Is your company building or expanding upon IT Service Management options?
If so, you’ll see the terms ITIL and ITSM come up with some frequency. Given that the acronyms sound so similar, there’s often confusion over what they really mean and how they function.
Here’s our breakdown:
The acronym ITSM stands for IT Service Management. This has been defined in ITIL guidelines as; "The implementation and management of quality IT services that meet the needs of the business. IT service management is performed by IT service providers through an appropriate mix of people, process and information technology." Under the definition of “service management” it reads: "A set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services."
In other words, ITSM is an overarching strategic approach that is responsible for the design, delivery, management and improvements for how IT is used in an organization. It’s the umbrella under which your help desk and service desk sit.
ITSM has goals to ensure the right people, technology and processes are in place so that the organization is able to meet its business goals.
That idea of aligning with strategic objectives is a major shift from earlier, more “reactive” approaches to IT management. Now, the expectation is more that IT will be proactive and importantly, work to deliver value to the organization.
A large part of ITSM (as the name suggests) is to deliver great service to users. The umbrella is responsible for office applications, hardware like computers, monitors, and printers, additional software installation and licensing agreements, change management, and incident management are all part of the services provided by IT organizations.
ITIL stands for IT Infrastructure Library. This refers to the group of documents that provide a framework and best practices for building an IT Service Management (ITSM) solution. Among the tasks of ITIL are to help businesses “manage risk, strengthen customer relations, establish cost-effective practices, and build a stable IT environment that allows for growth, scale and change.” (source)
ITIL has undergone multiple revisions over the years and currently covers five library volumes. It was first developed in the 1980s by the UK government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA). Back then there were more than 30 books codifying best practices in information technology.
Since 2013, ITIL has been owned by Axelos and in the first quarter of 2019, a major overhaul was rolled out in the form of ITIL 4. The aim of this version was to offer a more agile and flexible framework that organizations could customize for their needs. It is also updated to accommodate changing technology, tools and software. Over its iterations, ITIL has maintained focus on automating processes, improving service management and integrating the IT department into the business.
There are seven guiding principles of ITIL 4. These are a core part of ITIL architecture and anyone pursuing ITIL qualifications will study them. The principles are:
Any time you’re designing a process or looking at implementing a new solution under your ITSM, these are the guiding principles that should be followed. These provide useful and practical elements for decision making, system and process creation, and delivering value.
ITIL and ITSM are often confused due to the similar-sounding acronyms – they’re part of the same family, but different.
While ITIL is the library of guiding principles for IT management, ITSM is the overarching function of IT service management, encompassing everything in your department, including help and service desks.
The most recent iteration of ITIL presents 7 principles for guiding your IT projects. Following these will help you to remain agile, promote solutions that are as simple as possible, and deliver value and help the organization achieve its goals.
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