ITIL and ISO 20000: All You Need to Know

by Elina D

Organisations are constantly seeking ways to improve their service management. Transforming a simple IT to an IT-oriented service organisation calls for better planning, delivery, and control of the IT services they offer customers. This transformation process starts with ITIL and ISO 20000.

ISO 20000, ITIL

The point that needs acknowledgement is that most people fail to understand the differences between the two, the purposes they serve, and the way they complement each other. If you are starting with a service-oriented IT venture, getting familiarised with ITIL and ISO 20000 can be of immense help.

Best Practices Vs. Standard

Understanding ITIL and ISO 20000 requires understanding their roots and the reasoning behind their establishment. The ITIL is a set of best practices, a library of best-described processes and functions from the beginning till the end of a service system. It includes extensive descriptions of the processes and standards in the service industry. These standards are merely descriptive, and they need not be enforced prescriptively. In IT service management, ITIL is seen as a de facto standard and the best practice framework, not the sole standard.

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In much simpler words, ITIL details what practices would be best for an organisation, what some organisations could do and how it should be done, and so on. It is advice or suggestions rather than hard requirements.

On the other hand, ISO 20000 is the hard requirement that IT services need to meet. It is an auditable standard with exactly 256 requirements that a company must meet if it wants to be certified. ISO 20000 has two parts. ISO 20000-1 describes the requirements for processes, whereas ISO 20000-2 is about how these processes shall be done.

In short, ITIL is the best practices framework for service-oriented IT organisations, and ISO 20000 is the standard that these organisations should meet.

ITIL And ISO 20000 – How Are They Different?

ITIL, ISO 20000

The biggest difference between ITIL and ISO 20000 is the purpose it serves. ITIL is a collection of best practices that describes numerous recommendations, functions, and processes that can aid in improving the functionality and service delivery of an organisation. ISO 20000 is the specific standard that organisations must meet to gain certification.

Certification Specifications

Another distinction between ISO 20000 and ITIL is the certification path. ISO 20000 focuses on organisations. IT service organisations are required to follow a set of rules concerning intellectual property, guidance for employees, and so on. Keeping in line with these rules leads to the ISO certification of the company. In contrast, ITIL certification is meant for individuals. People can take this certification after training at foundational, intermediate, and expert levels.


When following the ITIL recommendations, your organisation can choose which ones to follow and which to set aside, depending on what works in the best interest of your company. However, ISO is a strict standard, and organisations need to meet all the requirements without fail to achieve the certification. Handpicking requirements is not an option here.

Size Consideration

ITIL has special recommendations based on the size of the business. Based on the management structure, it offers considerations and advice. ISO 20000, on the other hand, functions independent of the size of the organisation. It is uniform for every service management system.


ISO works on specific system requirements that enable continuous improvement. This standard requires companies to constantly monitor, evaluate, review, and innovate their system. In contrast, ITIL targets best procedural practices.

An Overview of ITIL

ITIL’s approach can be described as a guidance framework containing shoulds instead of musts. On a global scale, ITIL is the most accepted approach to IT services management and delivery. It consists of best practices regarding people, processes, and technology to create an environment that utilises the maximum potential of your organisation’s resources.

An Overview of ISO 20000

If the large number of recommendations in the ITIL is not enough for your company, the internationally recognised standard set by ISO can help. ISO 20000 is a regularly updated set of best practices that can give you explicit guidance. With around 256 requirements that are codified standards, there is no room for confusion.

Like ITIL, ISO 20000 also aims to help organisations reach a better operation level in the dynamic world of technology. The benefits of ISO 20000 certification are many:
1. It is a ready guarantee of your credibility and reliability. You can approach potential clients with the confidence that you can deliver what they need.
2. It is a way to protect your organisation from brain drain. Since the entire company is compliant with ISO standards instead of an employee, even if someone leaves, they are not taking away much-needed knowledge that you need to function.
3. ISO 20000 certification makes it easier for your company to grow and attain peak efficiency in a minimum time.
4. It is a stable foundation on which you can keep building your business.

How Do ITIL and ISO 20000 Fit Together?

Unquestioningly, ITIL provides excellent guidance to cost-effectively improve a service-oriented IT organisation. Yet, the implementation of ITIL guidelines does not guarantee the best performance of the service. Since it only describes what should be done, there is a chance for inconsistency in the implementation. This means that you cannot easily ascertain the quality of ITIL compliance or certify organisations based on this. At the same time, ISO 20000 is a clearly defined set of standards detailing what must be done to meet a certification requirement.

ITIL guidelines can be the starting point for an organisation to get a handle on its resources. Once that is done, they can consider meeting the ISO 20000 requirements. Even though it is hard to achieve, compliance with ITIL can make the process of ISO 20000 certification a little easier.

Thus, it is a no-brainer that ITIL and ISO 20000 work well together. A business can use ITIL to segue into its ISO 20000 certification. Combining both allows companies to go further with their goals and practices that benefit the clients.

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