ITIL 4 Adoption Levels – the News Will Surprise Many

ITIL 4 Adoption

Just before the COVID-19 crisis hit much of the world, commenced a short survey to assess the level of ITIL 4 interest and adoption. It was aimed at providing some statistical balance to the crowdsourced opinions reported in our What Does 2020 Hold for ITIL 4 and Its Adoption? article. This article now delivers the results and a little analysis. Hopefully, you’ll agree with my clickbait-like title – that the survey results show a healthy uptake of, and hopefully future for, the ITIL 4 service management guidance.

The survey audience

As with all our surveys, we didn’t collect personal data to encourage participation. However, given the way that it was promoted (via the website, various social media channels, and our monthly email) it should be assumed that the survey sample is made up of IT service management (ITSM) professionals in the main. Hence, the following statistics should be considered as percentages of the ITSM community rather than of the wider IT or business communities.

The many crisis-related articles kindly provided by our authors have delayed the publication of the survey results. So, not only thank you to the 210 people who each took a minute to take the survey, but also thank you for everyone’s patience in receiving the results.

The latest survey results from @ITSM_tools show some interesting insights around ITIL 4 adoption levels. See them here. #ITIl4 #ITSM Click To Tweet

Knowledge of ITIL 4 is high

The first question asked was: What do you know about ITIL 4?

Answer ChoicesPercentage
Didn’t know there was an ITIL 41.9%
A lot44.0%
Just enough34.5%
Too little18.2%
No interest in ITIL 41.4%

The survey results show that most people already know about the new version of ITIL – with less than 2% of people unaware of ITIL 4’s existence. And an even smaller percentage of respondants stating that they have no interest in ITIL 4 (1.4%).

So, it’s good news in terms of what people know about ITIL 4, with 78.5% of respondents feeling that they already know enough about it. Although, this is unsurprising given the number of blogs and webinars produced by various parts of the ITSM ecosystem on ITIL 4’s launch. Plus, when the responses to the next question are considered.

78.5% of survey respondents feel that they already know enough about ITIL 4, says @StephenMann #ITSM #ITIL4 Click To Tweet

There’s a high level of interest in ITIL 4 qualifications

The second question asked was: What are your personal plans for ITIL 4?

Answer ChoicesPercentage
Taken an ITIL 4 exam already41.0%
Will take an ITIL 4 exam28.6%
Will simply read up on ITIL 419.5%
No plans for ITIL 49.5%
Don’t know1.4%

In what will have been roughly the first year of ITIL 4 Foundation qualification availability, 41% of survey respondents have already taken ITIL 4 exams. Added to the other 29% planning on taking an ITIL 4 exam, this takes the total to 70% of survey respondents. This roughly equates to the 60-70% ITIL adoption levels seen in various other industry surveys over the last decade – although this range is related to actual adoption rather than merely exam-taking.

Only 9.5% of survey respondents have no plans for ITIL 4, which has to be a positive response to the new body of ITSM guidance created by the ITIL 4 authors. Although I appreciate that many will view their latest ITIL qualification as necessary for their continued ITSM careers.

70% of @ITSM_tools survey respondants have either already taken an ITIL 4 exam or are planning to in the near future, says @StephenMann #ITSM #ITIL4 Click To Tweet

But what about actual adoption?

Of course, everything so far only considers ITIL-related learnings rather than the new body of ITSM best practice guidance “being used in anger.”

The third question addresses this: What are your workplace plans for ITIL 4?

Answer ChoicesPercentage
Already adopted or adopting parts of it20.1%
Planning to adopt parts of it32.5%
No plans34.0%
Don’t know13.4%

This set of percentages is far more indicative of the current level of ITIL 4 adoption (than the level of exam-taking is). It shows that 20% of organizations are already adopting or using ITIL 4, with another 32.5% planning to do so.

The 34% that have no ITIL 4 plans is an interesting number too. Because the remaining 66% – which includes the “still undecided” 13% – is again within the 60-70% ITIL adoption levels seen in previous ITSM-focused surveys. This offers hope that first, ITIL is still relevant in the days of DevOps mass adoption. And second, that ITIL 4 is seen as significantly different to, and better than, ITIL v3/2011 for organizations seeking to optimize their ITSM operations and outcomes in 2020 and beyond.

New survey results show that 20% of organizations are already adopting or using ITIL 4, with another 32.5% planning to do so. #ITSM #ITIL4 Click To Tweet

Gauging the anticipated benefits of ITIL 4 adoption

Question four of the short survey was less “scientific” in that it’s opinion related. It asked: Do you expect organizations to realize benefits from ITIL 4?

Importantly, it allowed all those who haven’t taken exams or don’t expect their organizations to adopt it to provide their opinion on the value of ITIL 4.

Answer ChoicesPercentage
Yes, significant benefits20.0%
Yes, incremental benefits51.9%
No change14.3%
It will be wasted effort7.1%
Don’t know6.7%

Interestingly, the majority of respondents (52%) felt that there would be incremental benefits – which feel right to me and fits in with the addition of Agile concepts to ITIL 4. Only 7% of respondents expect the adoption of ITIL 4 principles to be “wasted effort.”

Only 7% of respondents in a new @ITSM_tools survey expect the adoption of ITIL 4 principles to be wasted effort, says @StephenMann #ITSM #ITIL4 Click To Tweet

If your organization has already reaped benefits from ITIL 4 adoption, please let me know in the comments or via social media channels. I’m sure that people would love to learn from your successes.

ITIL 4 looks successful but surely… “it depends”

There was also a final survey question that isn’t fully utilized here – because I haven’t had a chance to work on the potential correlations between answers yet. The fifth question asked for the “ITIL role” of the survey-taker from one of:

  • I lead or oversee the development of ITSM practices = 31.4%
  • I take part in the development of ITSM practices = 24.3%
  • I apply the ITSM practices = 19.5%
  • I advise on the development of ITSM practices = 22.4%
  • I have no role with ITSM practices = 2.4%

With the relative percentages of each shown too.

As you can imagine, it would be unlikely not to see different roles having different perspectives for the first four questions. For example, when looking at what each voted for in terms of ITIL 4 benefits.

It’ll also be interesting to look at the correlations between the four main ITIL 4 questions too. For example, to find out the relative positions on questions 1-3 for the respondents who feel that ITIL 4 adoption will be wasted effort. Or to see if the organizations that have already started to adopt ITIL 4 map to the respondents who have already taken an ITIL 4 exam. Or if the fifth of respondents that expect significant benefits from ITIL 4 belong to one role type in the main.

Please look out for this extra detail and insight as the focus of a later ITIL 4 adoption article.

I hope this article has been helpful, either as validation of, or as input to, your ITIL-4-related ambitions and decisions. If you have any questions or points to add, then please post them in the comments section below.

Stephen Mann
Principal Analyst & Content Director at | Website

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.

Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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