IT Jargon Explained

Enterprise Service Management

Enterprise Service Management (ESM) is the ability to manage processes across numerous lines of business from a single application that has the flexibility to handle it all.

During recent years, especially with the increase in cloud services, IT has lost some of its control on technology decisions. Lines of businesses are becoming more comfortable selecting business solutions delivered as services or hosted elsewhere instead of turning to IT for a solution. This creates a fractured solution landscape, can negatively affect IT’s ability to support what individual departments consider business-critical applications, lead to in-house user frustration, and ultimately decrease productivity and increase business costs. On top of all that, it takes control away from IT, running the risk of reducing an IT’s team’s scope of responsibility and relevancy.

If IT is going to continue to be relevant and add value it must lead organizations with new ideas. Enterprise service management is quickly emerging as the crux, and IT can lead the way to the solution.

What Is Enterprise Service Management? 

Enterprise Service Management (ESM) is the ability to manage processes across numerous lines of business from a single application that has the flexibility to handle it all. This could include: IT, Human Resources, Facilities, Fleet, Case Management, Project Management, and even some aspects of Accounting—really any department that provides some sort of service. ESM is generally delivered through an enterprise service management software platform that enables these departments to deliver services to their users in a streamlined and cost-effective way. 

IT professionals will recognize ESM as essentially an expansion of the already understood concept of IT service management (ITSM) to the broader enterprise. ITSM has allowed organizations—and more specifically, IT teams—to figure out how to automate and streamline many critical service functions. This same principle is now being applied to services and solutions provided by other departments within an organization. While individual service management solutions outside of IT also exist today, it only becomes ESM when these separate solutions are combined into a single portal or services suite designed for easy management of the full enterprise.

Having prior knowledge and experience with implementing and managing robust ITSM solutions, IT teams are perfectly positioned to help organizations adopt an enterprise service model and implement ESM software. Moving to enterprise service management is the quickest way for concerned IT teams to provide a valuable contribution to the business—especially one with rapidly changing requirements—while not slipping towards a simple existence of being administrators for outsourced solutions.

Enterprise Service Management: A Case in Point

While potentially a newish concept within business, centralized service management at the “enterprise” or all-encompassing level is something we’re all already familiar with. I submit that the smartphone has already become a symbolic enterprise service management solution for most people’s personal lives. The level of connectivity, information, entertainment, productivity, and collaboration that sits in the hand of every smartphone owner has transformed the way people live their lives and this transformation has occurred at a breakneck pace.

For example, during the last week alone, by using my smartphone as my personal enterprise service management system, I have:

  1. Placed phone calls (yes, not a novel idea)
  2. Texted with my daughter who is at school 250 miles away
  3. Located a pool supply company and immediately launched GPS navigation to get me there
  4. Transferred money between bank accounts
  5. Updated my mortgage account information
  6. Created a parts list for a trip to the local home supply store
  7. Scanned a barcode on a product and instantly received price quotes from multiple sources
  8. Managed three different email accounts
  9. Checked the weather and news, daily
  10. Read a few chapters in a book
  11. Researched a new red wine, rated it and scanned it into an app that tracks my favorites
  12. Logged my cycling rides onto a social site geared for cyclists and runners
  13. Streamed my own personal radio station while I worked in the yard
  14. Shopped for a dress shirt and redeemed a gift card in the process
  15. Searched Real Estate listings

Had this been a week where I was away for business reasons, there would likely have been five or six more tasks such as booking travel, checking into a hotel, using my phone as a boarding pass, and searching an app for a highly rated restaurant.

Because of this level of access in users’ everyday lives, we’ve come to expect the same level of connectivity and efficiency in our work lives. An enterprise service model is quickly becoming a must-have solution for organizations that want to meet user (in this case often employees) expectations while retaining control of the services, solutions, and tools in use and the experiences created. Without a centralized solution, tracking, supporting, and managing all the services used within an organization will quickly become borderline impossible.

A few enterprise service management examples that mirror personal life expectations (and often mimic ITSM features) include:

  • Search - The ability to quickly find answers to common issues and questions
  • Knowledge - Access to collective knowledge and information
  • Incident Management - Quickly getting help when needed
  • Request Fulfillment - Rapid response and automation of common processes and requests with full auditable tracking.

Other existing service management solutions outside of IT are also individual elements of a complete ESM model, such as:

While all these solutions provide undeniable value to an organization, at this point in time they are incomplete fixes to a larger (and growing) challenge. With ESM, these individual approaches are centralized into a single, easy-to-manage and use solution that has much farther reaching impact.

Comparing ESM and ITSM 

While enterprise service management and IT service management are similar, there are key details that differentiate the two processes. One of the main differences can be found in the base meaning of ESM and ITSM.

ITSM is specifically intended to enhance the way organizations approach, deliver, and manage IT services. ESM applies similar service management practices and goals to just about all aspects of the business that supply services, not just IT. When fully implemented, ITSM is a piece of the larger ESM solution (albeit a very large, foundational part).

Adopting a larger enterprise service management strategy (beyond just ITSM) has many benefits including: simplifying and reducing processes, cutting costs, and bringing different departments and teams together with a single portal. It also helps clarify end goals and corporate needs when evaluating the approach to individual services (such as project management or HR), allowing for smarter decisions about future growth.

How the two management processes are implemented is another differentiating factor. ITSM is often implemented using a defined framework and processes, most commonly ITIL, though there are many others. While ESM is growing in popularity, there is not currently a clearly defined framework for implementation and management that has been widely accepted. There are, however, ESM tools to help. At the tools level, ESM software is similar to ITSM solutions, but enterprise service management tools also incorporate functionality and services for HR, facilities, security, project management, and other enterprise-level needs.

It’s important to remember that ESM versus ITSM is not a straightforward either-or decision. ITSM is a major component of overall enterprise service management and is often the foundation more robust ESM approaches are built on.

The Relationship Between ITSM and Enterprise Service Management

While ESM encompasses more than just IT service management, the two enjoy an especially close relationship. Both are built on the concept that users can make requests that are tracked, prioritized, routed and fulfilled. IT is central to this process and are almost always the ones implementing broader ESM, meaning ITSM is often the starting point for a larger enterprise service model. This takes shape in two noticeable ways.

First, a vast majority of companies are moving towards ESM using an already implemented ITSM solution as the foundation. Most ITSM tools already offer catalog or portal functionality, very robust process flows that can be tailored, and strong integration capabilities. These features are equally useful within ESM and should be key features organizations look for when assessing ESM tools. In addition, ITSM solutions designed to be a platform are well positioned for the expansion to more comprehensive enterprise service management. This is valuable as many organizations already have successful, robust ITSM solutions in place. If this is the case for your organization, adopting ESM may be simpler than you first imagined.

Secondly, because ITSM and ITIL are so well defined, and because as of yet there is no unifying framework for ESM, many organizations expand the general processes of ITIL to ESM. This approach provides guidelines for what should be included in the ESM solution and how to best achieve the desired efficiencies. This, among many other factors, make it natural for IT teams to increase their organizational relevancy by moving beyond ITSM (but not abandoning it!) and advocating for, implementing, and managing enterprise service management solutions.

Who Can Benefit from ESM? 

Just about everyone is accustomed to finding and implementing tech solutions that fit their needs in their personal lives, and that mentality has bled over into work. Lines of business have become more comfortable in selecting business solutions that are delivered as services or hosted elsewhere. Many departments are now selecting these solutions without involving IT in the decision making process. This can quickly lead to redundancy, poor internal support, frustration, and other unintended outcomes that affect an entire organization. But no matter how hard IT or organizational leadership try to correct this self-service mentality, the tide is unlikely to change. That is where ESM comes in. It’s an enterprise-wide solution that unifies the organization providing value to  everyone within the enterprise. 

ESM has a particularly positive impact on IT overhead and as a result, the business’ bottom line. Unifying the fulfillment, catalog, and automation of processes across business units allows for the elimination of solutions, maintenance, vendors, and ultimately costs while keeping IT relevant across the entire business. It is important for IT organizations to support employees by providing services in ways that work best for them and encourage productivity. The best way to do this is to take steps to shift to an enterprise service management strategy. 

IT teams can approach evaluating the need for ESM in much the same way they have identified the goals of ITSM. Looking outside of IT at different departments, determine if:

  • End users are requesting a service in a high touch or manual process, such as email 
  • Applications provide redundant services and can be combined into a single solution

These are just two simple indicators that an organization needs ESM and gives IT teams a department-by-department view when planning feature needs and implementation timelines. Rolling out successful enterprise service management can position IT as heros who help the business and individual departments solve problems, resolve frustrations, and streamline productivity. (For more guidance on how to introduce enterprise service management to your organization, read this article.)

An enterprise service management solution that presents a single portal for all of the services offered by an organization is no longer a stretch. Perhaps the simple truth is that IT should consider embarking on an broader service management initiative because for the first time ever, it can be successfully achieved.

Use Cases

Any department that deals with requests for service or information from employees, users, or customers via emails, paper forms, or phone calls can benefit from an ESM solution to help manage those requests. Good candidates for joining an ESM initiative are departments who receive a high number of collaborative, time-sensitive requests around routine topics that need to be tracked and managed properly, including necessary approvals. Processes from other departments that may benefit from ESM capabilities include: 

  • Human Resources: Handling requests for leave, changes to health plans, training and staffing, salary enquiries, and onboarding new employees. 
  • Facilities: Managing requests for repairs, office relocations, and furniture. 
  • Security: Onboarding new employees and performing security checks. 
  • Customer service: Dealing with large number of requests and follow-ups. 
  • Education: Searching course offerings or programs; managing cost approvals for paid courses. 
  • Legal: Reviewing, approving, and certifying documents; requesting standard contracts or legal forms. 
  • General Administration: Requesting office supplies, managing printing and shipping services, and tracking meeting rooms. 

Most employees have submitted a ticket to or requested something from their IT department – it’s a familiar system that is the foundation of IT Service Management. Most of the example processes above have similar requirements as IT and could leverage capabilities such as ticketing, workflow design and automation, self-service, knowledge management, and more for uniform and efficient service delivery across the entire enterprise, not just individual platforms.