ITIL and ITSM: What is the Difference?

ITIL StructureThe pace of development in the software industry is as fast as ever. Lately, the question of whether you need ITSM or ITIL in your environment is being discussed in the C-suite. However, this the wrong question to ask. It is not a question of one or the other. In this article, I will discuss the differences between ITIL and ITSM and the business objective driving the implementation of each one.


Let’s take a moment to define ITIL and ITSM before moving on to their business goals.

  • Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) is the process of managing your services delivered to your customers, even if you do not use that term.
  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), is a set of practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business. Due to the complexity of ITIL, it is published as a series of five core volumes, each covering a different ITSM lifecycle stage.

Differences between ITIL and ITSM

ITIL is the framework that supports and recommends the best business practices for ITSM. That statement is quite a mouthful, so let’s focus on each acronym individually to gain a better understanding.


Activities range from planning and managing changes that may otherwise be disruptive to business, fixing problems when they occur, and recommending processes to ensure financial stability. People that use the term ITSM tend to think of IT as a means of delivering a service to their customers, rather than as a way to manage technology. However, even if you have an entirely technical focus, your work still needs to be managed, and that is why it is defined as ITSM.


ITIL, formerly an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a set of practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business. ITIL is the name of the world’s most widely recognised framework for ITSM. It is a registered trademark of AXELOS, which owns a range of best practice solutions and their corresponding publications and exams. ITIL has been adopted by many organisations, and there are millions of certified ITIL practitioners worldwide.

Benefits of Using ITIL

There are many ways an organisation can benefit from making use of the features offered by ITIL. The functionality you adopt must be beneficial for your business model. Also, you must selectively adopt the ITIL business framework to ensure that you do not disrupt your business, but rather improve it. Some of the benefits you can expect to gain from the adoption of ITIL are;

  • Improving the alignment of IT to the business and providing services that better meet the needs of their customers.
  • Enhance the quality of the IT service delivery by understanding the required levels of availability, security, capacity, and continuity, and then planning solutions that can deliver these.
  • Lowering the cost of delivering IT services by reducing wasted effort and focusing on getting things right the first time.

You can still manage your IT services effectively and efficiently without using ITIL, but it certainly will improve your business. It is a known fact that many successful organisations simply create their own set of processes for running IT. However, it is hard to develop something original that matches the years of experience that have gone into the development of the ITIL best practice framework. Therefore, before ignoring ITIL, let us not forget that has now been adopted by thousands of organisations around the world.

Adopt and Adapt ITIL to Fit Your Needs

The question of which ITIL aspects to adopt will depend on your current business readiness for the structures imposed by ITIL. It is, therefore, imperative that the selection of ITIL modules be made by the business management, and not dictated by an external vendor or worse, a newly qualified ITIL practitioner.

Business may choose to adopt the operational processes such as Incident Management and Change Management. This approach provides a solid grounding in ITIL, giving the organisation time to acclimatise to the ITIL framework before taking a lifecycle approach to ITSM. In essence, the lifecycle approach covers everything from your overall IT strategy through the design, transition, and operation of services; and it also incorporates continual improvement into everything you do.

When you are ready to adopt the ITIL best practices framework, the first step will be to decide which approach will be a good fit for your business culture. Your second step will be to incorporate it into your management system in a sympathetic way. The right way to use ITIL is summarised in the phrase “adopt and adapt.” You only adopt the parts that you need, and you adapt the ideas to fit your environment rather than slavishly following the guidance.


ITIL, formerly an acronym for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, is a set of practices for IT service management (ITSM) focusing on aligning IT services with the needs of business. If you run IT services, you owe it to your customers to adopt ideas that will make you effective, efficient, and agile. There have, however, been reported instances where business has attempted to adopt ITIL and ITSM  in particular, but wasted a large amount of money and resources in the process. When you decide to adopt this framework, it is important to align it to your business needs and only select the processes that your organisation is ready for. Additionally, never attempt this without having an expert on call to guide you through the process.

If you need assistance or advice regarding any ITIL or ITSM related issues, please fill in your details in the contact form below and one of our ITIL experts will contact you.

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