IT Service Management: ITIL or ISO20000?

The simple answer is that you don’t choose!

Organisations often say that they want to be ‘ITIL-compliant’ or they want to implement ITIL®. We need to be clear that ITIL is not something that organisations can be measured against or be accredited to; it is a framework that can – and should be – adapted to meet organisational needs.

ITIL is not prescriptive: it is a set of best practices created by experts from many leading companies who have ‘been there and done that’.  It has often been described as the ‘documented common sense’ of service management and, even if they haven’t given it a name, organisations may find that they are already using many of these best practices.

ISO20000, however, is an international standard against which organisations can be certified to demonstrate their IT service management capability. It is an official recognition that the organisation is performing the service management function well and to the standard required by a growing number of potential customers.

ISO20000 is aligned with ITIL and it directly uses 15 of the 26 ITIL processes to measure against.   Furthermore, an accredited ISO20000 certification could give you a competitive advantage when tendering for certain contracts from large businesses or government.

The relationship, similarities and differences between ITIL and ISO20000 are illustrated in the following diagram:


ISO20000 provides a framework for measuring your service management system (SMS), which is the documented way your organisation has agreed to manage its services. It consists of the inter-related processes, and the assets and resources that will deliver the required outcomes.

Organisations are often put off adopting ITIL best practice, believing that it is necessary to implement all 26 processes all at once, which would be a daunting and expensive task. ITIL is very much about ‘adopt and adapt’, and organisations should only adopt those areas that are going to bring them real value.

Whether your organisation’s goal is to achieve ISO20000 accreditation or just to improve your service management capability, implementing the processes that are common to the ITIL framework and the ISO20000 standard will achieve a significant improvement in IT service.  Whatever processes you currently have in place constitute your organisation’s service management system, giving you a starting point to build on, prioritising the areas in need of most improvement.


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