What is ITSM? Understanding the world of service management

Effectively integrating IT services into your organization's overall hierarchy can sometimes seem like a painful task. This is because, all too often, IT departments tend to become siloed and stuck in their own world. That's where IT service management (ITSM) comes in. ITSM helps organizations improve efficiency by streamlining common IT-related processes.

Here, we explain what ITSM is and how adopting effective ITSM frameworks like an incident management or problem management tool, can drive continuous improvement in your organization.

What exactly is IT Service Management or ITSM?

ITSM acts as a bridge between IT services and the end user. You can think of ITSM as a series of best practices that have evolved to facilitate faster and more efficient interactions between IT departments and the people they help. These service management frameworks allow for more standardized and efficient workflows.

For example, imagine your laptop is malfunctioning. You submit a ticket to your organization's IT department through an online self-service portal. Later, a helpful IT worker comes down and fixes your problem. The ticketing process here is an example of ITSM in action. Without a system in place, you'd have to track down an IT worker, explain your problem, and hope that they're able to carve out time in their busy schedule—an inefficient workflow at its finest.

That said, ITSM goes beyond narrow technology concerns. It encompasses a range of core business needs and goals by acting as a series of processes that address business concerns holistically while contributing to a positive end-user experience. ITSM helps service providers supply needed services to customers by utilizing an overall service strategy.

ITSM is sometimes confused with the IT information library (ITIL). It's an easy mistake to make. ITIL refers to a specific ITSM framework that got its start with the British government back in the 1980s. Today, ITIL is one of the most commonly used systems of best ITSM practices.

It’s worth pointing out that the ITIL framework is regularly updated and published. The most current edition is the ITIL 4, which differs from past ITILs in that it does away with overly prescriptive practices in favor of a more flexible, customer-centric approach. ITIL utilizes a series of service transitions to help create detailed workflows for the effective building and deployment of IT services.

What are the benefits of ITSM?

Adopting ITSM best practices in your organization can lead to a number of direct improvements. That's because the central focus of ITSM is improving overall IT efficiency while more closely aligning IT tasks with the needs of the business as a whole. This includes:

Improved customer experience

In many ways, ITSM reduces customer confusion and frustration. Note that the customer in this context doesn't have to be your business's actual customers. ITSM frameworks emphasize a customer-first model with the understanding that the end user should always be treated as the customer.

When you adopt an ITSM framework, you take a lot of the guesswork out of the process of seeking help. Many ITSM models would have you use a ticketing system that helps the customer identify their problem right off the bat. Priority ranking and a standardized workflow ensure that those with the highest priority needs will get served first and that they'll receive a consistent level of care.

Reduced costs

By systematizing your IT processes, you can eliminate redundancies and ultimately reduce costs. ITSM is all about enhancing efficiency by establishing a clear set of best practices for each business process. Reduce unneeded systems and reallocate labor to more efficient uses with your ITSM system.

You can use your ITSM framework to enhance your IT department's service desk efficiency by increasing their availability management. Availability management is the practice of keeping up-to-date backups of key information. It goes without saying that an unexpected data loss can cripple a company financially, so you should be proactive in investing to protect your ongoing processes with efficient IT service operations.

Improved productivity

ITSM improves productivity both for IT departments and for the end users. All of this leads to solid contributions to your company's bottom line. By streamlining processes and creating a solid workflow for your IT staff, your ITSM eliminates many of the distractions and guesswork that have traditionally acted as friction when it comes to identifying and implementing the right solutions.

You'll also improve the productivity of your non-IT staff with an ITSM. Enhanced efficiency means faster onboarding for new hires, quicker replacements for workers with broken equipment, and faster implementation of new software systems. Your ITSM will also help your IT staff more easily prioritize different needs, which will provide an overall boost to your organization's efficiency.

ITSM can even contribute to effective project management by aligning IT teams with business objectives. An ITSM framework will typically come with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) and other important metrics that can be tracked, measured, and assessed. By integrating your IT department more deeply into the overall functioning of your organization, you'll create a win-win scenario where the productivity of all involved parties will soar.

4 ITSM processes

ITSM encompasses a broad field of IT solutions management. Here are some of the most commonly used subdomains of service transitions within the ITSM field.

Incident management

An incident refers to a single disruption to your organization's normal operations. This could range from a broken laptop to difficulties logging onto the company website to virtually any unexpected technology-related problem. An ITSM incident management workflow will cover the entire incident from beginning to end. It'll also help your IT department prioritize different requests for maximum efficiency. In today’s age of technology, an incident management tool is an absolute must-have to ensure you’re properly equipped to manage incidents when, not if, they happen.

Problem management

Problem management deals with recurring or widespread incidents. If your organization is facing a series of interrelated incidents, you'll want to use a problem management framework to dig out the root cause. You can also use problem management best practices to forestall future issues.

Request management

Your request management system will systematize the process of requesting IT devices and services. Similar to incident management, this generally entails the use of a ticketing system. But it differs in that request management tends to be proactive, whereas incident management is fundamentally reactive.

A good request management system will define the process for delivering and installing specific hardware and software systems. This helps IT teams better manage their time and energy. It also gives end users a better idea of what to expect when they submit their tickets.

Knowledge management

Knowledge management is the practice of centralizing organizational knowledge in a single source. ITSM best practices dictate that this should be well-organized and easily searchable. One way to picture knowledge management is as an internal library for your organization. This knowledge typically consists of vital, company-specific information. It may relate to important matters like legal compliance, workflows, and inventory.

Picture of Luis Gonzalez
Luis Gonzalez
Content Marketing Manager

Operational excellence starts here