Posted in Information Technology


ITIL VS PMP – In the modern era of professional expertise, it has become increasingly important for those involved in management of critical projects and processes to gain an edge over the competition in terms of their knowledge and skill sets along with the ability to inspire confidence in the stakeholders.

If observed closely, a project manager is someone involved in defining and implementing effective work strategies in order to achieve quantifiable success in terms of pre-defined goals at every stage of a project.

In a modern setting, where cross-industry global projects are more of a norm than exception, large scale corporations are wary of hiring someone they cannot rely on completely with such a role, especially with the kind of technological, financial and human resources involved.

This is one of the primary reasons why along with professional experience, requisite certifications have nearly become the order of the day for project managers and those in equivalent positions in order to make an impression with their employers.

However, there are a number of professional certifications that have aggressively acquired this space and it is no mean task to choose the most suitable credential for a professional.

Two of the leading certifications which attract the attention of aspiring and existing project managers include ITILCertification and PMP Certification, each with its own distinct set of advantages.

ITIL vs PMP Infographics

ITIL vs PMP infographics


The answer is that since both of these certifications speak of adopting a structured approach to managing specific projects and related tasks, they naturally gain relevance for professionals in the field of project management.

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Today, project managers have a difficult time choosing which certification would meet their professional needs adequately.

This is why a comparative approach is being adopted to study the inherent advantages and disadvantages underlying these certifications and their specific methodologies.

This should help any professional better understand what exactly do each of these credentials offer and choose accordingly. However, first we need to discuss each of them individually and then only try to compare them.

ITIL Certification:

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library and the certification is designed to help professionals become acquainted with the principles of enterprise IT management.

In order to achieve this objective, candidates are introduced to a standard IT service management framework as a part of comprehensive ITIL training programs.

The purpose of ITIL is to help professionals become acquainted with the best codes and practices in the field of IT service management.

ITIL’s Philosophy:

This leads to enhanced efficiency in execution of IT projects and assists organizations in delivering greater value to their customers. The whole concept of ITIL revolves around IT service management and is primarily based on a life cycle approach.

Needless to say, this methodology has been especially useful for organizations engaged in providing IT services. However, this unique framework can be adapted to specific enterprise management needs of non-IT organizations as well.

PMP Certification:

PMP is a highly valued credential offered by Project Management Institute (PMI), designed to help project managers imbibe the fundamental principles and practices of project management as embodied in PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge).

Painstakingly developed by PMI over the years, PMBOK serves as a kind of universal guide for project managers across the world, detailing a highly effective framework for project management that sets it apart from most other project management certifications.

PMP’s Philosophy:

PMP is focused on the processes, tools and methodologies to be adopted for successful completion of a project and is wider in scope as compared to ITIL in the sense that its principles and methodologies are applicable to projects of any scope and size in almost any industry.

Instead of focusing on a life cycle approach and the services aspect of an organization, it focuses on techniques for efficiently carrying out specific projects with a finite scope, time and budget.

Different Schools of Thought:

Some experts consider ITIL and PMP to be so different methodologies that their individual advantages and disadvantages must be weighed to choose the right certification based on its relevance for any professional.

However, there is a different school of thought, which suggests that although both these credentials advocate different methodologies but they can be combined to create greater value and to complete highly complex projects and undertakings with a high level of precision.

Next we will analyze in what ways ITIL and PMP are similar and at the same time what makes them unique, before going ahead to study whether the methodologies they represent can be brought together successfully.

What is Common in ITIL & PMP?

There are a number of similarities between ITIL and PMP framework despite their uniqueness, including but not limited to their heavy reliance on a complex set of tools and processes for accomplishing a complex set of tasks resulting in enhanced efficiency within the specific context of a project or an organization.

Where ITIL addresses the needs of an entire organization in terms of streamlining its service management and improving processes through a lifecycle approach, PMP is more focused on managing individual project or set of projects within an organization instead of dealing with organizational operations on the whole.

What makes them Different?

So far it sounds like the only key difference between these methodologies is that one is dealing with the service aspect of an organization instead of each individual project, whereas another is about managing individual projects efficiently.

However, another major difference lies in the fact that where ITIL is concerned with managing the service and other aspects of only IT enterprises, PMP speaks of managing projects related to almost any industry.

Another important difference is in the way their methodologies proceed to define the core set of processes involved. This is where their methodologies

Breakdown of Processes in PMP & ITIL Methodologies:

ITIL Methodology:

As already discussed, ITIL is primarily concerned with defining a comprehensive and coherent set of best practices for IT service management.

Although primarily meant for IT organizations, its unique framework can be adapted and implemented by organizations of almost any kind and help deliver value and improve organizational strategy in terms of service management.

ITIL breaks down IT service management into primarily two areas, including IT service support and service delivery, each with sub-processes of their own.

IT Service Support:

This area of service management is concerned with application of principles which hold the key to providing IT services in an effective manner without compromising on quality or other aspects.

IT Service Support includes 6 processes:

  1. Configuration Management
  2. Incident Management
  3. Problem Management
  4. Change Management
  5. Service/Help Desk
  6. Release Management

IT Service Delivery is concerned with the application of principles for ensuring quality of deliverable’s in terms of IT services to the customer.

IT Service Delivery includes no less than 5 processes:

  1. Service Level Management
  2. Capacity Management
  3. Continuity Management
  4. Availability Management
  5. IT Financial Management

PMP Methodology:

PMP considers a project as a complete and closed entity with specific needs of its own, which are decidedly different from the organization-wide needs in any case. Each project is bound and defined by its finite nature in terms of its pre-allocated budget, time and scope.

The goal of a project manager implementing this methodology is to complete any given project within these predefined parameters while ensuring that any unforeseen changes effected in the duration of a project are accommodated without any adverse impact on the outcome of the project.

In order to achieve its project management objectives, breakdown of processes is carried out in a completely different manner. PMBOK defines all these processes and the principles behind them for guiding project management professionals around the world.

PMBOK defines 5 core process groups including:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring & Controlling
  5. Closing

With a view to study and comprehend processes better, they are divided into 10 Knowledge Areas (KAs) in PMBOK Guide:

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholders Management

It might be relevant to point it out at this point that there are a total of 47 processes as outlined in the 5th Edition of PMBOK Guide. Both of these classifications, including process groups and KAs only serve to classify them in different ways for purposes of understanding their relevance in varying contexts.

Where process groups classify these processes in terms of their relevance in different project phases, KAs classify them in terms of functional areas when studying these processes.

Certification Levels:

PMP Certification Path:

This is one of the most important aspects to be considered when comparing these two certifications. As far as PMP is concerned, it’s just a single, stand-alone certification, but highly valued, no doubt.

There are no basic or advanced levels of PMP, although beginners in the field of project management can opt for CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) which requires relatively lesser experience as compared to what is required for undertaking PMP exam.

ITIL Certification Path:

On the other hand, ITIL offers a certification path to accommodate the learning needs of IT professionals of different levels. This includes:

  • ITIL Foundation
  • ITIL Intermediate Level
  • ITIL Managing Across the Lifecycle
  • ITIL Expert Level

Here, we are primarily discussing the merits of ITIL Foundation Level as compared with PMP for any project management professional. To begin with, the foundation level imparts the knowledge of fundamental principles and concepts related to ITIL Service Life cycle.

It helps them become acquainted with the basic ideas of ITIL methodology and get started in the right direction.


What it takes for a PMP?

Professionals require at least 7,500 hours or 4,500 hours of documented project management experience depending on if they have a secondary-level diploma or a 4 year bachelor’s degree or its global equivalent respectively. In addition to that, 35 PDUs or Professional Development Units have to be earned by a professional through a contact learning program.

What it takes for ITIL Foundation Level?

For ITIL Foundation Level, there is no such eligibility criterion in terms of qualification or work experience for aspiring candidates. It can be a good choice of certification for IT professionals or business managers.

However, advanced levels of ITIL certification do need one to have earned preceding certification including that of ITIL Foundation Level certification.

What all of this Means?

With almost no prerequisites, it is evident that it is difficult to consider ITIL Foundation Level certification on par with PMP and in fact, it may not be fair to compare them as competing certifications, speaking in terms of professional experience.

However, it is the certification path which ITIL Foundation Level opens up for professionals which holds greater significance.

Going a step further, it may be a good idea for someone holding a PMP to opt for ITIL Foundation Level certification which would not only help gain a basic understanding of IT service management, but also help earn a good number of PDUs required to retain the PMP certification.

Any PMP is required to earn 60 PDUs within 3 years to be able to retain the certification and going in for ITIL Foundation Level would help get 17-25 PDUs depending on the education provider.

Making the Hard Choice:

Keeping in mind all the factors we have discussed so far, we can now attempt to compare and find out if and whether ITIL and PMP hold relevance to what kind of professionals.

It may be made clear at the outset that any project management professional who has nothing to do with IT industry can safely stay away from ITIL.

However, as discussed above, ITIL Foundation would be a good choice for professionals holding a PMP and interested in learning more about IT service management.

Having said that, it may also be useful to keep in mind which certification is more valued and favored by leading employers in your geographical location.

Combining ITIL & PMP Methodologies:

Even otherwise, professionals with a PMP can learn a great deal with ITIL and combine the two approaches for better managing IT-related projects and understanding the intricacies of organization-level service management.

For someone in IT industry, ITIL is the natural choice but it is recommended to not stop at Foundation Level and go ahead to earn advanced ITIL certifications which would serve them much better in terms of professional recognition and expertise.

Additionally, someone in IT industry aspiring to be a project manager either within IT industry or elsewhere would definitely benefit from earning a PMP.


To sum it up, although ITIL and PMP represent two completely different methodologies which find application in different industry-based contexts, they do have their areas of overlapping functionalities.

If they are brought together, as some experts aggressively advocate, it can serve as a fitting example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

This is because a synergistic combination of these approaches would not only help manage individual projects better and improve service management but would ultimately lead to creation of value-driven services both within the finite scope of a project and in the organizational service management as a whole.


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