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ITIL helps set IT service catalog expectations

I don’t know about you, but to me, ITIL (or IT Infrastructure Library) is a little overwhelming. I’m only looking at using the ITIL framework as an IT service catalog tool, and I get a little lost.

Under ITIL guidelines, an IT service catalog is a subset of service-level management, which is a subset of service delivery. Service delivery is the topic of only one of eight ITIL books on IT Service Management (ITSM) guidelines, and that’s just in ITIL v2. ITIL v3 has five other books that update some of v2, but also introduce new ITSM strategies. and recently ran a survey asking our readers about their ITIL use. We haven’t pulled together all of the results yet, but here’s a preview: When we asked readers to choose up to three areas in which they would like to see improvements to ITIL, they said:

  • 35.4% — ITIL should provide more information on how ITIL works with other
    process-improvement methodologies, like Six Sigma and Lean.
  • 31.1% — ITIL should offer more prescriptive advice vs. just guidance.
  • 12.9% — ITIL should include more specific advice on transition from v2 to v3.
  • 12.5% — ITIL needs to be clearer on the differences between v2 and v3.
  • 8.1% — ITIL v3 is too complex.

So, it’s clear that people would like more guidance and less complexity, but anecdotally, a few IT shops and service providers I’ve talked to recently said that ITIL does just the opposite: It clears up some complexity.

When an IT service catalog is being put together, ITIL tells the business and IT what terminology to use, they say.

“ITIL gets people speaking the same language,” said Matt French, marketing director with Service-now, an ITSM Software as a Service provider. “It makes it clear what an incident or a request is, and helps an organization with [corporate] terminology [that is different across the company] use the same terminology.”

ITIL also helps IT set the right expectations for service delivery in terms of service levels and what is possible — and not possible — as far as services the business wants to see and what IT can realistically deliver. It does this by setting the scope of an IT service catalog project, including taking inventory of the skill sets IT has on hand (or not) to deliver a service, and helps organizations choose a set of standard services.

Any advice on how to use ITIL to reduce complexity, or how you have been able to simplify ITIL at your shop? I’d like to hear from you. Email me at

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