After three years of development, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has launched version 3 of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL).

The ITIL guide, a set of publications that outline methods to manage technology operations as a set of services, is a widely adopted standard of IT practices in the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific and the US.

Version 3 expands the focus from purely operational concerns to address more strategic IT issues associated with the development and delivery of business services, such as service management from a lifecycle perspective, according to its creators.

The latest version "evolves service management to the next level of maturity," ITIL chief architect Sharon Taylor said at the London launch.

"When we asked for feedback from the industry on ITIL around three years ago, lifecycle management was at front and centre of service managers minds. So in many respects we are catching up with that," said Taylor, who is also president of IT service management consultancy Aspect Group.

An increased focus on business value was another driver for the new version. "Everything is about measuring business output and measuring business value," Taylor said. "It's the difference between death and survival for many service managers."

"From a CIO perspective, the biggest benefit that this [new] version of ITIL brings is that we have added guidance that allows senior executives to be able to demonstrate, measure and produce a return on investment for supporting a unified best-practice framework for service management. It helps them to demonstrate why investing in good service practices gives them a solid return on investment," said Keith Aldis, chief executive of itSMF UK, one of the partner organisations involved in administering the management framework.

Barry Lewington, services management consultant at PTS consulting, was upbeat on the new version and anticipates a mixed reaction from his clients. "Some will be ready to jump on the bandwagon, while some may ask 'why the changes?' I will tell them: 'It's not changed, it's evolved.' Version 3 is about the lifecycle as it gives a lot more insight into how you run and manage services that give value to the user."

The version 3 release has reduced the previous version's nine books down to five: Service Strategies, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement. But most "foundation level" ITIL v2 exams focused on two core books.

"Though there were nine books in the collection, people only ever talked about two books. This isn't adding new books to the library, but actually reducing them down to five. But it is also increasing the importance of those books that focus on processes which underpin the successful delivery of IT services," added Lewington.

Recent research, commissioned by service management company Partners in IT, has thrown up some interesting results around ITIL acceptance and adoption. It showed a lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding of ITIL and how it could help both large and mid-sized companies to manage and maintain their IT systems. Only 23% of the people interviewed had heard of ITIL. And the majority (75%) had never heard of it at all and only 3% had successfully adopted it.

More respondents from the larger companies had heard of ITIL, but still 53% had not. A massive 93% of large companies have not implemented the best-practice framework. Further, only 16% of large companies are planning to adopt it in the future. And of those who had heard of ITIL, 63% expressed negative feelings about it, while 42% believe it involves a high capital expenditure cost and 30% feel it is expensive to implement. Worryingly, 55% think it is of limited business value.

Additional reporting by Miya Knights, CIO UK