What are the drawbacks to using ITIL?

If you’ve been following me on Linkedin, you may have come across a discussion I started; ‘What are the drawbacks to using ITIL?’ on the itSMF group. Sor far, the discussion has had over 50 comments, each with different views. So, without any further ado, let me introduce the stars of this post and their thoughts….


@Adam Humphreys said: ” The main drawbacks to ITIL aren’t with ITIL itself but with people’s misguided expectations of it, since it’s wrongly sometimes seen as an end-state, whereas in fact it’s a framework for managing the evolution of how IT remains aligned to the business’ needs.”

@Zain Khan siad: “1-way too many trademarked terms
2-buzz words and TLAs that overlap (both within ITIL literature and industry at large)
3-so heavy in theory (some times bordering on abstract) that not sufficient information is given as to “how to do it” (further exacerbated by peoples incorrect understanding of ITIL)
4-very often ITIL is sold as a cure-all by consultants without sound understanding that you must crawl before you can run”

@Brad Cork said: “To me the biggest downside to using ITIL is when managers think that ITIL will solve their people problems! It is a technology framework… managers still need to be great leaders if they are going to lead great teams even in an ITIL framework.”

@Diarmid Gibson said: “If you have a poor understanding of ITSM then you will misunderstand and misinterpret ITIL. I class that as a risk, rather than a drawback. Similarly the benefits to be gained from using ITIL will be less if you are not in an organization focussing on genuine service improvement as a constant way of life.”

@Jason Bunston said: “…..every framework can be of assistance if properly mastered”

@Frederic Gisbet said: “DRAWBACK = ITIL is not scientific as it has not included the science management of Deming. For example, ITIL talks about processes improvment, about KPI … but don’t give the statistical knowledge and methodolology to interpret correctly all those informations given by the relevant dashboards.”

@Lee Marshall said: “The major drawback of ITIL has been the way it has been typically indoctrinated into organizations. The huge organizational change required to move an organization from technology-focused to service/customer-focused is rarely taken into account, and when it is considered, it is not given the weight it deserves. Also, the expectations for ITIL are completely overblown. ITIL is not going to turn your organization into one of the great ones that leverage information technology to achieve their business objectives (e.g. Wal-Mart, Zara, etc.). These companies did not need ITIL to achieve business/IT alignment.”

@Lynda Cooper said: “ITIL is a framework that needs to be adapted to fit your organisation. ITIL is not a magic bullet and it does need a good understanding by those who adapt it and work with it – even a strategy on how it will be used taking us back to the service strategy book. It also needs related disciplines such as people management, planning etc.”


It seems that the discussion tended to lean towards the point that ITIL is only as successful as the people that implement it.  How successful ITIL is depends on how knowledgable and willing the people that use it are. If they have a poor understanding of ITIL/ITSM then the framework will not work to its maximum potential. Obviously other factors influence the drawbacks, such as how it is adapted to fit an organisation, but the main focus was on the ‘people’ factor.

@Adam Humphreys sums things up nicely with “a bad workman blames his tools”.

Let the debate continue….

Implementing ITIL: Adapting Your IT Organization to the Coming Revolution in IT Service Management is a comprehensive guide for building your IT Service Management program with all the information you need in one place. It shows you how to best organize your program work plans with practical tips and step-by-step approaches for defining your Service Management Vision.


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