What is ITSM?

Learn the key concepts of ITSM.

How can IT organizations better align their operations to support the main business objectives? How can technology facilitate more efficient workflows in the company as a whole and how can IT staff continuously improve its operations to deliver better IT services? These questions are some of the reasons why companies are investing in, implementing, and developing ITSM processes.

What is ITSM?

IT Service Management (ITSM) is the common name for all activities related to designing, planning, creating, deploying, and managing IT services. ITSM is the processes, the methodologies, and the runbooks defining a company’s practices and policies regarding how services are delivered. Incident management, change management, and knowledge management are some examples of processes that are defined within ITSM.

To facilitate good ITSM processes, companies often use one or several systems or tools to support IT departments to better handle the vast amount of information, resources, and assets related to service delivery. The scope of the ITSM system can vary from just focusing on service delivery and technical components, to comprise a wider range of assets such as people, partners, and facilities.

Common ITSM tools

  1. Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
    Used to store information about configurations and hardware and software assets. Learn more
  2. Knowledge Base/Wiki
    Software to store documentation and guides to facilitate collaboration and knowledge transfer between staff members.
  3. IT Asset Management (ITAM)
    Designed to handle processes related to an IT asset’s lifecycle.
  4. Service Desk
    The point of contact between the users and the IT organizations (see below).

A service desk – an integral part of ITSM

With a service desk, users can feedback and communicate with the IT staff responsible for service delivery. With a service desk application, users can create incident tickets, requests, or ask questions. The service desk acts as a hub for improved service delivery and can provide IT organizations with KPIs to be used as metrics for measuring its performance, often benchmarking against service level agreement. Examples of KPIs are the number of incidents, service requests, the customer satisfaction score, and the average resolution time.

Here are a few examples of popular service desk applications:

Processes within ITSM

ITSM is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of processes in an organization. Maybe you are already familiar with a few of them?

  1. Asset management (ITAM)
    The tracking, updating, and managing hardware or software assets during their life cycle is defined in an asset management process.
  2. Change management
    Practices related to ensuring efficient and prompt handling of all changes to IT infrastructure that might affect service delivery.
  3. Configuration management
    Maintaining consistency of a service’s performance. A company may use a CMDB to store important information about configurations.
  4. Knowledge management
    The process of creating, sharing, using, and managing knowledge within an IT-organization.
  5. Incident management
    The practices of governing any interruptions or incidents of services. The goal is to restore the service to the agreed service level as fast as possible.
  6. Problem management
    The set of processes for managing the lifecycle of problems could happen in an IT service.
  7. Project management
    The planning, tracking, and delegation of tasks during the lifecycle of an IT-related project.
  8. Release management
    The process of managing, planning, scheduling, and controlling service updates through different stages and environments.

Why is ITSM important?

With ITSM, a company lowers risks, people dependencies and facilitates effective and efficient operations. ITSM helps companies to align the goals of the IT organization with those of the business. Without an ITSM framework, companies risk losing control and predictability of their service delivery.

This may negatively affect costs and weaken a company’s ability to perform and achieve its goals. Another important purpose of ITSM may be to regulate a company’s processes and IT operations to ensure compliance with various regulations.

What’s the outcome of ITSM?

ITSM may positively affect a company in many different ways. One of the most important reasons why companies implement an ITSM framework is to improve the overall quality of their service delivery. In the end, IT’s core purpose in a company is to serve the main business with the services it demands.

In addition, ITSM helps IT departments control costs, improve customer satisfaction and governance. According to Marrone (2011), who has conducted research to investigate the impacts of implementing an ITSM framework, the three most realized benefits in a company implementing ITSM were:

  • Improved quality of service
  • Standardized processes
  • Increased Customer/End-user satisfaction

From a business perspective, ITSM helps management to better understand IT’s business impact, needs, and how to drive cost efficiency.

Common challenges implementing ITSM

From an organizational perspective, lack of resources, organizational resistance, and maintaining momentum are, according to studies, the top three perceived challenges implementing ITSM. In a broader perspective, we can add a few other bullets to the list such as:

  1. Risk and security concerns
  2. Unplanned downtime
  3. Lack of proper tools and features as studies conducted by Jäntti points out (Challenges in Implementing IT Service Management Systems)

ITIL vs. ITSM – what’s the difference?

IT infrastructure library (ITIL) is a methodology, a set of best practices, within ITSM. Its purpose is to align IT operations with business objectives and needs. ITIL is used to formalize the processes within a company’s ITSM processes.

ITIL breaks down ITSM into five stages of a service’s lifecycle, each with its own set of recommendations, to help companies improve their service operations. Here is a quick overview of the various stages to get you started but you can find additional information on CIO-Wiki.

1. Service strategy

The first stage defines the needs of the business and determines what services the IT organization must deliver.

2. Service design

The scope of this stage includes designing services to meet the requirements and/or what changes and improvements need to be made to existing services.

3. Service transition

Building and deploying IT services.

4. Service operation

Defines the practices to ensure that services are delivered effectively and securely.

5. Continual Service Improvements

Continual quality assurance of service delivery including learnings and insights from the past. Aims to improve efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.

Additional ITSM frameworks

In addition to ITIL, there are multiple frameworks that can all be used to define a company’s ITSM processes.

1. Business Process Framework (eTOM)
Designed for telecom service providers in the telecommunications industry. Read more.

2. ISO/IEC 20000
Considered as the first international standard for service management. Originally based on BS 15000. Read more.

3. Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)
Includes 23 documents that encompass the full lifecycle of an IT service, emphasizing Microsoft technologies. Read more.

Centralized reporting and asset documentation.

More resources