It can be difficult to distinguish the differences between ITIL and ITSM (IT service management). Broadly speaking, ITIL is a set of practices for ITSM. But there’s a bit more to it. This blog explains more about the differences between ITIL and ITSM.

What is ITSM?

All hardware, software and IT enabled services require management. ITSM refers to the way IT services and lifecycles are designed, delivered, managed and supported. Now that IT sits at the centre of most organisations, effectively coordinating all systems, applications, and processes is an ongoing challenge that requires a strategic approach.

The goal of ITSM is to ensure the right technology, people, and processes, are business-aligned to manage the end-to-end delivery of IT services to customers. ITSM helps improve efficiency and productivity by implementing processes, defining roles and responsibilities, and utilising automation to effectively manage IT services. This includes things such as incident and problem management, service-level management, change management, configuration management (CMBD) and more.

What is ITIL?

ITIL stands for IT infrastructure library. It is a framework or set of best practices that enable the effective management and delivery of IT services. ITIL provides a structure for ITSM development, using specific guidelines, processes, and best practices, ITIL helps build an effective ITSM solution. ITIL aims to align technology with strategic business goals to create an effective and efficient service delivery for customers.

ITIL includes an array of best practices, processes and guidance categorised into three areas: general management practices, service management practices and technical management practices. ITIL is divided into a series of five core volumes, each covering a different ITSM lifecycle stage. These stages are:

  • Service Strategy
  • Service Design
  • Service Transition
  • Service Operation
  • Continual Service Improvement

The relationship between ITSM and ITIL

ITSM and ITIL have a symbolic relationship. They are complementary to each other. ITIL is the framework that underpins ITSM. Simply put, ITSM defines the “what”, while ITIL defines the “how”.

The benefits of adopting ITSM and ITIL


Improved business efficiency and agility

ITSM drives efficiency across the organisation by streamlining workflows, improving the quality and speed of service delivery, and utilising automation. ITSM enables businesses to become more agile and quicker to respond.

Reduced downtime and fast disruption detection and response

With service-based incident management, ITSM identifies, alerts, and resolves service interruptions or failures before they cause critical damage. ITSM eliminates specific IT issues before they occur with predefined and automated responses.

Increased employee productivity and satisfaction

Employees can benefit from automation of specific tasks, improved visibility of business alignment and an omni-channel experience where IT support requests can be made from any device, anytime, anywhere.


Continuous improvement

ITIL continuously aligns business practices and services with fluctuating business needs. ITIL does this through the ongoing assessment and improvement in monitoring and managing products and services.

Reduced costs

ITIL improves the utilisation of resources with strategic guidance for ITSM. With greater visibility of IT costs and assets, and guidance to optimise automation, workflows can be streamlined increasing productivity and efficiency.

Better risk management

ITIL increases the ability to identify, plan and support the IT services in an organisation resulting in better risk management and reduced chances of service failure and business downtime.

Managed service team working

The importance of ITSM and ITIL

ITIL and ITSM creates a clear alignment between business strategy and technology, and helps to create structure for a business’s IT services. All businesses have systems and processes that work together to achieve a product or service to the customer. From marketing to sales, to procurement and customer service, across the business every department relies on different IT capabilities.

It is essential that these applications and systems are managed properly to run a business efficiently and with minimal disruption and downtime. ITIL and ITSM create more control and oversight of the fundamental IT functions that deliver business outcomes, customer value, and profit.

Optimise ITSM with an agile ServiceNow platform from 848

ServiceNow is a leading cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) platform. 848 has a dedicated ServiceNow practice ran by a team of ITSM specialists. We design, configure, build, and manage high-quality IT service desk solutions in line with ITIL best practices.

Using our SureStart methodology for ITSM, we help growing businesses accelerate their journey to an enterprise-class IT ServiceNow platform that’s optimised and cost-effective.