Translating best practice and the new ITIL 4 "Practices"

Graphic representation of the countries of the world comprosed of different coloured and shaped speech bubbles

The content of best practice methods and frameworks such as ITIL®, PRINCE2® and MSP® enables people to speak a common language of IT service management, projects and programmes.

However, the terminology needs to be chosen carefully to account for tone and translation to different languages: wherever best practice is used, it needs to make people’s working lives easier, not harder!

Previously, feedback on AXELOS best practices told us the language and examples were essentially UK-centric.

Clearly, not everything originated in British English can be translated into another language; in fact, some things don’t even translate to other English-speaking countries. A phrase as simple as “bricks and mortar” can be tricky for those of us who were not raised in the UK and can leave us ‘scratching our heads’.

Translating ITIL 4

When working with the architect team tasked with updating ITIL – which has ultimately become ITIL 4 – we needed to ensure the terminology would work in countries as diverse as the USA and India, as well as the UK.

And, indeed, the ITIL 4 architect team was itself very international, including experts from Russia, India, Australia, Latin America, the USA and Japan.

As well as discussing the ITIL 4 principles of value co-creation and the service value system, the team debated terminology to unify and harmonize content for different geographies.

50% of people who sit AXELOS exams in English are not native speakers, even if English is their business language. Therefore, it is essential to make sure key terminology is acceptable to anyone, whatever language they speak and where.

For example, if a Japanese company uses ITIL to manage IT services, it needs to be sure that everyone using the framework can distinguish the difference between a “problem” and an “issue” and understand what each means.

For ITIL 4, we are still engaging with end users, reviewers and editors and making changes based on the feedback we’re getting, as some phrases might not work in the way we thought they would. As one of the ITIL 4 guiding principles says, progress iteratively with feedback!

“Processes” in ITIL v3 to “practices” in ITIL 4

In the previous version of ITIL, we used the term “processes” to describe the core approach to managing IT services. In ITIL 4, the concept is expanded to include other elements – such as culture, technology and data management. Processes remain, but they don’t tell the whole story.

So, to be as specific and consistent as possible, we agreed on the word “practices” to become fundamental to the ITIL 4 framework.

The service value system in ITIL 4 now includes 34 management practices which are sets of organizational resources for performing work or accomplishing an objective. For example, project management, change control and service design.

As ever, the ITIL guidance isn’t prescriptive and you need to adapt the different “tools in the toolbox” to accomplish what you need to.

Therefore, the chosen terminology of “practice” means putting things into practice rather than a process to be implemented. Certainly, each practice will have some processes attached, but will also combine other factors.

Taking ITIL 4 worldwide

By working with local subject matter experts, trainers, consultants and end users on terminology, we can ensure the translation of ITIL 4 is the best it can be for markets around the world.

We know it’s vital to get this right, so people start putting it to use in their workplace and begin referring to the new ITIL 4 glossary as the specific dictionary and common language for ITIL.

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