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ITSM vs ITIL, why do I need both?

The question of ITSM v ITIL, isn’t even like comparing apples and pears, it’s more cakes and recipes. You can make cake without a recipe but it is so much better if you follow the recipe to make a cake. While you should always follow…
ITSM vs ITIL, why do I need both?

The question of ITSM v ITIL, isn’t even like comparing apples and pears, it’s more cakes and recipes. You can make cake without a recipe but it is so much better if you follow the recipe to make a cake. While you should always follow the basic recipe for a cake, you can adapt it to make the sort of cake that you particularly want.

So, what does cakes and recipes have to do with ITSM and ITIL?

Continuing the analogy, ITSM is the cake and ITIL is the recipe. So, let’s delve a bit further into what we mean by ITSM and ITIL, and why they are the cake and the recipe.

ITSM – The cake

ITSM stands for IT Service Management, and regardless of the business that they work for, is something that all technology departments do, even if they don’t realise it.

ITSM is concerned with the activities required to manage and provide IT services to a customer base. These can be services provided to employees, or services accessed by clients and the general public.

ITSM adopts a process approach, focused on the customer needs and the provision of the IT services to the customer, rather than the technology-orientated management of IT systems and supporting infrastructure.

ITIL – The recipe

ITIL is a best practice service management framework of processes, procedures, tasks and checklists, covering five different ITSM lifecycle stages. The ITIL framework has been developed over 25 years, and there are millions of certified ITIL practitioners, and organisations worldwide that have adopted it.

One of the main characteristics of the ITIL framework is that it is not prescriptive, and a pragmatic approach is required for its implementation. Each lifecycle stage is broken down into a number of processes, providing a framework that can be adapted and adopted as necessary, taking those elements that are appropriate to meet the needs of the business.

Benefits of adopting the ITIL framework for your IT Service Management include:

  • Managing business risk and service disruption or failure
  • Improving and developing positive relationships with customers by delivering efficient services that meet their needs
  • Establishing cost-effective systems for managing demand for services
  • Supporting business change whilst maintaining a stable service environment.
  • Using the recipe to make the cake


So ITIL provides the recipe that can be used to make the cake that is ITSM, and like all cakes the best results can usually be gained by following a recipe. Without following a recipe, you can start with the intention of making a cake and end up with a puddle on your kitchen floor.

However, you do not need to follow the framework exactly to realise real benefits from the adoption of ITIL. You can start with a really basic cake recipe and gradually build up until you have a cake that is fit for the king.

IT departments frequently focus initially on implementing the processes and procedures that form the Service Operations stage, such as incident and change management, before then gradually realising further benefit from the adoption of the other four lifecycle stages.

Whilst it is not essential to implement the five stages of the ITSM lifecycle, as defined by the ITIL framework, the most value can be gained for a business by taking a complete ITIL lifecycle approach.

The impact of new recipes – Agile and DevOps

Recently two new ways of working, Agile and DevOps, have appeared that have started to question the role of the ITIL framework for IT service management.

Agile describes a set of principles under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

DevOps refers to a set of practices that emphasize the collaboration and communication between developers and infrastructure, establishing a culture and environment where build, test and release of changes can happen rapidly, frequently, and more reliably.

It is often perceived that these two ways of working conflict with ITIL, however, as we have previously discussed, ITIL is an adaptable framework that can meet the demands of changing ways of working.

ITIL is not incompatible with Agile and DevOps, with any conflict often being as a result of a misunderstanding between the people who adopt and champion them. They can fit well together if the business understands the value provided by each.

ITSM and ITIL, the perfect match

Over the years all good cake recipes are adapted and changed as new ingredients and ways of baking are introduced. The introduction of baking powder allowed better and lighter cakes to be created cheaper and quicker.

In the same way, the ITIL framework can adapt to embrace these new ways of working, continuing to provide improved ITSM ways of working that bring real tangible benefits to the customers.

If you provide IT services to your business then it is essential that you are continually finding ways of providing the best meet your customers’ demands. A well-established, flexible framework, ITIL provides the foundations and baseline for all of your IT Service Management needs.

If you would like to discuss how iCore can help you then contact us on +44 (0) 207 868 2405 or email us at info@icore-ltd.com