.

What’s interesting, the training left me feeling unsatisfied, so I will definitely continue my ITIL adventure. I didn’t have the opportunity to get well acquainted with all the library practices, and they are the most important ones here. Ultimately, there is no point in rediscovering things long since discovered, so in this case, it’s better to use widely known practices.

My training was a hardly revelatory one, and I believe that the material that took two days could have taken a few hours and would have been perfectly sufficient, but if any of you intend to tackle the ITIL topic in the future, I recommend the following youtube course, which can be a great supplement to the training (or even replace it). You can find plenty of material on the Internet, but training that is exceptionally digestible like this one is certainly a rare one.

Author: Jakub Olszak


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