ITIL Service Transition, Explained

Sophie Danby June 12, 2023
- 10 min read

ITIL Service transition is the third stage of the service lifecycle. It involves transitioning the services that were created and developed in strategy and design  – first and second stage of the cycle – into the production environment effectively, efficiently, and safely. 

This stage deals with everything from preparing for change to documenting the components of the asset that make up the service to creating knowledge articles for support teams and end users.

Here, we will examine how ITIL defines service transition, the benefits of managing this process effectively, the eight service transition processes, and, finally, how to carry out the practicalities with some real-life examples.

Ready to learn more about service transition? Let's get started.

ITIL service transition definition

Service transition is the lifecycle stage that deals with transformation and change. Its primary role is to transition services into the live environment, move or change existing services and retire legacy services effectively, efficiently, and safely. 

The scope of this phase is developing and improving capabilities for transitioning new and modified services into the appropriate environment and retiring legacy services from the live environment. Change, Release, Configuration, and Knowledge Management are key ITIL processes for service transition. 

ITIL v3 service transition

ITIL v3 defines and positions service transition as the third stage in the service lifecycle. Its mission is to take the services defined in the strategy and design phases and transition them into service.

ITIL 4 service transition

ITIL 4 has expanded the service lifecycle to the service value system, or SVS. Service transition sits in the SVS within the Service Management practices.

8 benefits of ITIL service transition

 Effective service transition has the following benefits:

  1. More effective Change Management leads to overall increased rates of successful change activity.
  2. Less delays caused by scheduling clashes and incomplete dependencies due to Release and Configuration Management.
  3. Reduced effort involved in managing test and pilot environments. This is due to the service validation and testing practice.
  4. Increased confidence that a new or modified service will be delivered according to the specifications agreed with business stakeholders in the previous stages of the lifecycle. 
  5. Assurance that the services which have been newly introduced or modified are easy to maintain and cost-effective in the long term.
  6. Improved control of the different service assets and configurations through the Configuration Management Database (CMDB), making it easier to troubleshoot incidents and assess the impact of change activities.
  7. More effective knowledge sharing across support teams.

ITIL service transition principles

The fundamental principles in the service transition stage of the lifecycle are:

  • Defining a clear transition policy so that every transition activity is clearly defined and follows organizational standards and governance.
  • Ensuring services are transitioned with the appropriate utility and warranty requirements in place.
  • Adhering to the standardized approach so that all transition activities are carried out consistently with the help of models and templates.   
  • Improving and optimizing processes and systems. 
  • Release planning to deploy the tested service in production.
  • Monitoring and proactively taking measures to improve the service during the release cycle.
  • Capturing knowledge accurately and ensuring that it is easy to access and use.

The 8 ITIL service transition processes

Service transition has eight processes spanning change and release activity, Asset Management and Configuration Management, and sharing knowledge for effective support models. 

The service transition processes are:

  1. Change Enablement/Management
  2. Change Evaluation
  3. Project Management (Transition Planning and Support)
  4. Application Development
  5. Release and Deployment Management
  6. Service Validation and Testing
  7. Service Asset and Configuration Management
  8. Knowledge Management

Let's take a look at each process in a little more detail.

1. Change Enablement/Management 

Change Enablement or Management (depending on which flavor of ITIL you're currently working with) is the process that controls all change activity. The primary objective of this process is to enable changes to be made with minimum impact and disruption to IT services. In other words, it is deploying changes successfully and safely and working with all stakeholders to prevent or reduce the likelihood of incidents caused by change. 

KPIs associated with the Change Management practice include several successful changes, the number of changes that have caused incidents, and the number of emergency changes. 

2. Change Evaluation

This practice is in place to assess significant changes, aka the serious stuff that maybe only happens once or twice a quarter. Examples of this would be introducing a key business service or a significant change to an existing critical service. This process acts as a business case assessing the details of the proposed change and ensuring that the benefits are worth the risk before the change is allowed to progress to the next phase in its lifecycle. 

KPIs associated with Change Evaluation include the number of changes evaluated and progressed to the next stage. 

3. Project Management (Transition Planning and Support)

Project Management aims to coordinate and plan the resources required to deploy a major release within the agreed time, cost, and quality estimates. 

KPIs for this process include the number of releases that need this level of coordination and their outcome.

4. Application Development

Application Development aims to create applications and systems that provide the necessary functionality for IT services. This includes the maintenance and development of custom applications and the customization of products from software vendors. 

KPIs for application development include the number of applications managed under the process.

5. Release and Deployment Management

The primary purpose of Release and Deployment Management is to plan, schedule, and control the releases to test and live environments. The process goal is to ensure that the live environment is protected, and additionally that the correct components are released (preferably from a definitive media library or DML) per the release policy. 

Release Management KPIs include the number of releases, successful deployments, and releases that used the DML.

6. Service Validation and Testing

The goal of this process is to ensure that deployed releases and the associated services meet customer expectations and verify that IT operations can support the new service. To this end, test activities are carried out in a V model and include prerelease testing as well as post-implementation verification to ensure all agreed outcomes are met, and everything works as it should from a technical and a customer experience standpoint.

7. Service Asset and Configuration Management

This process is needed to maintain information about Configuration Items (CIs) required to deliver an IT service, including their relationships and dependencies. This information is stored in a CMDB or System (CMS). 

KPIs associated with the Configuration Management process include the number of CIs under the control of Configuration Management and the number of CIs with accurate information.

8. Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management is the practice or process of gathering, analyzing, sharing, and storing knowledge and information within an organization. The goal of this practice is to improve efficiency by reducing the requirement to rediscover knowledge. It is the process that owns and is responsible for updating the Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS)

KPIs associated with this process include the number of knowledge articles checked and verified for accuracy.

ITIL service transition plan

Implementing the transition activities will look different in every organization. Every business is unique and has different environments, requirements, and people involved. But no matter what the situation, here is an implementation example with some common tasks that can help out in different situations. 

Service transition example

Say you're building a new HR system to manage annual leave bookings. Annual leave affects everyone in the business, from the CEO to the intern, so it's important to get it right. 

Some transition activities that would be beneficial would include the following:

  • Creating knowledge articles for both technical teams and end-users so that they can use and support the new system accordingly. 
  • Validating and testing to ensure that the service has been thoroughly tested. 
  • Making use of Change Management practices to ensure that the implementation has been assessed and scheduled appropriately. 
  • Implementing Release Management to ensure the deployment into the live environment goes smoothly. 
  • Assuring Service Asset and Configuration Management to capture the building blocks of the new service and identify any dependencies to make ongoing support easier.

Service transition roles and responsibilities

The roles involved in this stage are:

Role Responsibilities
Change Manager Manages the change process and chairs all CAB and ECAB meetings.
Change Advisory Board (CAB) Assesses and authorizes changes that need CAB-level approval.
Emergency Change Advisory Board (ECAB) Assesses and authorizes changes that need emergency or ECAB-level approval. ECABS are usually convened at short notice as part of the incident or major incident resolution activities and will work against a shortened process and timings.
Release Manager Is responsible for all aspects of the Release Management process.
Test Manager Ensures all appropriate testing during change and release activity.
Configuration Manager Is responsible for the entire Configuration Management process and updating the CMDB.
Knowledge Manager Is responsible for the Knowledge Management process and ensuring that the SKMS remains accurate and current.
Project Manager Is responsible for all Project Management and coordination activities.
Application Developer Is responsible for the Application Development process and ensuring that the appropriate teams from operational support are engaged as part of the build and transition process.

Service transition certification

The most relevant service transition qualification is the AXELOS certification. The Service Transition (ST) module is one of the certifications within the ITIL® v3 Service Lifecycle workstream. It focuses on the transition of IT services and covers the models, processes, policies, and documentation that will enable delegates to transition services into the support model. 

Ideal candidates for this include roles that work in the transition stage of the lifecycle, for example, change, release, or configuration managers. 

The bottom line

Service transition is the third stage in the ITIL service lifecycle. ITIL defines its primary purpose as ensuring “that new, modified, or retired services meet the expectations of the business as documented in the strategy and design stages of the lifecycle.” Basically, it starts putting everything into action.

Key processes of  the service transition stage include Change Enablement and Management, Release Management, Asset and Configuration Management, and Knowledge Management. It’s important to pay special attention to each stage and to make sure that everything is taken care of before moving on to the next.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between IT service transition and transformation? 

IT service transition is about introducing new services, changing or updating existing services, or restoring legacy services effectively, efficiently, and safely. Transformation is the outcome - the new and improved project. In real terms, you could say that transition is the journey (all the hard work carried out by your organization to introduce new or changed services and retire old ones); transformation is the end result, the "ta-da!" moment, the actual outcome.

What is the next stage in the service lifecycle? 

The next stage is service operation, which is all about IT services' day-to-day management and support.

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