ITIL vs ITSM – Getting The Balance Right - Sunrise Software

One of the potential pitfalls for an ITSM software vendor, in having such a significant public framework – in the shape of ITIL – to construct its solution upon, is in adhering too closely to those guidelines.

It could also be described as a “lazy” approach to developing and maintaining an ITSM product; simply make sure you tick all the boxes one way or another for every ITIL iteration, guarantee compliance et voila – you make the evaluation shortlists every time. Even though ITIL has developed far beyond being a mere set of IT service desk operations guidelines – in V4 form it provides an excellent source of background information and guidelines, not simply in relation to IT practices but also general business practices – it is important to recognise that it is still a set of guidelines, not a set of legal requirements. Yes, it is theoretically possible to base an entire ITSM strategy upon ITIL, but in practice, every company will have different priorities in terms of which elements of their chosen ITSM platform (and ITIL guidelines) are most relevant and important to them. In other words, it’s a case of adhering to ITIL to the degree that actually works within your company, and the same mantra applies to the software vendors themselves.

If this sounds complicated, it isn’t. There are clearly defined limits to the practicalities or otherwise of basing an entire ITSM software strategy – from procurement to deployment – upon ITIL recommendations.  For example, if a solution doesn’t provide sufficient flexibility to model your own business processes – even if it ticks every ITIL box – then it’s not for you. And, regardless of its expansive nature over the decades, ITIL is not, and never has been, a “one-size fits all” set of guidelines. Even if only marginally, every ITSM customer has different requirements, so their service management-ITIL strategy cannot be a fixed relationship across the board. Equally – and importantly – not all ITIL-compliant software solutions are the same. Compliance is one thing; the actual software solution is another thing altogether. For example, no set of guidelines can realistically be truly comprehensive and satisfy contemporary needs. This means a software vendor has to look beyond the basics of compliance, adding functionality that specific customers will be searching for.

Putting this into everyday practice, it is often the case that one or two specific features of a particular ITSM solution – and almost certainly not necessarily the same features from one customer to another – will satisfy the needs of that particular customer.  It is vital, therefore, to appreciate the difference between what might be a rigid conformance exercise and a set of tools that actually provides a company with what they actually need internally to improve their business support system. Most important of all is to have an ITSM platform that provides the flexibility required to allow whatever level of alignment with ITIL is right for that business. This approach has been magnified more than ever with V4s changed focus, reflecting on how to improve service delivery company-wide, rather than simply focusing on IT incidents. Supporting IT developments in areas such as DevOps and Agile IT is all part of creating a solution for service management that might expand well beyond even the latest ITIL guidelines and updates.

As ever in life, it’s all about finding the right balance. Creating an ITSM strategy and finding the correct tools to optimise that strategy will always ultimately be more important than slavishly following a set of generic – however comprehensive – guidelines.

> Read our ‘Guide to ITIL‘.