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In the 1980s, the British government saw a need to create a set of best practices to ensure quality service from Information Technology (IT) professionals and departments. Over time these have evolved into what is now known as the Information Technology Information Library (ITIL®) best practices. ITIL® best practices are outlined in a group of training materials and books.
These best practices are grouped into seven IT categories, which include service support, service delivery, infrastructure management, implementation planning, application management, business perspective, and security management. By following these best practices, companies and IT professionals can deliver efficient, quality service throughout their organizations. Those that follow these best practices usually have an ITIL® service desk and use ITIL® software to ensure consistency is all aspects of IT service. Staff is generally trained and certified in ITIL® best practices as well. Educational providers and exam information can be found on the official ITIL® website.
ITIL® best practices are learned from training courses, study materials and exams. There are different four different levels of certification, or accreditation. These include the Foundation level, the Intermediate level, ITIL® Expert and, finally, ITIL® Master.
IT staff members and managers learn best practices for different areas of ITIL® service delivery at each certification level. The Foundation level reveals the basic concepts behind ITIL® service management, but not necessarily how to implement them. Implementing best practices is covered in coursework for subsequent certification levels.
At the Intermediate level, students begin to apply the best practices and earn credits for different courses. This level is divided into two streams of best practices, Lifecycle and Capability. The Lifecycle stream focuses on service. The Capability stream focuses on process implementation and management. Candidates must pass separate exams for each stream.
When IT professionals have enough Intermediate level credits, and have passed the Managing Across the Lifecycle course exam, they can earn the ITIL® Expert certificate. The ITIL® Master credential is earned when the candidate can analyze and implement best practices in new areas. In August 2009, qualifications for the Master level were still under development.
The benefits of implementing ITIL® best practices can include cost savings, efficient use of time, better understanding of IT functions within all departments, increased productivity, and a reduction in errors and system downtime. The downside includes the time and money it takes for training and implementing ITIL®. Also, as a business' needs and technology are constantly changing, ITIL® is routinely updated. Once ITIL® is adopted, companies must work to keep their service management up to date with the latest version.