Service Management Blog

The ITIL Lifecycle: From Processes to a Practical Value Chain

4 minute read
Muhammad Raza

The fourth iteration of ITIL® is a significant development from its previous versions—it’s now designed as a best practices framework for organizations following digital transformation initiatives.

ITIL 4 is a best practice approach to IT service management. ITIL is widely used and its latest version can integrate with organizations already using Lean, DevOps, and Agile methodologies to achieve service excellence with their software development projects.

The most recognizable change from ITIL v3 has been the introduction of practices that encompass these overlapping processes:

  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service Operation
  5. Continual Service Operation

ITIL 4 replaces the sequential nature of the ITIL lifecycle by introducing the Service Value Chain (SVC) and Value Streams. The ITIL lifecycle in the latest version of the framework offers six core elements in the SVC:

  • Plan
  • Improve
  • Engage
  • Design and Transition
  • Obtain/Build
  • Deliver and Support

ITIL Service Value Chain

(This article is part of our ITIL 4 Guide. Use the right-hand menu to navigate.)

What’s the ITIL lifecycle?

We’ve written extensively about the Service Value Chain, including:

  • Core components
  • The activities that contribute to each element
  • Outcomes
  • The resulting value propositions

Now, let’s summarize the collective purpose of these value chain elements as they relate to the ITIL lifecycle:


In the Plan element, various practices are coordinated across the value chain and are intended to deliver a flexible operating model involving all stakeholders in the ITSM organization.

The planning phase must cover all strategic, tactical, and operational aspects of the framework execution. The outcomes and value should be defined from a business perspective and include adequate provision to evolve as new requirements and stakeholders are introduced.

The planning activity primarily covers these practices:


The Improve phase is focused on co-creating value on a continual basis. Activities associated with this element of the Service Value Chain are provisioned in the planning stage and continue end-to-end through the ITIL lifecycle.

The Improve stage takes a holistic approach and nothing is considered out of scope. Every stakeholder and member of the ITSM organization is responsible for contributing toward continual improvement.

The Improve activity contributes to these practices:

  • General Management
  • Service Management
  • Value Streams


Once the planning is finalized and provisions for continual improvement are introduced, it’s time to engage the stakeholders.

Interactions within and beyond the organization, including employees, leadership, partners, and customers are incorporated. A variety of collaboration tools can be adopted—digital and physical, written and oral, self-service portals, and active meeting engagements. Emerging technologies such as AI-enabled chatbots and knowledge management solutions play a key role in reducing the manual workload for stakeholders in the ITIL Service Desk domain.

This SVC element contributes to:

  • General Management
  • Service Management
  • Value Streams

Design & Translation

The end-product should meet all stakeholder requirements in terms of costs, time, and quality. (It’s important to note that the specific requirements captured, agreed, and validated during the planning stage should be clearly understood by all members of the organization.)

During the design and translation stage, appropriate governance measures should be in place to track and align project performance to established specifications and goals. The appetite for risk should be considered as performance may need accelerating in a different direction as part of the continual improvement strategy.

This SVC element primarily contributes to these practices:

  • General Management
  • Service Management
  • Technical Management
  • Value Streams

ITIL Management Practices


The Obtain/Build phase refers to the practical execution of planning, engagement, and design efforts.

Procurement and delivery of the right service components should be in place as members of the organization build the products. The organization must ensure that all necessary components are delivered as per the expected requirements and specifications. These components are then delivered to members working on product design, delivery, or support. Performance information further assists with improving the procurement process and can expedite:

  • Time to market
  • Procurement of high-quality product components and services

The SVC stage contributes to these practices:

  • General Management
  • Service Management
  • Technical Management

Deliver & Support

The last element of the Service Value Chain ensures that the end product indeed meets the required specifications in practice and expectations of all stakeholders.

This phase is primarily user-centric, and the corresponding ITIL 4 best practice guidelines are intended to understand the real-world performance of the delivered products and services. The Service Desk actively participates in managing support for a wide user base and collaborates with internal IT to manage problems, incidents, changes, and support requests.

These SVC practices generally contribute to:

  • General Management
  • Service Management
  • Value Streams

ITIL works with DevOps

Finally, the Service Value Chain approach to ITIL lifecycle recognizes the main challenges and the inherent in modern software development methodologies such as DevOps.

ITIL provides a customizable best practice framework that recognizes the ever-changing nature of software development. Especially when long-term waterfall projects fail to deliver and the organization must focus on a minimum viable product (MVP), organizations can follow actionable SVC guidelines instead of following a linear and rigid process based ITSM framework.

(Read more about ITIL with DevOps.)

Related reading

ITIL 4 Best Practice e-books

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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About the author

Muhammad Raza

Muhammad Raza is a Stockholm-based technology consultant working with leading startups and Fortune 500 firms on thought leadership branding projects across DevOps, Cloud, Security and IoT.