The difference between ITSM and ITIL

ITSM vs. ITIL — Do you know the difference?

Like any industry, the field of IT services has its share of jargon. You may hear potential service providers talk about terms such as “ITSM” and “ITIL.” Both relate to providing IT services, and the simplest way to understand the difference is that ITSM is what they are doing and ITIL is a way they can do it.


The two terms are both used when talking about offering IT management as a service. That’s where a provider doesn’t simply fix one-off problems as they arise. Instead, they oversee a business’s IT needs, usually working on a subscription basis. This model often means the provider will try to find ways to prevent or reduce the risk of problems occurring in the first place.

IT Service Management (ITSM)

ITSM is the service the provider is supplying. In effect, it’s the name for what they do. It developed from the original concept of IT as being primarily about reacting to, and fixing, problems. ITSM developed as a wider concept that includes services such as preventing problems, designing systems, updating software, and coping with growth. Good ITSM often involves learning about a business’s needs and priorities and then customizing the IT services to work most efficiently for that specific business while mitigating the most significant risks.


ITIL originally stood for a series of publications in the United Kingdom called Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It’s now a term in its own right and refers more to the approaches detailed in those publications.

At its simplest, ITIL is a set of approaches, or best practices, to use when providing ITSM. They’ve developed and evolved to help ITSM providers offer a better service overall, with a particular emphasis on tailoring IT services to a specific client’s needs.

Some of the key points in ITIL are:

  • Strategy: Assessing a client’s needs first and then finding the best way to meet them.
  • Design: Creating new IT services and modifying a client’s existing setup.
  • Transition: Implementing new and changed IT services in an efficient way that tries to avoid disruption.
  • Operation: Making sure the IT services continue to work efficiently.
  • Improvement: Learning from results and problems and making the necessary changes to keep making the service better.


The Information Technology Infrastructure Library is now maintained and operated by AXELOS, a partnership between the UK government and a private business. Individuals can get certification in understanding ITIL and knowing how to use it.

The most recent update to ITIL was in 2019, taking it to ITIL 4.

Many of the key features of ITIL are part of ISO 20000. That’s the international standard for ITSM.

Your Next Step

Whether you want to learn more about ITIL or you’re simply interested in finding someone qualified and experienced to provide IT services, we can help. Contact us today and we’ll talk through your options.

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