Change Management vs. Configuration Management in ITIL: Key Differences

Change management vs. configuration management in ITIL – how are they different?

Below, we’ll explore these two processes in detail.

Change Management vs. Configuration Management in ITIL

One commonly asked question about ITIL is the difference between change management and configuration management.

If you are already familiar with ITIL, go ahead and skip the next section.

We’ll start by offering a brief overview of ITIL.

ITIL in Context

Let’s start from the widest perspective: what ITIL is and how it works.

ITIL is a framework for managing IT services. 

This set of guidelines is widely used by IT Services Management (ITSM) departments around the world.

There are several versions of ITIL, the latest one being released in February 2019 (V4).

However, since many ITSM platforms still use V3, we will cover that version here.

Here is a basic overview of the processes found in ITIL V3:

  • Service Strategy – Developing a strategy to serve customers by analyzing the marketplace, customer needs, and the organization.
  • Service Design – Development of new IT services or improvements to existing ones.
  • Service Transition – Implementation of IT services in an organized way, while attempting to minimize risk.
  • Services Operation – Delivering IT effectively and efficiently.
  • Continual Support Improvement – Adjust and optimize processes to continually make improvements over time.

These processes act as a straightforward set of guidelines that any IT department can follow.

Managers can use them as a foundation for customizing and building their own processes and workflows.

Configuration Management and Change Management fall under the Service Transition category.

Let’s look at this process from a bird’s-eye perspective.

Service Transition in ITIL: A Quick Overview

Service Transition, as mentioned, is a set of steps and processes designed to help organizations build and deploy services.

There are several sub-processes within Service Transition:

  • Change Management
  • Change Evaluation
  • Project Management
  • Application Development
  • Release and Deployment Management
  • Service Validation and Testing
  • Service Asset and Configuration Management
  • Knowledge Management

All of these processes work together to create a framework for effectively managing and deploying IT service changes.

Let’s focus in on change management vs. configuration management:

What Is Configuration Management?

Configuration management is short for Service Asset and Configuration Management.

A few key concepts include:

  • The Configuration Model – A logical model of IT’s service assets.
  • Configuration Management System – Tools and data for managing information about Configuration Items and their relationships.
  • Configuration Items – A unit with the model, such as a policy, documentation, employees, etc., which is characterized by its relationship to other Configuration Items.

Configuration Management has three sub-processes of its own:

  • Configuration Identification – Defining and maintaining the Configuration Model’s structure, so it can hold information on the configuration items. 
  • Configuration Control – Ensuring that Configuration Items are authorized.
  • Configuration Verification – Performing regular checks to ensure the Configuration Model and Configuration Items are in sync.

These processes are managed and owned by the Configuration Manager.

Altogether, they are designed to help record, manage, and maintain configuration information about services.

What Is Change Management?

Change Management in ITIL, as mentioned, aims to control the life cycle of changes and minimize disruptions to IT services.

Here are a few key concepts found within this process:

  • Change – A modification or removal of anything that could impact IT services or affect configuration items.
  • Change Model – Procedures that outline how to handle changes.
  • Emergency Change – Changes that must be implemented as soon as possible.
  • Request for Change – A request to implement a change, which includes detailed information about the change and its scope.

There are many more processes within ITIL Change Management:

  • Change Management Support
  • Assessment of Change Proposals
  • RFC Logging and Rveiw
  • Assessment and Implementation of Emergency Changes
  • Change Assessment by the Change Manager
  • Change Assessment by the CAB
  • Change Scheduling and Build Authorization
  • Change Deployment Authorization
  • Minor Change Deployment
  • Post Implementation Review and Change Closure

This pipeline of sub-processes is designed to help organizations effectively assess, plan, implement, log, and review changes to IT services.

ITIL V3 vs. ITIL V4

ITIL V4 represents a departure from V3, covered here.

Here are a few key characteristics of the new version:

  • A four dimensional model. These four dimensions include organizations and people, information and technology, partners and suppliers, and value streams and processes.
  • The service value system. Elements include guiding principles, governance, service value chain, and others. 
  • Management practices. There are three main categories: general management practices, service management practices, and technical management practices. Each category has a subset of processes, such as incident management, release management, and service configuration management.

The key difference is that ITIL V4 is less prescriptive.

Rather than introducing a new set of processes, it takes a different perspective on the existing processes.

According to Axelos, “ITIL 4 expands on previous versions by providing a practical and flexible basis to support organizations on their journey to the new world of digital transformation.”

Organizations already using ITIL V3, therefore, don’t need to uproot their existing procedures.

Final Notes

The processes covered here offer some insight into the difference between ITIL Change Management and Configuration Management.

However, ITIL is a complex set of guidelines that requires a bit of study.

For more information, see the ITIL articles on our blog.

It is also worth noting that ITIL may take on responsibilities that other departments handle – such as employee training or software implementation.

Therefore, IT managers should work closely with the C-suite to design ITIL processes that avoid redundancy and waste.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.