How Do We Adopt ITIL Outside IT?

“Can you adopt ITIL outside of IT” was the first question when I interviewed for a service desk job 4 years ago. “No, ITIL is specifically designed for IT”, was my innocent answer back then. It sounded like a crazy idea, then, when I didn’t have a clear understanding of how businesses run.


My bookish knowledge told me that ITIL was meant only for IT, and other departments probably had their own best practice framework.

How very wrong I was…

I failed to see the similarity between an IT Team and other support functions that provide services to employees. I’ve since learned, the nature of work they do might differ, but the relationship with internal customers is the same.

What does ITIL actually do?

After spending quite some time (still not long enough) in the ITSM world, I understood what ITIL framework actually does. ITIL framework helps structure thought process. One of the huge benefits of ITIL is business & IT alignment; it was designed to put the focus on business and not on IT. This mindset can definitely help the other internal teams as well as it ensures they break away from their silo and start focusing on the bigger picture.

ITIL has taught IT teams to differentiate between things that are broken and things people are asking for. ITIL has taught IT teams to think about putting out fires and not spend time figuring out what went wrong (at least not when things are burning)

ITIL has historically helped IT teams to manage the incoming requests and keep the show going on. It has proven really effective and that’s a major reason for the rise in its popularity. Maybe it wasn’t such a crazy thought to think that ITIL could help other departments as well.

Incident & Request Management outside of IT

Whenever I talk about IT, I say that IT has done something that customer support has not yet been able to do. In a customer support world, everything is a ticket. In an IT world (ITIL world), Incidents and Service Requests have clear purposes.

This is really helpful as you cannot treat things that stop or deteriorate the business services the same as making life easier for an internal customer (my definition of a service request).

This differentiation can help other departments differentiate burning issues and prioritise them. Here are few examples below.

For an HR team:

Reporting an HR issue is more important than requesting a copy of of their payslip

For a Travel desk:

An issue during the travel is more important than a new travel request

Service Catalog outside of IT

Service Catalog is a great way for any team to let their customers know what services they offer. It sets the right expectations with the users. With a Service Catalog, you can have a customised Service Request form per request type. This way, an end user always gives you the information you need to process the ticket and it saves a lot of back and forth that otherwise would’ve happened.

For Traveldesk:

A Service Request form with all the travel details filled in is very useful compared to a blank email. Imagine getting all the required travel information from the user without a single follow up. It’s a dream, isn’t it? A really good Service Catalog can get you that info.

For Facilities:

A Service Request to book a conference room is very useful provided it has all the required details like booking date, time etc.

Facilities, Traveldesk, HR, & Legal are some teams that can benefit from adopting ITIL. However, any team that provides a service to their internal customers can benefit from adopting ITIL in their teams.

How do we start adapting ITIL outside IT?

  1. Make sure it works in IT first
    If you’re in IT looking to expand ITIL to other departments, make sure it properly works in IT first. Successful adoption within IT will ensure easy expansion to other departments. IT teams can become advocates and start helping other teams start the ITIL journey.
  2. Explain the benefits of adopting ITIL to other teams
    You don’t have to hold a fully fledged ITIL Certification training for everyone but a quick overview on ITIL will get them up to speed. It might even be worth investing in a quick 2 day crash course on ITIL. The certification could be optional 🙂
  3. Start by choosing an ITIL aligned tool that is customisable
    ITSM Softwares are traditionally designed only for IT and are pretty rigid in terms of customisations. Non-IT Teams have a hard time finding their way around the software. Make sure you pick one a software that is easy for all teams to use!

Finally, it’s important remember that ITIL won’t magically solve all your process problems (within IT or outside). ITIL, like any other best practice framework, depends on how well it is implemented and follows.


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