ITIL/ISO 20000 Knowledge base

ISO 20000 and ITIL – How are they related?

Author: Neven Zitek

The ITIL® best practice framework provides excellent guidance for transformation of IT into an IT service-oriented organization, which delivers services aligned with business needs in a cost-effective manner. However, implementation of ITIL doesn’t provide any guarantee that implementation itself is done in the most consistent and best way possible across the service portfolio. It simply provides information regarding what should be done, and there are no “must be done” statements within it. This makes the quality of ITIL implementation hard to measure, and ITIL certification for organizations impossible. ISO 20000, on the other hand, is a standard with clearly defined requirements that must be met in order to certify that a minimum of best practice standards are met. ISO 20000 is ITIL based, and ITIL is designed with ISO 20000 in mind; therefore, they complement each other well. Read this blog post for more information about ITIL and ISO 20000: A Comparison.

If you’re starting with the transformation of IT toward a service-oriented IT organization (read more on How to implement ITIL), ITIL will provide a great and widely adopted framework, enabling you to reduce the cost of IT operation, improve quality of services, increase user satisfaction and even improve compliance. The ITIL framework is process oriented, explained in a structured and coherent way that is simple to understand and follow (view this list of all ITIL Processes and Functions for more information). And, if implemented properly, ITIL is ISO 20000 compatible.

Whether the company plans to start transformation into an IT service-oriented organization, or wishes to improve the current mode of operation, benefits from ITIL implementation will be clearly visible by simply performing an initial gap analysis. ITIL offers process improvements, or implementation of new ones in a structured and easy-to-understand manner. What ITIL lacks, and ISO 20000 shines in, is clear specification regarding what the IT service provider needs to do. Implementation itself is benchmarked, alignment with requirements is validated by external auditors, and the task of ISO 20000 implementation and certification can be attached to a clear deadline.

ITIL and ISO 20000 – How are they different?

Even though the relationship between ISO 20000 and ITIL has been mostly highlighted throughout this article, I must point out key differences between ISO 20000 and ITIL:

  • ISO 20000 is a standard and code of practice; ITIL is a best practice framework.
  • ISO 20000 awards organizations with certification; ITIL does not.
  • ISO 20000 has requirements for processes and management system; ITIL has guidance.
  • The ISO 20000 organization structure has few mandatory roles; ITIL has a great number of roles, functions, processes and responsibilities described.
  • ISO 20000 requires 13 processes without explicit lifecycles specified; ITIL describes 5 stages of the lifecycle, approximately 37 processes and numerous roles.
  • ISO 20000 has a definitive set of documents required; ITIL has descriptions of key documentation.

It’s worth mentioning that the ISO 20000 certificate (more information about ISO 20000 certification – the process of obtaining a certificate) is awarded to an organization, and is valid for three (3) years, while the ITIL certificate is awarded to an individual person, and doesn’t expire (check out ITIL Certification Path – list of all available ITIL trainings, exams and certificates). However, as ITIL is constantly evolving and improving, you should stay in touch with news regarding ITIL best practices. ISO 20000 and ITIL work great together, and for any IT service-oriented organization, both guarantee delivery of consistent, efficient and reliable IT services.

To learn more, read this white paper: ITIL vs. ISO/IEC 20000: Similarities and Differences & Process Mapping (PDF).

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Branimir Valentic
Lead ITIL/ISO 20000 Expert, Advisera


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