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ITFM vs. TBM: The 1 Key Difference

Mar 31, 2020 | By Wil Cleaveland

IT Leadership

Many organizations assume ITFM and TBM to be completely different disciplines, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They deliver the same things; the only difference is their approach. And naturally, the “best” approach is entirely dependent on the organization executing it.

But how exactly do ITFM and TBM differ in approach? And why should it matter to you?

Let’s take a closer look…

The Key Difference: Prescriptive vs. Non-prescriptive

Imagine ITFM and TBM as two settings on a digital camera.

TBM is equivalent to shooting in auto mode.

Based on the scene at hand, the camera uses its built-in logic to find the “best” configuration of settings, and the user simply points and shoots — delivering reliable results with minimal effort, but sometimes falling short in atypical conditions.

For example, TBM’s more rigid, prescriptive nature reduces the number of challenging decisions required to build and launch the function, which is helpful for low-maturity organizations with limited domain knowledge. But it also reduces your ability to make adjustments in response to the business, and it can cause serious pain during early stages of execution when existing processes present a conflict and must be rebuilt — driving up costs and increasing the time to realize positive ROI.

ITFM is more like shooting in manual mode.

Instead of leaving everything up to the camera, the user has complete control over all variables impacting the final image — focus, shutter speed, white balance, and so on. Although there’s a slightly greater intellectual burden to understand and operate the camera, you have total flexibility to align each setting with your unique needs and preferences.

ITFM gives organizations the flexibility to build new capabilities in harmony with their existing way of doing business. It makes very few decisions or assumptions on behalf of the organization, which makes it highly adaptable — an important consideration if you aren’t starting from scratch and have somewhat mature IT Finance processes already in place.

However, with more freedom comes more responsibility.

Organizations pursuing ITFM over TBM must have the willingness and expertise to make more technical, nuanced execution decisions as they build out the function — decisions that the TBM framework, for better or worse, already makes on your behalf.

TBM is essentially a framework of best practices for ITFM — a formalized variant of ITFM, if you will. However, the best practices prescribed by TBM aren’t necessarily a new invention; they’re curated from a much larger pool of ITFM best practices. In other words, if more than one best practice exists for the same activity, TBM simply dictates which one should be used (based on what the TBM Council believes is most appropriate for the average organization).

“Is TBM’s prescriptive approach right for me?”

Every organization needs to recognize that they’re on a journey, and that TBM may be a viable roadmap to guide that journey.

But TBM isn’t the only roadmap, and due diligence must be done to: 1) ensure it will answer the questions your organization is asking, and 2) assess the potential disruption of altering established processes to comply with the framework.

Many IT leaders implement TBM after hearing success stories from others, only to find later that it’s incongruent with unchangeable elements of their business — or that it’s geared toward insights that simply aren’t relevant to their objectives.

The important point to understand here is that TBM isn’t necessarily a “one-size-fits-all” framework.

It’s critical to assess how your unique goals and existing processes align with TBM before using it to lead your initiative. Otherwise, moving forward with TBM could turn out to be an expensive, time-consuming challenge — while a more flexible ITFM-based approach could deliver the same outcomes with significantly less cost, risk, and time-to-value.

Other Tricky Misconceptions About ITFM/TBM

Before you start your journey with ITFM/TBM, there are several other common misconceptions about the industry you should understand first. We detail each of them in our latest eBook: Dispelling the 8 Biggest ITFM & TBM Misconceptions.

Just follow the instructions on this page to get a copy delivered to your inbox instantly.

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