The purpose of this article is to show that ITIL as a best practice framework is not only for the big Enterprises, but can be scaled down to a company that has only three employees. What I also strongly emphasize is that when you are small every decision can be your last one, so you have to think carefully would you do it or not.

When I was asked for the first time by a student of mine whether ITIL can be implemented in a Startup, I realized once again that most people are afraid of ITIL, because they consider it to be a big and enormously complex framework, which only large enterprises can adopt and adapt, without a significant effort. Well, my experience so far shows that the key is not in the adopting part, but in the adapting approach each company takes.

As an example, let’s take a newly formed startup. The company has few employees and when needed, uses contractors and vendors to deliver a single service. The service is positively accepted by the market, so the company starts to make plans for expansion of its service portfolio. The plans kick off and the first feedback comes in. In the movies you would expect to see happy faces and lots of smiles. well this can happen, of course, but for me most likely some issues will occur:

Issue 1: Clients are not aware of the new services, they don’t understand their value and don’t know how to make use of them.

Issue 2: Employees start to receive service degradation complaints and requests for customizations and/or configurations which they don’t know how to address and prioritize.

Issue 3: Contractors and Vendors feel that they were not involved in the discussion regarding the service delivery requirements and that also all the issues are just forwarded to them. So they start to complain back to senior management.

Issue 4: Senior Management starts making plans for even more services which leads to frustration on all levels and sides.

Well, maybe I have over-darkened the situation, but in general some chaos would be expected. So, how do you manage the above situation, if you have limited resources and you think ITIL is a bit too much for your startup?

I suggest you start with several very critical processes:

  1. Service Portfolio Management (SPM) – this process manages the services through their lifecycle: in development (Service Pipeline), live (Service Catalogue) and offline (Retired Services).
  2. Service Catalog Management (SCM) – this process manages the Service Catalog and ensures the information contained in it is accurate, on the right detail level and up-to-date.
  3. Change Management (ChM) – this process manages all change requests and ensures the proper level of approval and impact analysis is performed, thus the right level of new features is introduced without risking the live environment stability.
  4. Business Relationship Management (BRM) – this process manages the relationship with the customers: new services, requests for new features, escalations, complaints and compliments.
  5. Service Level Management (SLM) – this process makes sure that formal agreements are signed with customers for the delivered services, so that later when the delivery starts there is no misunderstandings.
  6. Supplier Management (SuppM) – this process manages the suppliers by making sure formal agreements are signed off with them. Those agreements are called Underpinning Contracts (UC). The key goal is value for money.
  7. Incident Management (IM) and Request Fulfilment Management (RFM) – when you start delivering a service sooner or later something will break, we call this an incident (managed by IM). Or, the customer will want to receive a customization or additional configuration from you, so we call this a service request (managed by RFM).


To manage these processes, you can start with only three people:

  1. Service Manager
    1. SPM
    2. SCM
    3. ChM
  2. Delivery Manager
    1. BRM
    2. SLM
    3. SuppM
  3. Operations Manager
    1. IM and RF

The Service Manager

The Service Manager will focus on Value. Are the services delivering the value we have promised (Issue 1)? If they are not, then they will need to be changed or removed from our Service Catalog. The Service Catalog will need to have all the data needed for the Operations Manager to support those services in an efficient and effective manner. The SM will work with the Delivery Manager and Operation Manager to identify new opportunities and how they are going to be delivered end to end. The Service Manager will also be a Change Manager so that any changes to the Service Portfolio or Service Catalog are controlled (Issue 4). This is a most critical task for a startup, because each mistake can be the last one.

The Delivery Manager

The Delivery Manager will have end to end delivery responsibilities. In a small company it should be possible to both speak with your customers and verify quickly all their requests with your vendors (Issue 3). Once requests are verified Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Underpinning Contracts (UPs) will be crafted so that all activities are accounted for and no unnecessary tasks are performed. Some Lean and Agile wise thinking here will be of great benefit. The Delivery Manager will work closely with the Operations Manager to ensure services are delivered according to the agreed SLAs, and reports will be crafted and provided to the customers, etc.

The Operations Manager

The Operations Manager will be responsible for all incidents and service requests (Issue 2). If you have more than one person available, form a Service Desk. Just don’t forget it is a function not a process. OM will provide feedback to both the Service Manager and Delivery Manager so that we close the loop.

Now that you are in control and all parties are satisfied there is one more part of ITIL to implement: Continual Service Improvement (CSI). My suggestion will be to first make the Operations Manager accountable for documenting all improvements into a CSI register. The reason for this proposal is that the quick wins and the biggest pain points will be identified in operations. Once the company grows please add a fourth person to ensure that CSI can cover all areas and not only operations.

In conclusion, ITIL can be implemented in a Startup, it is just a matter of adopting and adapting.


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Nikola Gaydarov

Nikola Gaydarov

Contributing Author

Nikola has been in the IT sector for almost 10 years. He started his career in HP Global Delivery Center back in 2007 and since then has been involved in many different roles: technical consultant, operational manager, transition manager and ITSM implementation consultant. During these years he has worked both domestically and in Western Europe.

Designing and improving processes is his passion. Working with the stakeholders to define all roles and responsibilities is where he finds most of the challenges. Proposing solutions and solving those challenges is his biggest reward.

He has started teaching ITIL® since the beginning of 2015 after successfully becoming an ITIL® Expert. Courses that he has successfully delivered are: ITIL® Foundation, ITIL® OSA, ITIL® RCV, ITIL® PPO, ITIL® SOA and ITIL® MALC.

As a consultant Nikola has gained also a lot of practical experience in Project Management. He used this experience to successfully acquire PRINCE2® Practitioner certification.


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