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Key Differences Between ITIL v2 and v3

Although much has changed, there’s no reason to abandon the v2 ship just yet, writes ITSM Watch columnists Martin Likier and Mike Tainter of Forsythe Solutions Group.
Oct 25, 2007

Martin Likier,Mike Tainter

By now you have read numerous articles explaining that ITIL v3 is really just an extension of the previous library and that the underlying principles and processes have not really changed, but rather have been refined in places.

The same articles may have also stated that a primary rationale behind the refresh was that ITIL v2 was heavily process-focused. In contrast, ITIL v3 is centered on a service lifecycle approach to help IT departments focus on providing business value. However if you are like us, you may have finished reading those articles and still asked yourself, “What are the key differences between ITIL v2 and V3?” And, even more important, “How does the new version affect my ITIL implementation? Do I need to switch over to V3? How quickly?”

The simple answer is: Keep doing what you’re doing. If your organization is in the middle of an ITIL v2 implementation, you do not need to change horses midstream. The expanded elements of ITIL v3 are, in many cases, best-practice activities your organization is already following even though they were not explicitly described in ITIL v2. However, if you have not yet started your ITIL journey, there is no reason not to start with the latest version. Finally, organizations that have already completed their ITIL v2 implementation, will find it useful to take advantage of the new version as they proceed with ongoing improvements to their IT service management approach.

That being said, for those interested in better understanding the differences between ITIL v2 and ITIL v3, we’ve provided a detailed comparison.

Topics Realignment

The most obvious change is the format of the library itself. The ITIL v2 library was presented in seven core books: Service Support, Service Delivery, ICT Infrastructure Management, Planning to Implement Service Management, Application Management, The Business Perspective and Security Management. Most IT professionals focused on the first two books—which are sometimes referred to by their cover colors, as “the blue book” (Service Support) and “the red book” (Service Delivery).

The blue book deals with best-practice processes for day-to-day activities while the red book deals with best-practice processes for forward-looking activities. They offer guidance as to how organizations can improve their processes to work smarter, but do not particularly align the processes discussed with larger business requirements. The other five books touch rather lightly on a variety of ITIL process issues, and are considered somewhat esoteric even by ITIL experts.

In contrast, the ITIL v3 has been organized into five new books: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. These books follow a more practical order: 1.

  • 1. How to develop a business-driven strategy for IT service management;
  • 2.
  • 2. How to design a system to support the chosen strategy;
  • 3.
  • 3. How to transition the newly designed system to the production environment (in terms of people and processes as well as technology);
  • 4.
  • 4. How to support operations in an ongoing fashion; and
  • 5.
  • 5. How to continue improving processes and operations.
  • In addition, the regrouping and expanding of the topics in each book better aligns IT processes and operations with the business outcomes they are meant to enable.

    Expansion of Process Descriptions

    In ITIL v3, the key concepts of Service Support and Service Delivery processes outlined in ITIL v2 have been preserved. They have, however, been augmented with 12 new processes. This can best be seen by looking at all 22 processes visually combined in the new structure. (Note: Processes covered in the ITIL v2 “blue book” (Service Support) are labeled (B) and processes discussed in ITIL v2 “red book” (Service Delivery) are labeled (R).

    Service Strategy (Book 1)

    Financial management – No material changes from V2.

    Demand Management – ITIL v2 discussed concepts of Demand Management within the context of Capacity Management. However ITIL v3 introduces the process of Demand Management as a distinct process and as a strategic component of service management.

    Service Portfolio Management – ITIL v2 only discussed Service Level Management. ITIL v3 represents a fundamental rethinking of services, recognizing the need to conceptualize and identify a portfolio of services before dealing with the specifics of levels of service.

    Service Design (Book 2)

    Service Level Management – No material changes from ITIL v2 in Service Design book. Also covered in Continuous Service Improvement (Book 5).

    Availability Management, Capacity Management and IT Service Continuity Management – No material changes from V2.

    Service Catalog Management - A new process that consolidates and formalizes the processes around ensuring that a service catalog is produced and maintained, and that it contains accurate information on all operational services and on those being prepared to be run operationally. In addition, V3 identifies the need for two interdependent parts of the service catalog, namely an “external” business catalog of (business) services as described and recognized by end-users, and an “internal” technical catalog of the tools, processes and procedures required to support those services.

    In ITIL v2, the concept of a service catalog was mentioned, but no process was outlined for its creation or maintenance, nor was the distinction made between a business catalog and a technical catalog.

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