What is ITSM? | IT Service Management Explained | ITSM Vs ITIL

11 min read
29-Apr-2022 13:44:03

ITSM (IT Service Management) refers to the complete process of delivering IT services to end-users, ensuring they align with an organization’s key business goals and provide great value to customers. Some of the related tasks revolves around optimizing IT processes, maintaining service availability, and enhancing the customer experience.

As our world becomes more digitalized, it’s no surprise that IT has become essential in every area of the business. How can an organization make the best use of information technology? How can we maximize its value for both our employees and customers?

Let’s say your business has new employees joining and will need to be set up with work equipment like laptops. A common scenario would be sending a request to the internal IT support portal, which would then set off a workflow that the IT team would sort and fulfill. ITSM looks at how to make procedures like this smoother and better for everyone involved.

Many ITSM systems like IFS assyst ITSM solution can further help businesses manage key IT service processes like the example above.

So, with an effective ITSM strategy and the right tool, organizations can create a seamless digital experience, so customers and employees can focus on the work that matters most.

Advantages of ITSM

With IT as a critical function supporting the daily operations of businesses, it’s not surprising that 71% of organizations have either started or planning to use ITSM capabilities outside of IT. So, what can your business achieve with ITSM?

By adopting and continually improving ITSM processes, organizations can gain many benefits. We’ve summarized just some of them here.

  • Workflows become more efficient.

This just means that with ITSM, IT processes can be better optimized, and resources properly allocated, increasing efficiency, and helping you yield the best results possible.

  • Overall productivity improves.

Efficient workflows help both your organization and employees work more productively. For example, if IT-related issues are promptly resolved, there’ll be fewer frustrations around and employees can better focus on their work. Fewer interruptions like this can then improve the quality of service to customers, hence better company productivity.

  • It saves time and money.

As organizations scale and progress, demand for IT services naturally increases, driving up time and financial spending. By utilizing ITSM, you can create a system that will grow with you while keeping these costs down.

  • Everyone becomes more accountable.

ITSM outlines the key responsibilities of different teams or individuals involved. Transparency helps make everyone more accountable in their roles. Not only is this necessary for legislative compliance but also builds trusting relationships with your partners and customers.

  • The role of IT is more visible to everyone.

To deliver value, IT services must be aligned with your business goals, but how can that be when the other business functions are unaware of IT operations? By having an established ITSM strategy, people can gain a better understanding of the importance of IT to their work and how these activities impact their own.

  • It encourages employee communication and collaboration.

Having all the latest chat or collaboration tools doesn’t necessarily equate to effective communication and teamwork. In fact, they can sometimes be quite overwhelming! Setting up processes for implementing and using these tools can greatly help everyone understand their purpose and how to take advantage of them.

  • Your organization can offer smoother customer service and experience.

Whether it be your customer base or employees, ITSM can highlight available opportunities to improve service delivery and increase end-user satisfaction.

  • It helps decrease risks.

Change is a constant for many companies – and the larger the company, the more risks involved when they are implemented. Effective IT service management helps organizations to plan and prepare for necessary changes, as well as the associated risks. The combination of procedures, policies, and best practices you implement will help with successful change management.

  • You can gain a higher ROI on your ITSM solution investment.

Your choice of ITSM software can only do so much on its own. It’s not enough to buy the latest, shiny new tool and hope for the best. A successful software rollout depends on an effective ITSM strategy that incorporates the best practices in handling all your IT service processes. By establishing these, you can make the most out of your preferred ITSM tool.

  • It makes your business more resilient.

As the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shift to remote working have shown us, the way we work can change almost immediately. Organizations must always be ready to adapt to any challenges that come their way. ITSM can help businesses prepare for such unforeseen circumstances and pivot to different strategies when the situation requires it.

ITSM Use Cases

Where would IT service management be necessary? To fully experience the advantages mentioned earlier, any IT process in your organization should be backed by good ITSM. It’s essential if you want to spot and remove bottlenecks across your operations and ensure that different functions that rely on technology can perform their tasks well.

Here are some examples where ITSM can prove valuable:

  • Managing customer-related issues

Smooth IT processes relating to customer service, such as creating an extensive self-service knowledge base or a support ticket system with fast response times, benefit from higher customer satisfaction.

  • Handling IT support inquiries

An automated workflow that can handle these inquiries can greatly help in resolving these matters quickly and taking up less of everyone’s time.

  • Onboarding new employees

Getting new employees set up with the necessary equipment and access from the start is essential for a successful transition into their new roles.

  • Troubleshooting incidents

Resolving unplanned interruptions or system downtimes quickly and efficiently is crucial to any organization’s successful operations.

  • Implementing changes

Whether it’s rolling out new software across the business or issuing a hardware recall, a lot of consideration must be given when implementing company-wide changes.

ITSM vs. ITIL vs. DevOps

These terms can often either be seen used interchangeably or confused together. While they do share some goals and benefits, each concept has its distinguishing traits. Let’s look into these terms and what set them apart from each other.

ITSM (IT Service Management) is a system focused on processes providing value to customers/end-users through IT. The organization needs to make sure they have the right resources to provide excellent IT service, defining the different roles and responsibilities involved.

ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) is a part of ITSM. It’s one of the most popular frameworks that guide organizations in aligning their IT services and business needs together. It’s a set of best practices on the ‘hows’ of managing and controlling IT service operations. Created by the UK government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in the 1980s, it has been through several revisions since, with the latest version being ITIL4.

DevOps has long been regarded as a mindset that shortens software development cycles and brings teams together, these days it can be viewed as another example of an ITSM framework. As the name indicates, it’s a framework focused on software development and IT operations. The goal is to promote collaboration between teams to come up with solutions to problems. Compared to ITSM and ITIL’s centralized approach through policies, DevOps speeds up feedback cycles between teams.

Both ITIL and DevOps fall under the ITSM umbrella but differ in their approach and execution. Deciding which framework works best depends on your organization’s needs and circumstances, as well as regulatory compliance.

Key ITSM Processes:

What are the key ITSM processes? IT service management covers a whole range of processes and continually improves in various areas. Following the ITIL framework, these processes are typically categorized under five stages: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. Let’s look at some of the core processes that come under these categories.

Service Request Management

Service request management is the effective handling of incoming customer service requests for new services – whether that’s access to new service delivery, information, or equipment. These can include setting up a work account, issuing a new laptop, or sending guidelines on how to use the company’s online workspace.

By automating responses to these reoccurring inquiries, you can speed up tasks and provide timely customer service.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management oversees the creation, organization, usage, and distribution of knowledge across the organization. Having the right knowledge can make or break a company. Successful knowledge management means that valuable information is properly managed and easily accessible to the right people across the organization.

IT Asset Management

IT asset management ensures all your organization’s assets are accounted for. This includes software systems, hardware, and other IT-related resources used to carry out a business’ daily operations. Every IT asset has a shelf life, so to fully maximize the value you get out of them, a proactive approach in how you manage, maintain, and dispose of these assets is necessary.

Incident Management

Incident management is the process used for handling unplanned interruptions to services and restoring them to be operational again. An incident can come from anywhere, at any time. Successful incident management means being able to prioritize the most urgent incidents, communicate to key stakeholders, and resolve them quickly, so things can get up and running as usual.

Problem Management

Problem management seeks to analyze the problems across the organization’s IT service infrastructure, to prevent incidents from happening in the first place. While incident management can be seen as the ‘firefighter’, problem management is the ‘fire safety officer’. It looks at the causes of incidents and fixes them.

Change Management

Change management is the set of actions taken to implement any transitions or transformations you make in your organization, ensuring they’re carried out successfully. Organizations worth their salt will continue to evolve, so businesses must assess what changes are necessary, how they'll be implemented, and how they’ll be communicated to everyone.

ITSM Framework

We’ve briefly mentioned examples of ITSM frameworks like ITIL and DevOps already, but what exactly is an ITSM framework?

An ITSM framework is a set of predefined rules, best practices, and procedures that organizations adopt to improve their IT service management processes. Backed by extensive research and constant iterations, IT service management frameworks are often developed by third-party governing bodies.

While some frameworks are more popular than others, choosing the right framework largely depends on what your organization’s goals and priorities are. Although it’s also quite common to see companies implementing other frameworks in conjunction with ITIL.

Here are some more examples of ITSM frameworks:

  • COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies) – focuses on implementing governance strategies and navigating risk management.
  • MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework) – identifies key service management functions (SMFs) and provides guidance to them.
  • eTOM (enhanced Telecom Operations Map) – initially designed for enterprises in the telecommunications industry focused on improving communications across the organization.
  • TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) – with the Architecture Development Method at its core, it focuses on the lifecycle of an organization’s architecture.
  • ISO 20000 – considered the “international standard” for ITSM, it draws on key ITIL principles.
  • FitSM (Federated IT Service Management) – seen as the “lightweight” option for implementing ITSM.

8 ITSM Metrics that matter the most

Knowing what metrics and KPIs to measure is key to knowing whether your ITSM strategies are effective. The measurements you track can help you find areas to improve and ensure you’re on the right path.

Thanks to the analytics tools available to us, tracking these metrics has become easier, but at the same time, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones are the most important. So, we’ve highlighted the ITSM metrics that matter the most.

1. Service availability

How often can customers access your service without interruptions? While downtimes to carry out necessary updates are understandable, short but frequent interruptions can be frustrating for end-users. To provide a smooth user experience, it’s important to track how much time you’re providing uninterrupted, continuous service.

2. Mean time to resolve

The mean time to resolve (MTTR) is the average time it takes to resolve an incident or request once it’s been reported. The faster it’s resolved, the better. But it’s also important to note that how it’s resolved matters too. This leads us nicely to…

3. User satisfaction

A fast MTTR doesn’t mean much if the initial resolution is not up to the customer’s expectations. Likely, they may just reopen a ticket or escalate a case. User satisfaction is often measured through a survey or feedback form. This qualitative metric gives us a better understanding of what users are looking for.

4. First-contact resolution rate

This is the percentage of requests resolved on the first contact/call. The more touchpoints a request reaches, the more costly it is due to the time and resources it takes to resolve. So, keeping a high first-contact resolution rate is ideal, but again should be measured alongside user satisfaction.

5. Cost per ticket

This is essentially the operational expenses of the IT service team divided by the volume of tickets/inquiries. A high cost per ticket means that a lot of time might be spent on support. This can give you a rough idea of how much time and resources to allocate in this area.

6. SLA compliance ratio

The Service Level Agreement (SLA) is the service provider’s commitment to its customers in ensuring they deliver services as agreed upon in their contract. This ratio focuses on the number of resolutions needed to comply with SLA standards. A low SLA compliance ratio can mean that your SLA is unrealistic, or your processes are insufficient.

7. Number of active tickets

This is the number of tickets that are waiting to be resolved. A high number of active tickets could indicate your support team is at overcapacity and at a higher risk of customer dissatisfaction.

8. Agent satisfaction

Just as user satisfaction is crucial, so is agent satisfaction. Happy agents are more likely to go above and beyond in doing what they can in resolving issues for customers, hence improving overall performance and productivity.

ITSM Best Practices

Establishing an effective ITSM strategy can feel like a mammoth task, especially in enterprise organizations. It requires heavy involvement across all business units to ensure successful implementation. With this in mind, we’ve summarized some best practices to remember when rolling out your ITSM plans.

  • Define your strategy to align with your business goals.

What is the most important to your business? What would you like to achieve through IT services? Your ITSM strategy should be designed so that it will assist you in achieving your business goals.

  • Automate essential but repetitive tasks.

To maximize the value out of your resources, you should aim to automate what you can. It’s not a matter of replacing people with machines, but rather providing them with the right tools to do their best work. In a similar vein, you should also…

  • Create a self-service desk.

Not only does this help in saving you time and money, but everyone can feel more empowered when they can access what they need directly.

  • Define key metrics and track them.

With ITSM, you have to make continuous improvements. For that, you need to know the most important metrics and track them to give you an overview of how well your strategy is working.

  • Focus on your customers.

ITSM is all about providing service and value to customers/end-users. So, your processes should be designed with these people always in mind.

Tips for Evaluating ITSM software

We’ve gone over what is ITSM, its benefits, the different frameworks, and the processes involved. As we’ve seen, ITSM covers a wide scope, so it’s no surprise that there are many ITSM software systems out there promising you to make things easier.

It’s important to consider your organization’s needs and what you already have in place when looking for an ITSM solution. We’ve put together an in-depth buyer’s guide taking you through key considerations to keep in mind when selecting ITSM software.

Find out how you can find the right ITSM solution for you

Why choose IFS assyst ITSM solution?

Trusted by thousands of customers worldwide, IFS assyst was named as a Leader in The Forrester Wave™ for Enterprise Service Management in Q4 2021.Helping hundreds of enterprises transform their IT management and ESM capabilities, IFS assyst is designed to give you complete visibility and control over your IT service processes. Our out-of-the-box solution has everything you need to design, deliver, and optimize all your essential IT services.

And with our low-cost, ‘all-you-can-eat’ licensing model, you can be sure that you’ll get the most value out of the system – no more worrying about hidden costs or additional charges for updates or modules.

Want to know more? See how your organization can benefit from IFS assyst ITSM solution.

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Changing over to a new ITSM tool? Make sure to go through this checklist to ensure a smooth migration.

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