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What is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library?

S.A. Keel
S.A. Keel

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL®) is a series of books that describe methods for implementing and managing information technology (IT) services. The methods described in the library are meant to streamline an organization's IT services by improving on, or implementing, tactics for IT environments such as problem and contingency awareness, cost analysis, and software and hardware management and configuration. The books also describe ways in which all of the inevitable changes to an IT environment can be managed. Through the use of the many practices described in the ITIL® organizations have been known to dramatically improve efficiency of IT resources and reduce costs by up to 50 percent.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library was created by the British government in the 1980s in an effort to bring the increasing reliance on IT resources into check. The then Central Computer and Communications Agency, which later merged into the Office of Government Commerce, originally published over 30 volumes in the first version of the ITIL®. The library was required reading for British government agencies and contractors interested in providing IT services.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Over the years, though, the highly practices gradually gained worldwide popularity. A second version of the library was released which condensed the material down to eight volumes. The third version, released in 2007, further reduced the number of books in the library to five. These are merely the core of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, whereas under each of the core topics, additional volumes can offer more specific practices depending on the type of IT services.

The first core topic in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library deals with strategy, bringing the organization's goals together with IT through planning and analysis. The next topic area covers the actual design of the IT environment, taking the needs determined from the analysis and marrying them with specifics such as hardware, software, personnel, strategic partnerships and so forth. The third volume in the set is something of a bridge for the transition from planning into actual operation, describing techniques for making sure that the IT plan is properly implemented and yet remains flexible to change and less susceptible to unforeseen disaster. The other areas deal with general tactics for efficient everyday operation of the IT environment are discussed and proactive management and further improvements.

Even though the complexity of the original 30-plus volumes has been condensed somewhat, the density of the topics still exists. To help out with the intricacy of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a toolkit has been devised to help organizations get started with and develop the practices into their own IT environment. The ITIL® toolkit contains things like slide shows for bringing management up to speed, quick fact-sheets that summarize the topics and practices, and a set of compliance questionnaires for figuring out what areas are already working and those might need improvement.

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