ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library and is your go-to guide to best practices for performing IT services, such as IT service management (ITSM) and IT asset management (ITAM).

Think of ITIL as a smart framework that can help you to standardize the way that you offer IT-based services, whether that’s inside your own organization in the role of corporate or internal IT, or whether you own a service-based IT business like an MSP. If you’re new to ITIL, and you want to make it work for you… keep reading!

What is the ITIL framework?

ITIL is not specific for any particular technology or organization – in fact, it’s meant to apply to anyone and any business. It’s been around since the 1980’s, and while not all companies will implement all of the framework, there are some elements that have become increasingly popular no matter the size of your organization, such as change management best-practices, or incident response procedures.

The main steps of the framework are:

Service Strategy: Take a look at the market. What already exists? Who is your competition? What are the needs that are waiting to be filled? At this stage, you’ll be measuring up your ideal strategy against elements like time and budget so that you can minimize costs while providing the best possible solution for the business.

If you’re an MSP – this step is heavily focused on communicating with the customer. What are their pain points and challenges, and how are you explaining your strategy in line with their needs?

Service Design: It’s time to design what your service will look like. What targets are you putting in place? What do your offerings look like? For an MSP, this is where you might define exactly what’s in the client’s service offering, from web protection or antivirus, to network monitoring or hardware procurement.

Define and codify how you will manage availability, business continuity, information security, data privacy and capacity management. If you have any third-party suppliers, here’s where you outline their contact details and the scope of their involvement. IT Documentation is really important here, so that no person’s brain is a single point of failure.

Service Transition: Time to implement and manage your services in the best way for the business context. Whether you’re working in internal IT or for multiple client environments, you need a strong change management process in place.

First off – think about the current situation and how you’re going to offboard legacy systems or make changes to culture or processes. Equally importantly, how are you going to ensure your new way of doing things is portable or agile so that you don’t impact reliability when it’s time to make another change? Think about release cycles, testing processes, and communication across teams.

Service Operation: Congratulations, you’re working according to your best practices. Now the work begins! Ongoing monitoring and maintenance is an essential part of managing IT environments. Start by including robust plans for incident management so that if there’s an interruption to service on an individual user level or across the business you can reinstate business as usual, and follow it up with problem management that makes changes to stop this issue happening again in the future.

Other technologies and processes to consider at this stage are access and identity management including role-based access and password management, and how you’re going to manage requests, whether that’s via ticketing system, a helpdesk, or otherwise. Psst – check out Atera’s AI-based ticket tagging that automatically sorts tickets on your behalf!

Service Improvement: Ultimately, ITIL is all about improving your offering, so it’s important to pay attention to what’s working, and what isn’t. Reporting and analytics are an important part of this step, helping you to drill down into elements such as satisfied customers, unexpected downtime, patch management wins or security flaws.

Make sure to set Quarterly Business Reviews with your customers so that you can look at improvements that can be made, many of which might involve you going all the way back to the strategy phase. When done right, ITIL allows you to work in a circular fashion with your IT environments, continually improving and adapting for best practices.

Why is the ITIL framework good for MSPs?

The very purpose of the ITIL Framework is to improve the experience and services that customers receive from their service providers. Whether you get an ITIL certification, or just start considering your work through an ITIL lens – you’re going to see benefits.

That’s because every single goal that you set using the ITIL Framework is based on business needs, with a firm market strategy implemented from day one. Think of it like a template for business and customer success, and note that there are no specific tasks asked of you – you can tweak and form the Framework into whatever best suits your business needs.

Benefits of using ITIL include:

Happier clients and end-users: Everything that you do as a service provider can be linked back to overarching goals of the customer, increasing transparency and customer satisfaction.

Better documentation: By codifying all of your processes and operating procedures, you can standardize the way that you do business, making it easier to collaborate and work.

Less errors: With a single way of doing things such as incident response and onboarding new clients, human errors are far less likely to fall through the gaps. Better compliance, better accuracy, it’s a win all round.

Smoother processes: As everything that you do is continually evaluated, monitored and enhanced, you can’t help but keep improving! Any pain points are quickly identified and streamlined.

Think about ITIL for MSPs in your next review

ITIL isn’t an overnight change that you can make, but it is extremely rewarding for companies who take the plunge. If it feels overwhelming, it’s easy to minimize the framework into a simpler process for your business, for example using the same continuous cycle for something smaller such as cybersecurity or cloud.

What are the differences? ITSM vs. ITIL

IT service management (ITSM) and ITIL are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are different. ITIL is a framework within the ITSM discipline that aims to improve efficiency and achieve predictable service levels.

The ITIL methodology includes the very best ITSM practices, including but not limited to general processes, procedures, tasks, and checklists that any organization can use.

ITSM, however, is instead about the planning and management of IT services for a customer. There is a continual process of analyzing and improving processes, IT services, and infrastructure in ITSM.

What is the difference between COBIT and ITIL?

Much like ITIL, COBIT is also a framework, and the acronym stands for stands for the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies. It was first coined in 1996 by ISACA, previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association..

You can think of ITIL as a framework that outlines best practices and tips intended to help managed service providers (MSPs) and IT personnel standardize the way that they offer the different IT-based services that they offer, and improve their support and service level.

As such, the difference between COBIT and ITIL is that ITIL describes and standardizes the different IT services and assets an IT provider provides and helps manage them, while COBIT is a framework that outlines how to implement processes for IT management and governance.

In simple terms, COBIT has a broader scope than ITIL does, as it relates to an entire organization and aligning a company’s business goals with its IT goals.

COBIT aims to leverage an IT department’s resources to best enhance the company, while ITIL regards how to best organize an IT team and their respective workload in the most beneficial and efficient way.

Atera bakes in a lot of the best-practices of ITIL, such as reporting and analytics, network monitoring, and ticketing.

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