Understanding ITIL: An IT Framework, Not a Silver Bullet

The business world tends to churn through trendy concepts pretty quickly. As a new fad flares up, some businesses inevitably become so devoted to it that they forget to focus on their own business objectives. ITIL guidelines are currently spurring this tendency in IT service management.

Some IT management consulting firms throw around the term “ITIL implementation” as if ITIL guidelines are akin to a silver bullet that can automatically improve any company’s IT service management. Just adopt the ITIL rules, such IT management consulting experts imply, and everything will come out right. We’re here to temper that approach with a more realistic understanding of how ITIL standards work.

ITIL is indeed the most commonly used set of IT service management standards. Their main utility is in guiding businesses toward making the best IT decisions as far as efficiency and cost effectiveness are concerned. In terms of long-term and strategic IT planning, the ITIL standards are invaluable roadmaps that can come in handy for every business.

However, owning the right roadmap is very different than actually taking that once-in-a-lifetime journey. Here are a few common misconceptions about what ITIL compliance means, along with clarification about how ITIL standardization should actually be applied.

1. Seeing ITIL compliance as the end goal. Certainly, it doesn’t hurt to add “ITIL compliance” to your to-do list. However, following the ITIL standards shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. Instead, as your IT management consulting partner would hopefully emphasize, IT service management should support and further your ultimate business objectives.

2. Viewing ITIL compliance as a one-time project, rather than an ongoing objective. Because the consensus on best IT service management practices is constantly shifting, you can’t just achieve ITIL compliance once and then forget about it. To stay competitive in your IT service management, ask your IT management consulting firm to review how you stack up to ITIL guidelines regularly – say, every six months. (And don’t forget to consider other performance standards now and then, such as Six Sigma, ISO 20000 and CMMi. The key word is consider, which means reviewing the options and deciding which might fit or are worth more time.)

3. Pursuing ITIL standards with no short, medium or long term business goals in mind. ITIL is a set of best practices guidelines, not steel-clad objectives that must be met. Businesses should pair ITIL guidelines with their own internal objectives in order to use them to maximum advantage. Think GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

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