FitSM vs. ITIL and Other ITSM Frameworks, Methodologies,
and Standards

December 21 | 05 mins read

FitSM is a lightweight IT service management (ITSM) standard where all the materials – including the standard itself and training collateral – are available for free. But is FitSM right for your organization? Understanding FitSM's suitability involves two perspectives. First, knowing what it involves and how it helps. This is explained in a previous article. Second, knowing how it compares to other popular ITSM frameworks, methodologies, and standards. This blog explores the latter, starting with ITIL, given its position as the world's most popular ITSM best practice guidance framework.

FitSM vs. ITIL

ITIL, formerly known as the IT Infrastructure Library, is officially described as providing: "...comprehensive, practical and proven guidance for establishing an effective service management system." Until 2019, previous versions of ITIL were branded as an ITSM best practice framework. However, with ITIL 4, the focus broadened to service management.

FitSM and ITIL are both helpful to ITSM adoption, but they differ in a number of ways. A major one is that ITIL is a framework of service management best practice guidance, while FitSM is an ITSM standard. While this might seem like semantics to some people, because ITIL is a framework – with organizations encouraged to adopt and adapt only what they need – organizations can't be "ITIL compliant." However, they can comply with FitSM. This makes FitSM a great option for organizations needing to demonstrate compliance with ITSM best practices but don't want the complexity and costs of ISO/IEC 20000 mentioned later.

ITIL is broader and deeper than FitSM and, therefore, more complex to understand and adopt. ITIL offers guidance on 34 service management practices (split across general, service, and technology management). While FitSM focuses on 14 ITSM processes similar to a subset of the 34 ITIL practices. The available guidance is deliberately lighter than that provided in ITIL, making it easier for organizations to adopt and implement ITSM. This makes FitSM a great option when an organization starts with ITSM or only needs minimal ITSM maturity.

Hence, while both ITIL and FitSM apply to organizations of all sizes, ITIL suits organizations looking to implement a thorough and detailed ITSM strategy. Whereas FitSM is best suited to organizations needing a simpler, pragmatic approach to ITSM. For example, smaller organizations or particular industry verticals such as educational institutions.

FitSM's vertical traction is not only due to its lightweight and pragmatic nature; the associated costs help, too. Accessing ITIL guidance costs. For example, purchasing publications and paying for training. On the other hand, FitSM is a free and open standard, which makes it more attractive to organizations with limited budgets. However both certifications incur costs, but FitSM is the cheaper option. Nonetheless, the lower costs make FitSM a great choice for organizations with budgetary limitations. FitSM is now also available for organizational certification, i.e. the organization is assessed against the FitSM standard, whereas ITIL only offers certifications to individuals.

The relative complexity also impacts the implementation times or what some might call the "time to value." Implementing ITIL can be more resource-intensive, particularly in covering the breadth and depth of practices (although organizations should only adopt what they need). While the implementation of FitSM is generally far quicker and less resource-intensive due to its simplicity and focus on getting the basics of essential ITSM processes right. If the organizational use case is rapidly adopting ITSM best practices, perhaps after an external audit recommendation, FitSM is best suited to this based on its simplicity, deployment speed, and cost.

FitSM vs. ISO/IEC 20000

ISO/IEC 20000 is an international service management standard for organizations looking to "establish, implement, maintain, and continually improve a service management system." As a standard, FitSM is similar in style to ISO/IEC 20000 Part 1. However, the documentation requirements are far simpler and less detailed. This helps reduce the paperwork overhead, which would be unnecessary and unmanageable for some organizations.

Other notable differences between FitSM and ISO/IEC 20000 relate to:

  • Global recognition – as an international standard, ISO/IEC 20000 is widely recognized across various industries and countries. While gaining recognition, especially in specific sectors like research and education, FitSM doesn't have the same level of global recognition as ISO/IEC 20000. This is an important factor to consider when compliance is important to the adopting organization and the entities that require the compliance.
  • Scope and complexity – ISO/IEC 20000 specifies a broad set of service management practices and is more detailed and prescriptive, with minimum requirements to achieve certification. FitSM, on the other hand, offers a simpler approach that focuses on what it considers to be the essential elements of ITSM.
  • Use cases – ISO/IEC 20000 is often used by organizations to demonstrate their commitment to quality (in terms of their ITSM capabilities). While FitSM strongly emphasizes pragmatism and the rapid adoption of ITSM capabilities.
  • Certification – FitSM certification is far easier and quicker than ISO/IEC certification, and the latter standard is usually adopted by larger organizations or those where there's a need to demonstrate compliance with international standards due to regulatory requirements or customer expectations.
  • Resource requirements – maintaining ISO/IEC 20000 compliance can be resource-intensive, both in terms of time and financial investment. FitSM is significantly less resource-intensive to introduce and maintain.


COBIT, formerly Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies, is not simply an ITSM best practice approach. Instead, it's "A framework for the governance and management of enterprise information and technology, aimed at the whole organization." Like ITIL, COBIT is no longer an acronym but just a name.

The first difference is similar to the difference between FitSM and ITIL – the former is a standard while the latter is a framework. The scope is different, too. FitSM is focused on ITSM, while COBIT is focused on IT governance (but given COBIT's IT governance focus, it includes ITSM-aligned guidance). For example, the following two COBIT processes are easy to match up with the FitSM (or ITIL) equivalents:

  • DSS02: Managed service requests and incidents
  • BAI06: Managed IT changes.

As with the other two approaches, COBIT is more comprehensive and detailed than FitSM. Especially given the broader focus, which provides a set of management and governance practices along with maturity models and metrics. Both approaches target organizations of all sizes. However, FitSM is still likely more beneficial for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or organizations looking for a straightforward approach to ITSM. COBIT, on the other hand, is often employed by larger organizations or those with complex IT governance needs. So, the use case is important. If your organization requires more than ITSM, COBIT might be the best fit. However, if the speedy adoption of ITSM best practices is needed, FitSM might be the best option.

FitSM is compatible with other ITSM frameworks, methodologies, and standards

FitSM has been designed to work with the ISO/IEC 20000 standard and the ITIL best practice framework. These, in turn, have connectivity with COBIT and other approaches. This means that an organization can start with FitSM, and where certain ITSM areas need greater maturity, ITIL, ISO/IEC 20000, or COBIT can supplement these deeper needs.

About the author

Stephen is Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.

Stephen previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Omdia and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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