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IT Services Management (ITSM) Frameworks

ITSM Frameworks: Search and Trends on Google

Table of Contents

Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) is very backbone of IT, and indeed the business at large. Encompassing all the activities, policies, and processes an organization uses for deploying, managing and improving IT service delivery, ITSM is the art of making a business run. The artists are the IT staff responsible for keeping apps updated, printers working, the Wi-Fi operating, the phones ringing, the infrastructure running, and much more besides. However, there are number of different movements in the ITSM art world – a variety of styles for delivering effective IT services that can be relied upon to solve IT problems quickly and efficiently, keep costs down, and enable a company to perform its core functions and achieve its goals. We call these different styles ITSM frameworks, and each provides a set of best practices and standard processes to ensure a disciplined approach to ITSM implementation.

ITSM frameworks are important. Using a pre-defined methodology helps provide structure and guidance for IT, reducing risk and improving efficiency across the board. Organizations also benefit from being able to hire experts and train internal staff on standard ITSM frameworks, rather than having to reinvent the wheel just to keep the business running. With an ITSM framework in place, there are documented solutions to common problems that form an effective and efficient base for troubleshooting and decision making.

But here’s the big question – which ITSM framework is the most effective and efficient? Which one’s best?

Well, of course, there is no definitive answer to this question. If you ever want to start a fight, just pose the subject to a room full of IT people, and watch the debate about processes, incident management and IT delivery escalate from discussion to profanities to fisticuffs.

A far less volatile approach is to consult ITSM framework search trends and forecasts on Google. While this won’t conclusively answer our question as to which ITSM framework is best, it will nonetheless allow us to form a picture on the direction the various ITSM frameworks are taking in the market, and what businesspeople and IT professionals are actually looking for.

So, first of all – who are our contenders?

ITSM Frameworks


The most famous ITSM framework is undoubtedly the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). ITIL was created in the 1980s by the UK’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), released as a series of books. Today, it is owned, managed, updated and certified by AXELOS.

ITIL is utilized by some of the most high-profile organizations in world, including IBM, HSBC and NASA. It is designed to help businesses manage risks, strengthen customer relations, establish cost-effective practices, and build stable IT environments for growth, scale and change.

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The ITIL framework is based around a five-phase service lifecycle – each described in a series of five manuals – as follows:

  1. Service Strategy – The initial definition and analysis of business requirements
  2. Service Design – The design of the IT service itself
  3. Service Transition – The migration of the service into the live environment
  4. Service Operation – The live operation and support of the service
  5. Continual Service Improvement – The ongoing improvement of the service

ITIL practices are highly renowned, with millions of certified practitioners worldwide.


Of course, having been around longer than the Commodore 64, ITIL has undergone a number of major revisions over the years, the most recent of which being ITIL 4, with the new ITIL Foundation: ITIL 4 Edition book released in February 2019.

One of the major differences with ITIL 4 as compared to previous versions is that it takes a more holistic approach to IT service management, with a view to ensuring a better understanding of how everything fits together to deliver better value for business customers. In addition, it provides the guidance organizations need to address new service management challenges and utilize the potential of modern technologies, such as the cloud, artificial intelligence, and IoT.

As AXELOS puts it: “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. It provides an end-to-end IT/digital operating model for the delivery and operation of tech-enabled products and services, and enables IT teams to continue to play a crucial role in wider business strategy.”

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Standing for Value-driven, Evolving, Responsive, Integrated Service Management, VeriSM is a relatively new ITSM framework – and one that recognizes that in the era of digital transformation, service management is no longer just for IT.

Owned by the International Foundation for Digital Competences (IFDC), the VeriSM model is designed to be holistic, complementary, and built around governance. What this means is that VeriSM isn’t simply another ITSM framework that can be used to replace all others – rather it’s an approach that helps organizations to use a combination of their existing practices (DevOps, COBIT, ITIL, IT4IT etc.) in order to gather appropriate resources and succeed with digital transformation.

VeriSM is like the conductor of an orchestra, as Interprom describes: “Any (service provider) organization consists of people; the musicians. The musicians play instruments; the tools and technologies. And every musician plays its part based on the music in front of them with all the notes; the processes and procedures to work from. The conductor chooses the repertoire, keeps everyone together, especially on tempo changes, how the music is to be interpreted, corrects errors in how the musicians are performing.”

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VeriSM recognizes that the whole organization (not just IT) is concerned by digitization, and that all departments are considered service providers. As such, VeriSM describes a service management approach from the organizational level, taking a complete end-to-end view, rather than focusing on a single department. It pulls best-of-breed strategies from multiple  service management and governance frameworks and governs the way in which they all keep time and stay in tune.

This is what makes VeriSM well-suited as an enterprise service management approach: having far less emphasis on IT than other frameworks. Conceptually, all of the service providers involved in an initiative come together, establish the overarching governance for their efforts in alignment with existing corporate governance and values, and then develop an operating model to manage the effort being undertaken.

The management mesh, a core concept of VeriSM and shown in the center of the graphic respresents a interweaving of resources, the organizational environment, management practices and emerging technology that is used to create that operating model. Once the management mesh is established, the four stages of the VeriSM model may then be used to create the expected outcome, as shown in the graphic below:


  • Define: design the service to be provided, based on the consumer’s requirements
  • Produce: create the solution/service, including its build, test and deployment
  • Provide: enable consumers to access and use the service
  • Respond: support and improve the service over its lifecycle


Produced by ISACA, COBIT – or Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies – is a best practice ITSM framework for IT governance and management, first released in 1996. Its original purpose was to help financial organizations work more effectively with the advent of technology, bringing audit principles together with technology.

Its core aim is to connect business goals to IT goals by assigning objectives and duties to both business and IT leaders, and by providing the resources to build, monitor, and improve IT services and business processes.

The COBIT framework is based on five principles:

  1. Meeting Stakeholder Needs – Value creation for enterprise stakeholders
  2. Covering the Enterprise End-to-End – Coverage of all corporate processes and functions that relate to information flow and technologies
  3. Applying a Single Integrated Framework – With a single set of standards to be used across the business
  4. Enabling a Holistic Approach – Across seven categories of enablers (1. Principles, Policies and Frameworks, 2. Processes, 3. Organizational Structures, 4. Culture, Ethics and Behavior, 5. Information, 6. Services, Infrastructure and Applications, 7. People, Skills and Competencies)
  5. Separating Governance from Management

Like ITIL, COBIT has undergone a series of revisions over the years, with the most updated version – COBIT 2019 – introduced in 2018. However, one major difference between COBIT and other frameworks is that COBIT focuses specifically on security, risk management, and information governance – and this is what’s emphasized in COBIT 2019. This emphasis on governance and control objectives is at the core of the framework. Its primary purpose is to ensure an organization’s ability to operate appropriately in delivery of business objectives, while ensuring audit controls are met. COBIT can be thought of as a marriage between best of breed ITSM frameworks and risk and audit principles.


Released in October 2015, The Open Group IT4IT Reference Architecture is focused on defining, sourcing, consuming, and managing IT services by looking holistically at the entire IT value chain.

In IT4IT, the IT value chain (based on Porter’s model) is broken into 4 IT value streams, which align to the activities an IT organization traditionally performs PBDR (Plan, Build, Deliver, Run) in both creating new IT services and brokering technology from third parties. In IT4IT the value streams are described as follows:

  1. Strategy to Portfolio – Identify the set of IT services that your organization should offer in order to support your company strategy and aligning to your policies, budget and enterprise architecture.
  2. Requirement to Deploy – Manage the set of activities to develop and acquire the service features you need to fulfill your organiztion’s IT service needs – converting requirements into deployable services. This value stream supports many development methods, including agile, DevOps, 3rd party sourcing and traditional waterfall project management.
  3. Request to Fulfill – Package service components into a catalog of offerings, process service provisioning requests from users and track where services are used across the organization.  This value stream includes the commerce/ordering and intra-company billing activities that enable IT services to be easily consumed while managing costs.
  4. Detect to Correct – Operate IT services and ensure service security, performance and availability to users. This value stream seeks to detect issues and to correct them before they impact the user or business process.

Each value stream is supported by a reference architecture and set of supporting activities to drive efficiency and agility. The supporting activities describe how the activities of the IT organization integrate with other company functions such as GRC, Finance and Procurement.

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In essence, IT4IT describes itself as a standard with a reference architecture for managing the business of IT, including defining the IT automation needs to support end-to-end value streams, the standard and open integrations with external service` providers. Its goal is to guide the improvement of the entire IT management capability using a value chain approach.

IT4IT also provides an open source technical architecture for running the business of IT by enabling technical team to clearly understand how the tools they use and activities they perform contribute to the overall creation of value for the organization. IT4IT brings a more technical view of service management, getting closer to the technology layer than many of the other frameworks and standards in the ITSM space.

According to Charles Betz, of Forrester and frequent speaker on IT4IT:

“IT4IT lets you view technology management from a more prescriptive, architectural perspective. You can see ITIL as a set of requirements. But you need a data architecture, you need a systems architecture.”

ISO/IEC and ISO/IEC 20000

ISO/IEC is the international ITSM standard formulated by a joint technical committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The goal of the ISO/IEC standard – and particularly ISO/IEC 20000 (usually referred to (and searched for) simply as ISO 20000) – is to enable IT organizations (whether in-house, outsourced, or external) to ensure that their ITSM processes are aligned both with the needs of the business and with international best practice.

ISO 20000 is broadly aligned with – and draws strongly on – ITIL. It helps organizations benchmark how they deliver IT services, measure service levels, and assess their performance. Internationally recognized, ISO 20000 is a best practice ITSM standard that helps organizations provide a consistent, reliable service. As a standard, organizations can get certified in ISO 20000, indicating they have achieved a minimal set of service management and strategic requirements prescribed by the standard. ISO 20000 certification gives organizations access to key markets, as many organizations in the public sector mandate that their IT service providers demonstrate compliance with the standard. DevOps

Though software delivery is the primary focus of DevOps, its very nature – the hybridization of developer and operator duties – has caused it to spill over into all aspects of IT.

DevOps is essentially a set of practices that automates the processes between software development and IT teams in order that they can build, test, and release software faster and more reliably. Its roots can be traced back to the late 2000s, with the concept gaining widespread attention in 2009 when the first DevOpsDays event was held in Belgium.

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Rather than specialized individuals handling a discrete part of the overall system, the DevOps philosophy mandates that teams try to view the whole IT process holistically and modify their individual work to best suit business needs. In practice, this means ops people learning to code, coders learning systems, and everyone learning security and project management together.

DevOps is important as this synergy and alignment is intended to support rapid business change and the technology that underpins this change. The digital age and focus on Internet-based commerce drives a need to make constant and frequent changes to applications and websites. DevOps provides a set of practices and a way of operating using Agile and Lean principles along with this automation to achieve this rapid pace of change without causing unintended business operations.

Organizations that use DevOps principles along with other frameworks may find that DevOps encourages a streamlining of existing processes in order to succeed, but this simply increases IT agility in support of business need.

ITSM Frameworks: Search and Trends on Google

So, those are our frameworks. Naturally, organizations are faced with the option of picking any one of them, or some sort of mixture of them all.

Though we don’t actually want to start a fight by declaring one ITSM framework or another as being superior to all the rest when it comes to supporting ITSM strategies, what we are interested in is how well searches are performing for each framework on Google. Why? Because it gives us an insight into what people in business are actually interested in and looking for – and it’s always worth knowing what’s trending in the marketplace right now.

So, we’ve got some keyword stats to show you. The tables below reveal keyword searches for the ITSM frameworks discussed above on a month-by-month basis between March 1st 2018 and February 28th 2019, as well as competition (indexed value) for those keywords, and top of page bids (in USD) for Google Ads.

Table 1

Keyword Avg. Monthly Searches Competition (Indexed Value) Top of Page Bid (Low Range) Top of Page Bid (High Range)
ISO 673,000 4 0.12 3.85
DevOps 301,000 29 1.38 13.91
ITIL 246,000 24 0.76 7.09
COBIT 40,500 4 0.25 2.28
ISO 20000 14,800 13 0.27 3.58
VeriSM 6,600 7 0.91 3.3
ITIL 4 2,900 27 1 9.35
IT4IT 2,900 10 1.53 5.31

Table 2 – Average Searches Per Month

Keyword March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 Aug 2018 Sep 2018 Oct 2018 Nov 2018 Dec 2018 Jan 2019 Feb 2019
ISO 673,000 673,000 673,000 673,000 673,000 673,000 673,000 823,000 673,000 673,000 673,000 550,000
DevOps 301,000 301,000 301,000 301,000 301,000 301,000 301,000 368,000 301,000 301,000 368,000 368,000
ITIL 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000 246,000
COBIT 40,500 40,500 49,500 40,500 40,500 40,500 40,500 49,500 49,500 33,100 40,500 40,500
ISO 20000 14,800 14,800 18,100 14,800 14,800 14,800 14,800 18,100 18,100 12,100 14,800 14,800
VeriSM 8,100 6,600 6,600 4,400 4,400 3,600 5,400 12,100 8,100 5,400 4,400 5,400
ITIL 4 110 140 110 170 880 1,300 1,600 3,600 4,400 3,600 8,100 12,100
IT4IT 2,900 2,900 2,900 2,400 2,400 2,400 2,900 2,900 3,600 1,900 2,900 2,900


As we can see, ISO takes the top spot. Though perhaps this isn’t particularly revealing for our purposes, as the International Organization for Standardization publishes standards and related documents covering almost every industry, from food safety to agriculture and healthcare – as well, of course, as ITSM. This may be because it is so widely adopted as a global standard; many organizations want the “certification” of their achievements, particularly service providers.

So, moving down the list, unsurprisingly, DevOps is in second place. The demand for DevOps skills is still high, as more and more organizations look to build enterprise software and create an agile relationship between development and IT operations. The DevOps trend is indeed still going strong.

ITIL, too, is still trending after all these years in existence – and shows consistent search volume right around the calendar. ITIL is undoubtedly the most popular out-and-out ITSM framework on our list. And we can also see the search volumes for ITIL 4 surging upwards over the course of the twelve months in anticipation of its February release. No doubt this upwards trend will continue throughout 2019.

COBIT, at position 4, shows consistent search volume. Though not as popular an ITSM framework as ITIL, it’s still a strong competitor, though slightly more niche. While ITIL is an ITSM framework that enables IT services to be managed across their lifecycle, COBIT aids enterprise IT governance to generate the maximum added value to the business via its IT investments. So, if it’s better governance and organization needs, COBIT may well be what its people will be searching for.

VeriSM is showing comparatively low search volume. This may well be due to the fact that it is still a new concept, and word has yet to spread about its benefits as an overarching framework that provides the glue to hold all the best management methodologies together. Only time will tell if VeriSM will take off in a big way and because it’s not focused only on IT, may not be gaining traction for the same reason.

Right down at the bottom we have IT4IT. This, again, isn’t particularly surprising – adoption of the standard never really took off upon its launch, despite the initial fanfare. One reason, according to a 2017 Open Group survey of people who had viewed or downloaded the IT4IT standard, was a lack of understanding or management buy-in. However, in the last year, interest has been growing. More than 100 companies have now adopted IT4IT, including Fortune 500 enterprises ExxonMobil, Oracle, and Microsoft – so perhaps there’s more to come.

Final Thoughts

So, what does all this ITSM framework search volume data really tell us? Well, for organizations, it helps to understand what choices there are available to meet their IT service delivery needs. A list of the most commonly searched for ITSM frameworks or standards is valuable because it helps organizations whittle down these choices as they determine their ITSM strategy.

However, choosing just one ITSM framework perhaps isn’t the best way to look at things. Each one has value to offer, and they all most certainly have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, ITIL provides excellent detailed guidance on process implementation, though it perhaps isn’t so great when it comes to goal setting and governance. COBIT, on the other hand, is fantastic on governance and goal setting, though doesn’t provide much detail on the implementation of processes. ISO 20000 is full of information concerning what an IT organization should do but offers little guidance on how to actually do it.

Perhaps, then, organizations should adopt all three – not forgetting to take a leaf or two out of the DevOps book, of course – and use the VeriSM glue to stick them all together. Taking the best-suited practices from different standards and ITSM frameworks and combining them into a system that works for you could well be better than strictly following any one single framework – and figuring that out is all part of the ITSM art of making a business run.

[i]VeriSM™ is a registered trade mark of IFDC
ITIL® is a (registered) Trade Mark of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

COBIT® is a registered trademark of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) and the IT Governance
APMG International ISO/IEC 20000™

ITSM Framework

ITSM frameworks are important. Using a pre-defined methodology helps provide structure and guidance for IT, reducing risk and improving efficiency across the board. Organizations also benefit from being able to hire experts and train internal staff on standard ITSM frameworks, rather than having to reinvent the wheel just to keep the business running. With an ITSM framework in place, there are documented solutions to common problems that form an effective and efficient base for troubleshooting and decision making.

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