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The Difference Between ITIL and ITSM

Many people get stuck on the distinction between ITIL and ITSM. In vague terms, the difference is that ITIL is a framework or set of practices for ITSM. To really understand that answer, we have to dig deeper into their definitions, history, and relationship.

ITSM and ITIL Definitions

ITSM stands for IT Service Management. It’s about how an organization manages IT services for customers. ITSM refers to all the activities involved in this process, which include planning, designing, delivering, operating, and controlling.

While IT Systems Management and Network Management are technology-focused, ITSM is more customer-focused. There’s a big emphasis on continual improvement. This involves consistently measuring and improving processes, IT services, and IT infrastructure. Doing so maximizes their efficiency, effectiveness, and cost effectiveness.

ITIL stands for IT Infrastructure Library. It’s a framework or a set of ITSM best practices. These processes, procedures, tasks, and checklists are not organization-specific. Instead, the idea is to integrate them with the organization's strategy. ITIL is divided into a series of five core volumes, each covering a different ITSM lifecycle stage. These stages are:

  1. Service Strategy
  2. Service Design
  3. Service Transition
  4. Service Operation
  5. Continual Service Improvement

ITIL and ITSM’s History

ITIL first came from the UK government. In the 1980s, there was a growing dependence on IT, but no standard practices. This lack of standard practices meant inconsistent service quality. The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) had a set of recommendations. They wanted an ITSM framework that any organization could adapt to their needs. ITIL also had to deliver efficiency and value for money.

Meanwhile, standards were developing all over the world. Every developed nation had just as much of a need for IT Service Management. Different frameworks were developed around this time. While some of them crossed over with ITIL, none of them became more globally popular.

Relationship between ITIL and ITSM

ITIL’s popularity is part of the reason why it gets confused with ITSM. ITIL is the de facto ITSM framework. There may even be times where you can get away with using the two terms interchangeably. ITIL embodies everything in the ITSM definition above. However, ITSM defines the “what”, while ITIL defines the “how”.

While sometimes confusing, ITIL being synonymous with ITSM shows just how influential and enduring it is as a framework. That’s why many people looking for ITSM qualifications decide to take ITIL courses. You can take the first step to becoming an ITSM professional today. Visit our contact page if you have any questions or queries.