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What is the Difference between ITSM and ITIL?

Whats_the_Difference_between_ITSM_and_ITIL.jpgThe information technology world loves acronyms, and at first glance, many of the terms that get tossed around can be confusing. Take, for example, ITSM and ITIL. These two terms are used frequently in today’s IT departments, in similar contexts. In fact, it might seem that the two are one and the same—but there’s actually a huge difference.

What Is ITSM?

This acronym stands for “information technology service management.” It’s used to describe a certain paradigm that IT departments can adopt. Under the guiding principles of IT service management, tech departments strive to implement a service-oriented model that allows them to be more efficient and effective. The model includes aspects like workflow management and ensuring that actions are repeatable—thus increasing the tech department’s accountability to a company. Those using ITSM also strive to integrate IT into the company much more so than was done in the past. Rather than having IT sequestered and separated from every other department, IT is centralized and other departments become more integrated. When all of your employees are running the same operating system with the same patches, it becomes a lot easier to manage and solve IT issues.

What Is ITIL?

This acronym is closely related to ITSM, but it is different. The acronym stands for “Information Technology Infrastructure Library,” and it was created in the UK during the 1980s. As information technology was on the rise at this time, a group within the British government realized that IT was not being implemented in a structured manner. Instead, each and every company, sometimes down to the employee level, was creating solutions to problems in an ad hoc manner. The group then set out to prescribe the best practices for IT to implement in companies and especially governments. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library has since been sold to Axelos, who now manages certification of various software and service providers.

How Are They Related?

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library is a set of best practices for running an IT department. It emphasizes accountability, the repeatability of actions, the integration of IT across departments and divisions, and workflow managements.

That probably sounds familiar—because that’s essentially the description of IT service management. IT service management adopts many of the same ideas and core beliefs that define ITIL. In fact, ITSM could be considered a product of the framework, since ITIL was one of the first.

How Are They Different?

If you read that last sentence carefully, you’ve noted that ITIL is only one of several frameworks. This framework has certain recommendations for what constitutes “best practices” in your tech department. Other frameworks for IT delivery have been developed; among them are Six Sigma, Microsoft’s Operations Framework, and the ISO 20000. While ITIL is certainly the oldest and thus the most frequently used framework for implementing ITSM, it is by no means the only framework that a company could adopt.

The recommendations are still available. Axelos, which now owns the trademark, evaluates and awards certification to software developers, service providers, and IT professionals based on the recommendations of the framework’s guidelines.

Why Is ITIL So Popular?

ITIL, in some ways, pre-dates ITSM; many of the ideas that inform IT service management run parallel to those that were developed by the Information Technology Infrastructure Library in the 1980s and 1990s. The framework remains popular simply because it is the originator; its practices were widely implemented before there was anything else being developed. Thanks to its comprehensive nature, the standards have stuck around. Other frameworks, such as the ISO 20000, even incorporate aspects of it into their own recommendations.


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