The IT Infrastructure Library has long been considered a key reference manual for anybody trying to build out service desk functionality. The IT service management scheme a business follows can contribute to a more stable IT setup and more reliable business. However, technology has changed significantly in recent years and there has been some rumbling that ITIL isn't necessarily the best service management strategy to meet current demands.
This uncertainty about ITIL is very real, and it can create significant challenges for IT leaders trying to choose the right service desk. With this as a launching point, let's discuss some of the benefits that are still available through ITIL and put that beside some of the common criticisms of the ITSM framework.
Advantages of ITIL
There are plenty of benefits associated with ITIL that aren't just legacy ideas which aren't really applicable to contemporary support teams. These include:
Structure: You want flexibility in your service desk, but you need well-defined processes, terminology and workflows to ensure users always know what they need to do and how to do it. This is where the clearly defined incident, problem and change management workflows in ITIL are especially valuable. Giving users a clear idea of what is expected of them and how they need to navigate through various processes can be a key efficiency driver.
Regulatory advantages: ITIL is designed with regulatory compliance standards in mind. This makes the best practices ideal when it comes time to audit processes and operations to ensure compliance is maintained. This doesn't mean you can't run into trouble while using ITIL, but it does ensure that you have a good framework in place to document processes and follow the necessary steps to fully comply with standards.
On the whole, ITIL is kind of like the old, trusty tools that you have in the toolbox. They aren't always flashy enough to do everything you need, and sometimes they're restrictive, but they also are the best solutions you have for certain jobs. You always know what to expect with ITIL, and the time-tested ITSM guidelines still offer significant potential.
Limitations of ITIL
Solutions like DevOps are rising as an alternative to ITIL and you don't have to look that far to see why. ITIL does have a few key limitations:
Rigidity: Sometimes the structure created in an ITIL ITSM setup can be a bit too much to deal with. Organizations need to be able to make technology changes quickly, and they need service management principles that can keep up with a more elastic operational environment.
Complexity: Building an ITIL-based ITSM system can be incredibly onerous simply because the wide range of regulations, modules and processes that come into play with ITIL can be difficult to establish. The longer it takes to establish a good service desk, the longer it will take to put efficient operations into place. The complexity of an ITIL solution can lead to a slow deployment process and make it extremely difficult to keep up with changing demands.
Where ITIL creates rigidity and beauracracy, emerging management methodologies are helping organizations develop more innovative ITSM practices.
Where should you settle?
The ITSM industry is changing, and you don't need to move away from ITIL to embrace that change. Cloud-based ITSM solutions are creating flexibility and efficiency that legacy ITIL-based service desks can't manage. The result is a situation in which ITIL is beginning to evolve in such a way that it can meet contemporary demands and position organizations for a brighter future. The lesson from ITIL's recent scrutiny is not so much that the best practices are no longer relevant, but instead that they need to be adjusted and fine tuned based on an organization's specific needs.