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Author  Adam McCullough, ITIL® Expert

July 3, 2017 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • IT Services
  • Value
  • ITIL

In today’s world, you would be hard pressed to find a business that doesn’t use IT. And where there’s IT, there’s IT Service Management (ITSM).

When taking my ITIL® classes, I met people from all walks of life who wanted to learn about ITIL: people from government contracting, the Ford Motor Company, Walt Disney World, the banking industry and fashion labels, Coach. Naturally, these companies have IT in their company’s infrastructure but what about other parts of their business?

If we look at what ITIL describes as a ‘service’, it is defined as a means of delivering value by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve, without the ownership of specific cost and risk. While this could be IT, it could also be a gym where the site has the ownership of the equipment and therefore you don’t need a squat rack at home. Similarly, with Starbucks, you could make a coffee at home but instead choose a better quality one that someone else makes for you.

What links all these companies is providing a service; with any service it begins and ends with customers and what’s valuable to them.

When you consider businesses in that way, it’s easy to see how the principles of ITIL can be applied. In fact, I believe many industries are using the theory of ITIL today but simply using a different name.

The business-wide benefits of ITIL

So, if it’s possible to apply ITIL in other business areas beyond IT, why should different sectors be doing it?

Utilizing an industry best practice is always beneficial and it’s been proven time and time again, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Within any organization, there are two types of knowledge and practice: proprietary knowledge (a company’s internal best practice) and public frameworks (such as ITIL, Six Sigma). Ignoring public frameworks will put an organization at a disadvantage – no matter what your business is – so it’s always advantageous to explore what’s already been proven in other industries. A prime example of this is in innovation: as I explored previously in my blog post on CSI, failing to innovate and forward-think can spell disaster for businesses.

Innovation or, in ITIL terms, Continual Service Improvement (CSI), is just one area where the best practice of ITIL can be applied and be advantageous:

  • Definition of a Service – defining what you’re offering the customer
  • Knowledge Management – having a clear, easy to understand repository system to maintain efficiency
  • Continual Service Improvement (CSI) – a CSI Register will help businesses innovate and improve
  • Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed (RACI) – in organizations one of the biggest challenges is accountability
  • Service Portfolio Management (Service Pipeline, Service Catalogue, Retired Services) – what’s coming, what’s out now and what is retired but could come back? You can easily apply this to a movie theatre: what film’s coming out soon? What film’s showing now? What previous film is retired?

The applications and uses of ITIL beyond IT are endless because, fundamentally, ITIL has been designed to be adopted and adapted, whether in IT or beyond. There is no ITIL “pill” that provides a one-size-fits- all. Just as you cherry-pick what works for IT, you can do the same in other places.

The importance of cross-pollination

While other industries can learn from us, it’s critical that IT looks outside too. I believe ‘cross-pollination’ is always effective and that lots of industries learn from one another and can utilize their best practices.

Amazon is a great example of this. While fundamentally a retail/logistics company that provides goods to consumers, Amazon is taking its expertise and applying it elsewhere, even in the government contracting business. But why? Because Amazon is so efficient at what it does, it can apply those techniques in several places and benefit from the results.


Rather than thinking about ITSM as IT Service Management, we need to focus on the service element. Having worked in many industries, I’ve learned that in every business it always comes down to the customer and providing a great quality service. When you consider organizations in that way, it’s clear how ITIL can help deliver best-in-class service.

Read Adam's previous Axelos blog posts

Elephants, mentors and comfort zones: three things that have shaped my ITIL journey

7 tips for performing service transition effectively

Do businesses really need Business Relationship Managers?

Why should businesses do CSI?

A collaborative approach to cyber security

I’m ITIL® Foundation certified - now what?

The real ROI of ITIL training