Change Management WalkMe TeamUpdated November 8, 2021

Change Management: ITIL 101

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Change Management: ITIL 101

In change management, ITIL is a well-known, widely accepted approach to change.

But is it right for your organization?

Below, we’ll look at why this process is so popular, what its benefits are, and potential drawbacks.

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From there, you can decide for yourself if ITIL is right for you.

Change Management: ITIL 101

ITIL is an approach to change management.

Specifically, it’s designed to manage IT process changes.

If your business needs to make changes to its IT processes, then the ITIL change framework should top your list of frameworks to consider. This is especially true if your business delivers IT services to its customers.

This set of best practices was designed around 1980. And, since then, it has become a gold standard for IT service changes.

Why Use ITIL to Manage Changes?

ITIL is a go-to framework for guiding digital transformation, IT service delivery, and IT process changes.


Source: freshservice

Though ITIL itself has changed over the years, its focus remains the same:

  • Improve how IT delivers services
  • Mitigates risk from changes
  • Enhance effectiveness of change planning
  • Reduce error rates and negative impacts on services

Any time a business implements changes to its IT services – large or small – there are cascade effects.

ITIL aims to reduce negative impacts to business functions, streamline the adoption process, and ensure continued smooth operation of IT processes.

How ITIL Works: Just the Basics, Please

We won’t dive too deep into how ITIL works. However, we should cover a few bases to demonstrate how it helps streamline IT transformations.

The basic ITIL workflow consists of a few steps:

Identifying changes that need to be made.

Of course, the first step that needs to be made is understanding the problem.

It’s best to look at the problem from many angles, because in the next step, a solution will need to be proposed.

There are a few types of changes: standard, minor, major, or emergency.

Standard changes are changes that are considered normal in the life cycle of any product or process. They do not require pre-approval.

The others, however, do require approval.

Creating a change request

The change request is a formal document submitted to appropriate managers.

The request will include:

  • Reasons for the change
  • A cost-benefit analysis
  • A proposed change plan
  • Estimated risks, impacts, and benefits

To maximize chances of acceptance, the change request should be thorough.

Approval, revision, or rejection of that change

The Change Advisory Board (CAB) and appropriate stakeholders will review the change request after it’s submitted.

They will either approve the request, ask for revisions, or reject it.


Once approved, the release team will implement the agreed-upon change plan.

During that time, they will communicate status updates, document progress, and the change team will perform occasional progress reviews.


Once implementation is complete, a review will take place. In some cases, there will be multiple reviews over a period of time.

Does ITIL Have Any Drawbacks?

As mentioned, ITIL is an approach to IT services management. In fact, it may be the most widely accepted IT services management framework.

However, no system is without flaws.

First, let’s review a few primary reasons to consider using ITIL, on top of those mentioned above:

  • ITIL establishes a common language. Everyone can learn the terms, what they mean, and communicate effectively about the change.
  • It creates a standardized framework for the entire change process. This is a significant advantage, ensuring that everyone follows the same procedures. It results in the benefits mentioned above.
  • It is flexible and can be adopted, adapted, and customized. Because the framework does not prescribe a specific approach, ITIL can be tailored to the needs of a specific organization.

These are considered advantages of the ITIL process.

However, it does not come without concerns.

Here are a few potential drawbacks to consider:

  • ITIL only covers a small section of IT – process changes. ITIL’s focus is narrow, which makes it good at what it does. However, the same process cannot be applied to other types of changes that extend beyond a narrow spectrum of IT services management.
  • Implementations can be overly complex. Because ITIL is non-prescriptive, each company may implement ITIL differently. Implementations that are too complex can become more costly than necessary.
  • Outsourced ITIL implementations can be costly, irrelevant, or superficial. Some surveys have found that companies implement ITIL “for the sake of it.” That is, for certifications or compliance. The result? Unnecessary guidelines that do more harm than good.

These drawbacks, fortunately, can be avoided or mitigated without too much trouble.

But it is definitely worth keeping them in mind. Otherwise, you risk implementing a change framework that costs more than it’s worth.

Conclusion: ITIL and You

As with any change management framework, ITIL has its advantages and disadvantages. It is worth examining both sides of the coin before taking the ITIL plunge.

Also, it is worth examining other frameworks, such as COBIT … as well as organizational change models.

Explore the issue from all sides – doing so will help you choose the right change model for your needs.

And it will also help you make more effective use of whichever one you do choose.

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