ITIL vs ISO 20000: Know the Similarities and Differences

ITIL vs ISO 20000: Know the Similarities and Differences
Ashraf Al Tarawneh ,PMP, ITIL, ITSM, CISSP, CEH v9 (Digital Transformation Consultant)

Ashraf Al Tarawneh ,PMP, ITIL, ITSM, CISSP, CEH v9 (Digital Transformation Consultant)

Digital Transformation Consultant
July 20, 2023

Every organization has to choose a standard or predefined structure that assists them in delivering quality goods and services. Several parameters must be considered when choosing a standard for an organization. The parameters include the nature of the business (IT or non-IT), size of the organization (in terms of turnover and human resources), assets, IT usage, the organization’s unpredictability, etc. 

This article lists the comparison between two commonly used standards, ITIL and ISO 20000. Read along to learn about the difference between ITIL and ISO 20000 and the pros and cons of these standards. 

ITIL – An Overview

Information Technology Infrastructure Library or ITIL is an international industry standard in IT service management that defines the best practices for delivering quality services. The primary goal of ITIL is to ensure a successful, competent, versatile, facilitated and integrated framework for private and government organizations. ITIL also provides continuous improvement of the framework laid out for the organization. Some of the advantages of the ITIL standards are as follows: 


  • Improvement in quality of IT services 
  • Ease in the incorporation of Agile, DevOps and Lean methodologies 
  • A holistic view of the logistics department 
  • Digital transformation of the organization 


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ITIL Roadmap

ITIL was established in the ’80s, and various ITIL versions have been released since then. The past versions of ITIL include ITIL 1, ITIL 2, ITIL 3, ITIL 2011, and the latest version of ITIL is ITIL 4. ITIL emphasizes the idea of best practices, which is how the standard came into being. The best practices for each activity were continuously checked, retested, altered, and finally formulated into the primary version of ITIL 1. 

If you are interested in learning more about the basics of ITIL to improve your IT service skills, you can opt for ITIL Foundation classes and grow as an IT professional.

ISO 20000 – An Overview

The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, is an international entity that defines the standards and guidelines for a range of businesses and organizations. The ISO 20000 standard for Service Management can be incorporated by both IT and non-IT organizations. The characteristics of ISO 20000 are as follows: 


  • Comprehensive and Systematic. 
  • It has been incorporated into a wide range of sectors. 
  • It is well aligned with ISO 9001, ISO 27001 and other management standards under the ISO. 


If an organization needs to be accredited with ISO 20000 standards, it can sign up for the ISO 20000 accreditation assessment. It enables the organization to showcase the ISO confirmation regarding the goods and services provided. Typically, it requires one or two years of preparation to obtain ISO 20000 certification.

ISO 20000 Roadmap

This standard was established as a standard of practice in the 1980s. The first version of the standard was a part of the British Standard Institute (BSI) and was referred to as BS 15000. It was established as a globally recognized standard in 2005, referred to as ISO 20000 and later re-examined in 2011. The most recent edition of ISO 20000 is from 2018 and is known as ISO / IEC 20000-1: 2018 

ITIL and ISO 20000 [Comparison Table]

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Key Differences Between ITIL and ISO 20000 

If you are wondering about what is the difference between ITIL and ISO 20000, here are some of the key differences: 


  • ITIL certification is granted to individuals with varying levels (Foundation, Practitioner, Intermediate, Expert, and Master) after successfully completing a training workshop and certification examination. In contrast, ISO 20000 certification is granted to an organization after it adheres to all the requirements of ISO 20000 and passes the auditory assessment. 
  • ITIL is a defined set of best practices, whereas ISO 20000 is a standard. Saying that an organization is ITIL compliant does not make sense, while an organization can comply with ISO 20000 standards by passing an audit organized by an accredited entity like TAYLLORCOX. 
  • ISO 20000 is strict and authoritative in terms of compliance processes as compared to ITIL. ITIL is a recommendation for best practices, and each organization has the flexibility to choose to which degree they want to implement it. However, ISO 20000 standard consists of 250 mandatory requirements for organizations to obtain the certification. 
  • ISO 20000 emphasizes the lifecycle of IT organizations. Hence, it helps in the enhancement of the IP that belongs to the organization. In comparison, ITIL certification is granted exclusively to individuals that complete the workshop and examination. Hence, it cannot be considered an intellectual asset of the organization but is an investment to improve the employees’ skills. However, it is also possible to obtain knowledge about ISO 20000 through courses. 

 Look for the best IT Service Management courses online to learn in-depth about IT service management and grow your IT Service Management skills. 

How Do ITIL and ISO 20000 Fit Together?

Now that we have discussed the differences between ITIL and ISO 20000 let’s discuss how these frameworks fit together. 

Whether you are commencing the transformation of your organization towards an IT service-oriented organization or trying to enhance the existing model of IT service operations, ITIL can recommend a set of best practices. It can help your organization to improve the quality of IT services, reduce the cost of operations, improve client satisfaction and enhance compliance with international standards like ISO 20000. Hence, you can say that ITIL is complementary to ISO 20000.

The benefits of ITIL framework implementation can be evaluated by conducting a preliminary gap analysis. ITIL suggests methods of improving existing processes or incorporating new strategies in a comprehensible and organized manner. It is important to note that ITIL lacks precise specifications of the steps that IT organizations must take. But this is where ISO 20000 helps the most. The incorporation of new methods is benchmarked, adherence to standard requirements is verified by auditors outside the organization, and the implementation and certification of ISO 20000 needs to be done within a predefined deadline. Also, check out the differences between ISO Standards here.

Conclusion: ITIL or ISO 20000?

There is no right choice between the two that can be implemented for all organizations. Before adopting any framework for your organization, you need to consider which standard is going to be the most effective for your association. This decision can be made keeping in mind parameters like the nature of the business (IT or non-IT), size of the organization (in terms of turnover and human resources), assets, IT usage, and the organization’s unpredictability, etc. 

Enroll in KnowledgeHut’s ITIL Foundation classes to enhance your skills in the IT service management domain. Knowledgehut provides an immersive learning experience with real-world simulations, case studies, and auto-graded assessments to help you advance your career as an IT professional. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is ITIL an international standard?

Yes, ITIL is an international standard for best practices in IT service management. The practices recommended by ITIL are well aligned with ISO/IEC 20000 standard for service management. 

2. What are the similarities between ITIL vs ISO 20000?

Below are the similarities between ITIL and ISO 20000: 


  • Both ITIL and ISO 20000 are designed for service management.
  • Both ITIL and ISO 20000 were established in the ’80s 
  • ITIL and ISO 20000 aim to improve the service quality and delivery operations of the services. 


3. What are the 5 stages of ITIL?

The 5 stages of ITIL are: 

  • ITIL Service Strategy,
  • ITIL Service Design,
  • ITIL Service Transition,
  • ITIL Service Operation, and
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement.

4. Does ITIL implementation need to be started with a specific process?

ITIL implementation does not need to start with a specific process. ITIL recommends the best practices for IT service management but does not mandate the degree of implementation of its framework. 

5. What is the use of ISO 20000 standard where IT is most used in practice?

ISO 20000 empowers the IT departments to ensure that ITSM practices are well aligned with international standards. It also helps the administrations benchmark how they deliver their services, measure their service levels, and assess their performance. 

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