ISO/IEC 20000 is the first international standard for service management and will probably be seen as one of the most significant milestones in the development of the industry. Dr Jenny Dugmore, itSMF member and director of Service Matters, discusses whether the updated standard will make a difference to the way most organisations operate.

ISO/IEC 20000 is all the more significant as it took less than 14 months for the 'fast-track' submission of BS 15000 to become ISO/IEC 20000. This highlights the importance placed upon an international standard for service management.

Aidan Lawes, CEO of the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) commented, 'ISO/IEC 20000 has been developed in order to meet the needs of the wider international audience and to provide a common understanding of the management of IT services worldwide. It covers the aspects of IT service management that are linked to 80 per cent of the total spend on IT by most organisations.'

Because of the link between costs and efficiency of support services implementing best practice, service management can drive down the cost of support and therefore the total cost of ownership. Best practices also lead to better service levels, customer retention and lower business risk. ISO/IEC 20000 is also the basis for certification audits and assessments of how well ITIL®1 advice has been adopted.

Achieving the requirements is about efficiency and 'doing not documenting', and not about building a bureaucratic overhead. Being independent of technology and of organisational size or sector, the requirements are applicable to a very wide range of services. Achieving ISO/IEC 20000 not only benefits service providers and their customers but also a nation's Gross Domestic Product.

ISO/IEC 20000 was based on BS 15000, adopted following a process used when an international need can be fulfilled by an established national standard without major changes. BS 15000 originated in a code of practice started in 1989, evolving as the service management industry also evolved.

Impetus was provided by an agreement between the BSI and the owners of ITIL® that there should be alignment between both sets of documents. Before 'going international' it was agreed that it was best to test the standard under an Early Adopter scheme, which provided valuable feedback from a wide range of service providers. The most significant was the benefit of alignment between BS 15000 and the ISO 9000 series.

Publication of the second edition saw itSMF launch a certification scheme in 2003 that has now been converted to ISO/IEC 20000 certification. Take-up outside the UK was much greater and much faster than expected. As a result BS 15000 was submitted for fast-tracking with six months for voting and comments by national standards organisations and seven months for discussion of comments, redrafting and editorial work, with publication on 15 December 2005.

Training courses on ISO/IEC 20000 were held within weeks of the new standard being published. By 15 June 2007 all organisations certified against BS 15000 must also have upgraded to ISO/IEC 20000, as on that date BS 15000 certificates will cease to have validity.

So what differences does 'going international' make? For many organisations business is a multinational activity so that service management is also multinational. The standard can be used to improve supply chains that cross national boundaries and spread a customer service culture across a widespread organisation, while still being applicable to small service providers in a single location.

A standard used internationally is now controlled and developed internationally. Plans include additional advice on scoping and applicability, longer-term improvements in the existing publications and harmonization with standards such as the ISO/IEC 27000 series on security, the ISO/IEC 15504 series on process assessment and the ubiquitous ISO 9000 series.

There is commitment to the continued alignment between the standard and ITIL®, which will also provide support for the wider adoption of ITIL® advice outside the UK (for more information visit

Case study copy

One of the first companies to make the transition from BS 15000 and be awarded accreditation to ISO/IEC 20000 has been LloydsTSB, the UK's fifth largest bank.Their large-scale five-year business transformation programme will impact 15 million LloydsTSB customers in 2,000 branches using approximately 300 applications to provide improved service availability to customers at a reduced cost.

The programme involves implementing a UK-wide service delivery, change and business management programme based on ITIL® and BS 15000 (tools and processes). The successes that LloydsTSB has measured from the baseline in 2002 have allowed over 8 per cent of costs to be taken out of the service delivery budget of 2005.

Following the successful audit against the BS 15000 standard LloydsTSB Group, IT service delivery started working immediately on transition to ISO/IEC 20000. They planned to incorporate the transition with the first BS 15000 surveillance audit, which was planned for the end of June 2006.

Whilst on the face of it there are few changes between the two standards, a good deal of time was taken up with understanding exactly what was different. For example, the removal of the word 'typically' from the section on service reporting requires evidence of seven reports. Fortunately for LloydsTSB, six of these were already being produced. The transition was successful.

However, Rick Godbolt, process architect at LloydsTSB, has the following advice for others facing transition: 'Ensure you meet with your auditor, well in advance, to agree the differences between the two standards and the evidence that you will be required to show on audit day. It is important to agree which of the differences are considered to be significant enough to need evidence provided and which are simply wording or structure changes.'

LloydsTSB and the itSMF

Rick Godbolt added: 'LloydsTSB has been attending itSMF events for the last three years and has found it very useful to hear from other people about the way in which they have implemented service management processes. The itSMF is also a source of great tips and technical information and has provided a good platform for networking.'

These events have allowed LloydsTSB to meet up with new people, arrange site visits to their organisations and build relationships. Through these relationships they have been able to benefit from the hints and stories about the way things could be done better when developing the processes for BS 15000.

In return LloydsTSB has hosted visits for other firms and, although in most instances they are handling bigger processes than the visitors, they have still been able to learn from each other.

The IT Service Management Forum (itSMF)

itSMF is a not-for-profit organisation whose focus is on the ongoing development and promotion of IT service management 'best practice', standards and qualifications. Formed in the UK in 1991, there are now official chapters in 33 countries, with more joining the community on a regular basis.

As enterprises depend more and more on technology to promote and deliver their products to market, so the necessity of investing in IT service management becomes more apparent. For enterprises looking to make this investment, embracing best practice approaches and standards increases the chances of success and reduces the time to develop such solutions. And becoming a member of itSMF further enhances your chance of success.

The itSMF provides an accessible network of industry experts, information sources and events to help you and your staff address IT service management issues and help you achieve the delivery of high-quality, consistent IT service, both internally and externally.

Relevant websites

British Standards Institution (BSI):
International Organization for Standardization (ISO):
IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL®):
IT Service Management Forum (itSMF):


1. ITIL® (IT infrastructure library) is a registered trade mark of OGC (the Office of Government Commerce), Rosebery Court, St Andrew’s Business Park, Norwich, Norfolk NR7

About the author

Dr Jenny Dugmore is a director of Service Matters, a service management consultancy company. Her career spans senior management, service management and consultancy. She chairs the BSI committee that produced BS 15000, on which ISO/IEC 20000 was based.

Jenny was the project editor for the drafting of ISO/IEC 20000, and is now convenor of the ISO/IEC Working Group responsible for ISO/IEC 20000. She is on the itSMF's ISO/IEC 20000 Certification Management Board and on OGC's ITIL® Refresh Management Board. Please visit