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ITIL and ISO 20000 – What does Project Management have to do with it?

Both ITIL and ISO 20000 are related to IT services. But, how much does project management fit in with (both of) them? I would say – a lot. Actually, I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new when I say that Project Management is (very) often used in IT – in many different ways and at many different points throughout the service lifecycle.

Common issues

There are many project management methodologies, and features of each. But, more or less, all of them have a few common parameters:

  • Resources – this includes human as well as non-human resources, their amounts and capabilities.
  • Time – in the real world, this is one of the most critical components – every project has milestones and deadlines.
  • Budget – meaning, how much the project is allowed to cost. I assume there is no need to discuss this parameter (including overspending for the project implementation).

My experience is, when following the project management approach, surprises will be kept to a minimum and control will be maintained over time, resources, and money. Consequently, your superior, in the first place, will be satisfied. And, sooner or later, you will notice that you can “breathe normally” during the implementation.

In scope of ITIL and ISO 20000

ITIL and/or ISO 20000 consider many implementations. Let me distinguish between these two categories: i.e., implementation of new services or changes to existing services, and how project management correlates with them.

Service_Lifecycle_and_Project_Management.pngFigure: Service Lifecycle and Project Management– emphasized in Service Design and Service Transition

New services may be easier to present. There is a business requirement, and consequently, the introduction of a new service. As you can see in the Figure, as the new service progresses through the phases, more and more processes, functions, and roles get involved. If you were responsible for the IT Service Management, wouldn’t you like to have more overview and control? I’m sure you would. Introducing one new service can be complex. Can you imagine having many of them? Things can easily get out of control – Project Management can help you to keep control, particularly if you have changing business requirements. For example, you are implementing a service and during implementation your main competitor introduces the same service with additional functionality. To stay competitive, the least you can do is to implement the same functionality (change in requirements, in your case) or even something better. But, you will not start a new project – you’ll continue with the existing one, taking into account the changed business requirements (and, don’t be surprised – that could happen several times before the service goes live).

If you already have live service(s) and you need to change something – there are several places where Project Management can help:

  • Change Management – Change implementation require many different resources, is time sensitive, and needs some budget to spend. And, all these are characteristics of a project. Well, of course, standard changes or some smaller (minor) changes are (most probably) excluded. But, many other types of changes will benefit if developed and implemented using Project Management methodology.
  • Release and Deployment Management – that’s a very important step before a new or changed service enters the live environment. The design of the service can influence the quality that we provide with the service(s), but Release and Deployment Management (RDM) is where we can add a high amount of value and quality to what the future service (or change in existing service) provides. Therefore, besides being in the customer’s best interest, it’s also in our own best interest to go through the RDM process as best as possible. Having in mind all activities that need to be performed, Project Management is a logical tool to keep it managed.
  • Continual Service Improvement – if I may say so: “The sky is the limit.” Continual Service Improvement, if done properly, opens many smaller or bigger projects. And that’s the phase of the service lifecycle where efforts invested in Project Management pay off in the form of higher efficiency, savings, optimization, etc. Of course, not all improvements require setting up a project, but due to the scope that improvements cover – many improvement initiatives will.


Maybe it sounds (from the elaboration so far) like Project Management makes a perfect match with ITIL or ISO 20000. That’s mostly true, but, on the other side, there are some pitfalls that need to be avoided:

  • Project Manager – as in all projects, ITIL/ISO 20000 projects are dependent on the Project Manager’s knowledge and experience. Dealing with expensive technology/components or affecting customer services only serve to increase that need.
  • Complexity of implementation – this point is an add-on to the previous one. Adding new services, their components, and infrastructure that need to be managed increases the complexity of the new projects. The Project Manager’s skills are crucial to handle this situation.
  • Inflexibility – Project Management methodologies are OK, and I like them, but they aren’t the “be-all and end-all.” Sticking solely to the Project Management Methodology will be too inflexible.

The approach

One mistake that I have often seen is that people try to lead implementation from their heads, meaning without a managed, controlled procedure – i.e., Project Management. Sometimes, it works. But, sooner or later it won’t, and then the problems start. I don’t think that you should blindly stick to certain Project Management methodology. Use the one you prefer, but keep in mind that there is another methodology that should lead the game – common sense.

To see how a Project Plan can help with ITIL or ISO 20000 implementation, download this free  Project Plan for Implementation of the ITIL Processes and Functions or Service Management System according to ISO/IEC 20000-1.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.