While enterprises implement IT management, they always tend to get confused between two terms – ITSM and ITIL. However, both terms are different and often get used interchangeably.
If you’re ever wonder what is ITSM and ITIL and how they are different from each other, then stick through this blog. Before we get started on the difference between ITSM and ITIL, let us understand them.   

What is ITIL?   

ITIL stands for IT Infrastructure Library, which existed in the 80s. Axelos own the brand ITIL.   

ITIL is a well-known framework that tells you a-z of IT service management. Over the years, ITIL has gained immense popularity, with newer versions being released.   

The ITIL framework is divided into five core volumes:  

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

The latest version of ITIL, ITIL 4, is quite an adaptive and integrative approach to ITSM. It focuses on the alignment of IT with business objectives. In the ITIL 4 version, they have:  

  • Given the importance to Value, Outcome, Cost, and Risk.
  • Defined four dimensions of service management.
  • Introduced a concept called ITIL Service Value System.

Besides being a framework, ITIL has given important terminologies to ITSM like Configuration Management Database (CMDB), Configuration Item (CI), Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, etc.  

Benefits of ITIL  

Here are some of the benefits of having the ITIL framework:  

  • ITIL cuts down the adoption time of ITSM drastically.
  • Make sure your IT aligns with your business.
  • Reduces inefficiencies, lowering operational costs.
  • Helps you manage business risks from service disruptions.
  • Establishes a standard across industries for ITSM professionals.

What is ITSM?  

IT service management refers to how IT teams handle the complete IT service delivery to the users. Everything that goes into managing the delivery of IT services, from planning, designing, and operating to controlling, comes under ITSM. ITSM is service-centric, focusing less on the technology and more on the customers.   

There’s an emphasis on continuous improvement in the IT service delivery process. Today, ITSM is treated as a professional discipline responsible for all the services you can associate with the IT department.  

Over the years, ITSM has evolved significantly and has moved beyond the realms of just IT. Now, ITSM has become essential for the entire organizational performance and efficiency.   

Why is ITSM Important?  

  • IT Service Management (ITSM) is vital for aligning IT services with business objectives, enhancing productivity, reducing downtime, and optimizing costs.   
  • By standardizing processes and service level agreements, ITSM helps organizations efficiently use their IT resources and budgets.  
  • Quick incident resolution and proactive monitoring contribute to a positive user experience.  
  • ITSM enables businesses to adapt to changing needs and technology landscapes, fostering continuous improvement.  

Benefits of ITSM  

Here are some benefits of implementing ITSM: 

  • Customer satisfaction through better service delivery.  
  • Well-designed workflows that result in increased efficiency.  
  • Gives you the ability to identify the root cause behind problems.  
  • Reduces the cost-of-service delivery through proper resource utilization. 

What is the Difference Between ITSM and ITIL?   

While ITSM is a methodology to deliver IT services to the business, ITIL is a set of practices that state how to implement ITSM in the business. ITIL can be considered as the de facto framework for ITSM. Here are some differences between ITSM and ITIL:  

  • Scope: While ITIL is a precise framework within ITSM, ITSM is an extensive concept with different methods, frameworks, and best practices for managing IT services.   
  • Flexibility: With ITSM, enterprises can have the flexibility to embrace various frameworks and approaches based on their preferences. On the other hand, ITIL proposes a relatively more structured framework that explicitly defines guidelines and processes.   
  • Purpose: While ITIL offers a defined approach to managing IT services, ITSM focuses on aligning the IT processes with the organizational objectives.   
  • Uses: ITIL harmonizes IT services with other operations, providing users with advantageous services. Contrary to that, ITSM handles operational techniques like adopting and managing change to keep the business functioning.   

The Relationship Between ITIL and ITSM  

ITIL and ITSM have a solid descriptive connection. Often, ITIL gets confused with ITSM, but ITIL was made with ITSM in the spirit. Both the terms are so popular that they get used interchangeably many times.   

Having said that, one can come to a single thought that ITIL is a set of practices that aids the implementation of activities involved in ITSM. In short, ITSM defines the what, and ITIL defines the how.   

There are plenty of frameworks out there like ITIL, like:  

  • Business Process Framework (eTOM)  
  • Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT)  
  • DevOps  
  • FitSM  
  • ISO/IEC  
  • Knowledge-Centered Service  
  • Lean  
  • Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)  
  • Service Integration and Management (SIAM)  
  • Multisource Services Integration (MSI)  
  • Six Sigma  


ITIL is synonymous with ITSM because of its popularity, hence the confusion. As you have come to know, these two terms are different, but they are complementary to each other. ITSM is the ‘What’ and ITIL is the ‘How’ of IT service delivery.  

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Yes, ITIL can benefit your business immensely. ITIL provides a longstanding framework to manage IT services and processes that enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and improve user satisfaction.

ITSM and ITIL are transforming to meet the versatile demands of the digital times. While ITSM is getting more integrated with AI, automation, and cloud computing, ITIL is evolving to remain relevant in this ever-growing landscape. 

ITIL’s applicability varies for all enterprises. Large, regulated firms often benefit, while SMEs may prefer more streamlined approaches.

No, there are other frameworks like COBIT, ISO/IEC 20000, and DevOps as well.

One of the prominent examples of ITSM is incident management. For incident management, the users report issues, and the IT team finds the cause, prioritizes the issue, and resolves it promptly, thus avoiding disruptions.