If you’re new to ITSM, the question of what ITIL actually stands for is sure to pop up sooner or later. Luckily, there’s a simple answer: nothing! When it was first released back in the 1980s, ‘ITIL’ stood for the ‘IT Infrastructure Library’, as it was a series of 48 books that outlined best practices for managing the infrastructure of IT.
In recent years, however, infrastructure is no longer the main focus of the framework. ITIL now focuses largely on service lifecycle management, reflecting the fundamental role IT services currently play in the success or failure of modern businesses. Nor is ITIL now a library’s worth of books, as it has become much more refined and is even set to be updated regularly.
In a June 2018 article, AXELOS ITSM Portfolio Manager Phil Hearsum officially wrote: “The IT Infrastructure Library – the original name for ITIL® – is, officially, not in use!”
He continued: “Today, it’s no longer treated as an abbreviation but a stand-alone name for a concept known, used and trusted by millions of people around the world.
“But the shift to “ITIL” wasn’t accidental or just borne out of verbal laziness! As the IT Infrastructure Library matured, the library of books eventually reduced to five and the emphasis moved to service management and the lifecycle approach, with the infrastructure element all but disappearing over the past 10 years.
“And although it has become less and less connected to its original incarnation, ITIL remains relevant and stands up as a beacon of global best practice in IT service management.”
So, what does ITIL stand for? While the acronym is no longer in use, we can still examine the question from a different angle. ITIL 4 represents a comprehensive yet ever-evolving approach to IT service management (ITSM). It takes IT governance seriously, reflecting the understanding that IT and digital elements now make a far more significant contribution to high-level corporate strategy. It also offers a valuable progression path to practitioners, with ITIL Experts often enjoying higher salaries than colleagues.