Home > ITIL Alternatives: What Are Other ITSM Frameworks?

ITIL Alternatives: What Are Other ITSM Frameworks?

itil alternatives

Navigating the Possible ITIL Alternatives for Your ITSM Framework

It can be challenging to keep from getting myopic when examining ITSM frameworks, methodologies, or standards. After all, ITIL is the most popularly adopted standard in ITSM, but it is far from the only alternative. In fact, there are several ITIL alternatives for anyone looking into adopting an ITSM framework for their organization, chief among them KCS (Knowledge Center Support), and HDI Support Center Standard. But for all the hype that these, as well as COBIT 5, eTOM, ISO/IEC 20000, MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework), or the myriad other options may receive, they still lag way behind ITIL in terms of adoption rates. This begs the question, why is ITIL so prevalent? And, furthermore, what do these other options have to offer that ITIL does not? In this post, we will examine the rise and domination of ITIL, looking into how prevalent it actually is, and why that may be so. We’ll also take a look at five of the primary ITIL alternatives available and how they differ from and mirror ITIL. Lastly, we’ll touch a bit on how to make an informed choice when looking at ITSM framework options.

The Prevalence of ITIL

ITIL got its start as a framework in the late 1980s as a result of the British government, who were fed up with their perceived level of IT service quality. They tasked one of their agencies with developing a framework for the responsible and efficient use of IT services, and applied both internally and in their dealings with outside contractors in the private sector. This framework quickly spread to Europe and beyond in the decade to come. Now, ITIL is by far the most widely used ITSM framework. That said, only a little more than half of surveyed companies and governments in the U.S. and Europe say that they employ it as a framework. And, while this is considerably more than the other potential frameworks, ITIL is still far from universal in its application. If you expand your field of view to include governments and businesses worldwide, you’ll find that an even smaller percentage use ITIL (or any ITSM framework at all).  

ITIL Alternatives

So, it can be reasoned, using ITIL is not mandatory and there are many ITIL alternatives available for those looking to apply an ITSM framework to their organization. It is very important to understand the difference between the ITIL alternatives though, if you are going to be sure that you are making a valid selection in adopting or keeping ITIL or selecting another ITSM framework.
  • COBIT 5 - Claimed by many to be more versatile than ITIL, COBIT has a low adoption rate, but can be more versatile in its broader analysis of practices across an organization’s IT efforts, while not limiting itself to ITSM.
  • ISO/IEC 20000 - ISO 20000 is a global standard, and has tremendous reach. That said, ISO 20000 certification is an intensive process. For this reason, it can represent much more framework than many organizations require.
  • eTOM - eTOM stands for Enhanced Telecom Operations Map and is primarily used in telecommunications. It is generally seen as a complementary framework to ITIL for organizations that operate in that sector.
  • Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) - MOF is very similar in its scope and general framework as ITIL, covering the whole lifecycle of ITSM.
  • Knowledge Centered Service - One of the most popular alternatives to ITIL, and a framework that works in a complementary fashion, KCS focuses more on the capture, retention, and dissemination of knowledge in ITSM.

Selecting the Right Fit for Your ITSM Framework

If you sift through a couple of pages of Google results, you will find ITSM experts and consultants willing to stake their individual reputations on the efficacy of either ITIL or any one of its many alternatives. Ultimately, you will have to decide what framework is the best fit for your organization's goals and needs. Keep in mind, however, as you weigh the available options, that you can cherry pick what’s best for your organization from what each framework has to offer, or apply them (as many of the experts do) for different results, depending on what you need.
Tim Lawes
Tim Lawes serves as Manager of Solutions Engineering, ITSM at SolarWinds. ITIL 4 certified, he brings 10+ years of training and consulting experience in the…
Read more