Modernize your ITSM system to deliver more value
4,817 words explaining, in excruciating detail, everything you need to know about ITSM. Do not read while operating heavy machinery.
4,817 words explaining, in excruciating detail, everything you need to know about ITSM. Do not read while operating heavy machinery.
IT Service Management (ITSM) is the practice or discipline of designing, implementing, delivering, and supporting IT services offered to customers in a business environment. The activities associated with ITSM are directed by company policies and organized into discrete processes that achieve desired goals.
In our essential guide to ITSM, we'll explain everything you need to know about the discipline of IT service management, the associated roles and responsibilities, best practices for ITSM as outlined within the ITIL® framework, how to measure success, and more. We'll also provide helpful tips and advice for a successful ITSM software implementation, including how to choose the best vendor based on your organization's IT maturity level and goals.
ITSM can be described as a set of processes for managing the life cycle of IT service delivery. In this context, “process” refers to a sequence or framework of activities that produce a desired outcome. As part of an overall ITSM strategy, organizations implement formalized and documented processes to manage specific aspects of IT service delivery. Incident management and request fulfillment, for example, are maintained by the service desk, while other areas of IT might have formalized processes for managing service capacity, implementing changes, or controlling new releases.
The IT service desk (sometimes referred to as a “help desk”) plays a central role in the processes and activities related to IT service management, functioning as a singular point of contact between the IT organization and the business unit. Before the function of the IT Service Desk was defined in the first ITIL publications of the 1980’s (described later in this guide), few organizations had formalized processes for communication between the IT organization and its internal customers. As a result, frequent informal and ad-hoc incident reports and service requests were poorly prioritized, tracked and managed—or worse yet, fell through the cracks completely.
The establishment of centralized IT service desks created a unified point of contact where users could report incidents and make service requests from the IT organization. By the late mid-2000’s IT organizations were adopting incident tracking software systems to create better processes, accountability and documentation, and to capture more data from the service desk, while improving service for users. These included open-source platforms such as Trac and Redmine.
Related: Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for ITSM
Every IT practitioner should clearly understand the difference between ITSM and ITIL. Key principles and points of differentiation are summarized below.
ITSM is an acronym for Information Technology Service Management. ITSM refers to the process of managing IT services within an organization. This management includes determining what services the IT organization should offer to its users, designing and building those services, deploying and operating them, and terminating them at the end of their useful life.
ITIL is a framework of best practices that organizations can use to improve their IT service delivery systems and processes. The globally renowned ITIL framework, published by AXELOS, a joint venture set up in 2014 by the Government of the United Kingdom and Capita, provides industry-leading best practices to organizations that want to achieve excellence and drive value through their investments in IT service management.
Related: What is ITIL?
ITIL was first created in the 1980s when the British government determined that it was not satisfied with the quality and strategic benefit of the IT services that it was being provided. The government asked the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), whose name was later changed to the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), to develop a set of best practices for efficient and financially responsible administration of IT resources in both the private sector and government. By the late 1980s, the CCTA had developed and published ITIL v1.
The first edition of ITIL was released between 1989 and 1996 and contained more than 30 volumes. To make the framework more accessible and usable for IT professionals, a new version of ITIL (ITIL v2) was released in 2000 and 2001 that condensed these volumes into a set of nine books, with related processes grouped together in each publication. An additional glossary was published for ITIL v2 in 2006.
The ITIL framework reached its current form in 2007 when ITIL v3, widely known today as ITIL 2007 Edition, was published. ITIL v3 grouped the 26 processes and functions of ITIL into five volumes, each corresponding to a stage of the ITIL service lifecycle. Most ITIL practitioners today are familiar with this version. It was most recently refreshed with the release of ITIL 2011 in July of the same year, whose purpose was to resolve errors and inconsistencies in the text and graphics of ITIL v3.
February 2019 saw the release of the newest ITIL publication, ITIL Foundation ITIL 4 Edition. This update builds on the elaborate process guidance offered in ITIL v3, and accounts for new ways of working such as Agile, DevOps, and Lean. ITIL v4 also emphasizes a holistic approach to ITSM through the observation of the following seven guiding principles:
Many ITIL practitioners were surprised when ITIL v4, released in February 2019, contained little information about ITIL processes. ITIL v4 was expected to be the first major revision of ITIL since 2011, but it actually serves as an expansion to ITIL v3, offering additional service management guidance with an increased focus on service management principles and concepts rather than processes.
Free Whitepaper: 5 Instances Where ITSM & ITAM Are Better Together
ITIL organizes the 26 processes of ITIL into five volumes, each representing a stage of the service lifecycle.
The five stages are:
The objective of a Service Strategy is to determine a strategy for the IT organization to serve its customers. The IT organization must assess customer needs and the marketplace to understand what services it should offer, what capabilities must be developed, and what additional tools and technology are required. Service Strategy is intended to ensure that the activities of the IT organization are aligned with the strategic objectives and needs of the business.
Service strategy includes the following ITIL processes:
When an IT organization has identified a strategic need for a service, the next step is Service Design. Before an organization can commit the resources and human capital toward building a new service, the Service Design process ensures that every aspect of the new service is carefully designed to maximize its value to the organization.
The Service Design processes of ITIL offer organizations guidance on how to manage a service catalog, risk management activities for the design process, coordinate design activities connected to new services, as well as manage the availability of services and the capacity of the IT organization to meet service level targets. In addition to the design of new services, changes and improvements to existing services are also evaluated through the Service Design processes of ITIL.
Related: What is the IT Service Catalog?
Service Design includes the following processes:
The next step in the ITIL service life cycle is Service Transition, a set of processes that offer guidance for building and deploying new services. Two additional important services, Knowledge Management and Service Asset and Configuration Management, are also outlined in the Service Transition volume of ITIL.
The Knowledge Management process is a set of best practices for gathering, analyzing, storing, and disseminating knowledge and information collected by the IT organization throughout all of its activities. The Service Asset and Configuration Management process details best practices for maintaining information about the configuration items required to deliver a given service and the relationships between them.
Service Transition includes the following processes:
Once a service has been chosen, designed, built, and deployed, the IT organization can begin operating and delivering the service to customers. The Service Operation stage of the ITIL service lifecycle defines and identifies processes that support Service Operation, including the most important functions of the service desk: incident management and request fulfillment.
Service Operation encompasses a diverse set of processes that inform how IT organizations should moderate access to services based on user permissions, maintain control of their IT operations, and even manage the physical location where the IT infrastructure is located. Factors such as power and cooling are vital and must be monitored to ensure the stability of the IT infrastructure. ITIL even recommends building security measures to help ensure that only authorized personnel can access your organization's IT infrastructure.
Service Operation includes the following processes:
Continual Improvement (previously referred to as Continual Service Improvement in previous versions of ITIL) represents the final step of the ITIL service lifecycle. Its purpose is to provide practical guidance and a methodology that organizations can use to learn from their past successes and failures. Through an intentional process of reflection and performance assessment, organizations can leverage the data that they collect while delivering IT services to help identify and improve on their weaknesses.
Through Continual Improvement, organizations are encouraged to regularly review their services, evaluate processes, define areas of opportunity for improvement, implement them, and assess their impact on the overall efficiency of IT operations.
Continual Improvement includes the following ITIL processes:
See a Demo: Ivanti IT Service Management Software
ITIL identifies the roles and responsibilities necessary for the performance of each ITIL process according to the best practices established in the ITIL framework. IT organizations are not required to hire a new person for each role that is defined by an adopted ITIL process, because the option of having the same person functioning in multiple roles exists.
The allocation of roles and responsibilities within an IT organization is often connected to the maturity and size of the IT organization. In smaller IT departments, roles are frequently combined and the segregation of duties is relatively limited. Employees must possess a more generalized set of skills and the organization may be limited to operating less complex ITIL processes. In contrast, large IT organizations are more likely to separate the many roles associated with the operation of IT processes. Duties are segregated more widely among employees, and individuals are expected to possess a higher degree of specialized knowledge for their role. In turn, the organization can operate with more active processes, more services, and a greater level of complexity.
The ITIL framework defines nearly 50 distinct roles that cover the responsibilities connected to all of its processes. Each of ITIL's 26 processes has a dedicated process owner with a unique set of responsibilities, and the framework recommends the establishment of various working groups that may include other IT managers, process owners, and customer stakeholders.
While the IT service desk team is responsible for the majority of customer-facing ITSM activities, there are many other roles across different teams within a mature IT organization. Below, we've highlighted a few of the most important ITSM roles defined in each stage of the service life-cycle.
Related Blog: What Are the Primary IT Service Desk Responsibilities?
Business Relationship Manager - The role of a business relationship manager is to maintain a positive working relationship between the IT organization and the business unit. This relationship is built by accurately capturing user needs and working to ensure strategic alignment between the needs of the business and the activities and service offerings of the IT organization.
Demand Manager - The demand manager is the official process owner for the Demand Management process of ITIL. The primary objective of this role is to understand and measure customer demand for services and ensure that the IT organization will be able to meet the anticipated demand. The demand manager works closely with a capacity manager to ensure that services are designed in a way that meets the needs of the business.
Financial Manager - No IT organization can survive without sound financial management. The role of the financial manager is to invoice customers for services, manage financial planning data, create budgets, allocate funds, and analyze service delivery costs and service profitability.
Service Design Manager - When a service must be created or improved, the service design manager is responsible for producing a quality design that meets the needs of customers and thoroughly documenting all of the design steps (user needs, design inputs, and outputs, verification and validation, etc.).
Service Catalog Manager - A service catalog is a comprehensive listing of every IT-related service that can be performed by an organization. Through the IT service catalog, users can access a comprehensive listing of what services are available, along with more information about how to access the service. On the IT side, the service catalog contains information about what configuration items are associated with the service and how it should be delivered.
The role of the service catalog manager is to establish and maintain the IT organization's service log, ensuring that it is up-to-date and reflects the organization's current capabilities.
Information Security Manager - Information security is a growing area of concern in 2019, especially for organizations that face legally mandated data security and privacy requirements. An information security manager works to ensure that all organizational assets and data are kept confidential and secure. Their activities include protecting data from digital attacks and collaborating with other roles, such as the facility manager to prevent unauthorized access to the IT infrastructure.
Knowledge Manager - The knowledge manager is the process owner for the Knowledge Management process. The person in this role must ensure that the organization can collect and analyze data from its activities to increase its knowledge and develop the wisdom that can enhance its practices. A successful knowledge manager helps to ensure that knowledge in the organization is centralized and available to everyone that needs it.
Configuration Manager - The configuration manager is responsible for the implementation of the configuration management database (CMDB). This database includes all of the information about every configuration item (CI) that is needed to operate an IT service, including its interdependencies and how it interacts with other CIs in the database. Configuration managers ensure that the CMDB is up-to-date and accurately reflects the current configuration of IT assets.
Release Manager - The release manager bears direct responsibility for ensuring that new releases do not negatively impact or disrupt the live environment. Release managers control the deployment of new releases in live and test environments, ensuring that updates are tested and functional before they are deployed into the production environment.
Service Desk Staff - Technical support roles at the IT service desk include 1st level and 2nd level technical support workers and the service request fulfillment group. In these customer-facing roles, members of the IT organization interact directly with users to fulfill requests for service and resolve incidents. When an incident cannot be resolved by the service desk staff, it may be escalated to the incident manager.
Facilities Manager - A facilities manager is responsible for managing the condition of the physical location where the IT organization is located. A facility manager's responsibilities include:
Problem Manager - When an incident has been reported to the IT organization many times, it may be escalated to problem status. Problems are known issues that have been identified over time, but for which, a patch or resolution has not yet been released. Through the problem management process, IT organizations can collect more information about problems, establish best practices for workarounds, and eventually deploy solutions to ongoing problems.
CI Manager - The owners of the continual improvement process, CI managers are tasked with measuring the performance of the IT organization in various aspects of service delivery and designing process improvements to increase organizational efficiency.
Process Architect - When the CI designs a process change to improve the efficiency of a process, the process architect plays an important role in manifesting that change within the organization. Process architects look at the high-level interactions of ITSM processes, ensuring that they continue to function seamlessly even as changes are being implemented.
While ITIL has remained the most popular framework of best practices for IT service management, it is just one of many ways for IT organizations to organize their service delivery efforts.
A 2017 Forbes Insight survey on the global state of ITSM asked executives around the world what ITSM frameworks and processes were represented within their organizations. Here's some of what was found:
A report from the ServiceDesk Institute reveals that 86% of service desks primarily use the ITIL framework to inform their ITSM process design, while just 29% were following ISO/IEC 20000, and even fewer (11%) had adopted DevOps. Despite the presence of some competitors, ITIL maintains the most widely adopted framework of best practices for IT service management.
Product Demo: Improving IT Service Delivery and Asset Management
Continual service improvement is a critical aspect of the service lifecycle. IT organizations achieve continual improvement by monitoring the performance of their IT processes and designing process changes to increase their efficiency. These processes are managed by a CSI manager.
To determine whether IT service delivery is becoming more efficient, less efficient, or staying the same, CSI managers require a means of measuring the performance of the processes and functions that the IT organization performs. This data is known as performance metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs). A key performance indicator is a metric whose value correlates with the performance of a specific process. IT organizations can measure their initial process performance to establish a benchmark for KPIs, then measure again after implementing changes to quantify the benefits.
Not all metrics share equal importance, so it is important for IT organizations to understand which metrics are the most important for KPIs and how they correlate to specific processes. Even metrics that do not correlate directly with performance, such as “total number of support tickets”, may provide valuable managerial insight into IT operations. Thus, it is vital that IT organizations capture as much data as they can, enabling the IT organization's decision-makers to work from a more informed perspective. The five most widely adopted and measured KPIs for ITSM include:
KPIs are meant to be indicative of what's going on in your IT organization, but it is difficult for a single metric to tell a nuanced story. IT managers should exercise caution when interpreting KPIs to make conclusions about how a process is functioning; they should leverage additional data and conduct additional investigations when required to identify and address sources of inefficiency.
ITSM Buyer's Guide: 7 Use Cases to Define Your ITSM Goals
If you've ever looked at a map to find directions, you'll recognize the first and most important step for determining how to get where you're going: knowing where you are. Similarly, organizations that wish to enhance their ITSM processes by adopting one or more aspects of the ITIL framework should begin with an assessment of their organizational maturity with respect to ITSM.
Pink Elephant, an independent organization that offers ITIL training and certifications to enterprise organizations, recommends that organizations measure the maturity of service management processes on a 5-point scale that was modeled after the Capability Maturity Model developed at Carnegie Mellon. Organizations may have some processes that are highly mature and others that are not yet well-developed or implemented. This scale should be applied to assess the maturity of individual processes and not the organization's ITSM maturity as a whole.
Here's how each level on the scale is characterized:
Level One - Initial: The initial stage represents the lowest level of process maturity. At this stage, the process is poorly controlled, unpredictable, and reactive.
Level Two - Managed: At this level, the process has been assigned to someone and it can be implemented in the context of a project, but not yet at the organizational level.
Level Three - Defined: Processes that reach the third stage of maturity are defined and characterized by the entire organization. They are implemented proactively and as a matter of routine responsibility, not just in the context of a specific project. According to research conducted by Gartner, the transition from Level 2 to Level 3 represents the greatest challenge for most organizations.
Level Four - Quantitatively Managed: Processes in this maturity stage have been effectively implemented at the organizational level and are being operated reliably by process owners and their technical teams. Managers have been able to benchmark the performance of the process and can now use ongoing data collection to monitor the process and find efficiencies. Garter research suggests that organizations tend to experience diminishing returns when attempting to move beyond level three. Investments intended to drive high-level process maturity should therefore be carefully planned, executed, and resourced.
Level Five - Optimizing: Once a process is quantitatively managed within the organization, the focus shifts away from implementation and toward optimizing the process with a focus on continual service improvement.
If your goal is to overhaul or improve your ITSM processes, the first step is understanding what processes are functioning within your organization and at what level of maturity. Use these simple rules of thumb to quickly assign a maturity level to each process your IT organization is operating and identify the best opportunities for improvement:
ITSM software has the potential to play a central role in the way that an organization delivers IT services to its customers. When making the business case for ITSM software, IT organizations need to understand how it benefits all of the stakeholders within the organizations, the ITSM software capabilities that are most critical to value realization and how to choose the right ITSM vendor for its unique circumstances.
Related: Ivanti ITSM Software
Business - ITSM software allows businesses to modernize and enhance their IT service delivery, leading to benefits such as increased worker and process productivity, reduced costs, minimized unplanned service downtime, adherence to industry regulations (information security, for example), and increased accountability for the quality of IT services.
End Users - End users are the direct customers of the IT organization, whom they rely on each day for the timely fulfillment of service requests and incident resolution. ITSM software typically helps to formalize and automate ticket routing, assignment, and status updates, providing end users with streamlined and clearly defined processes for resolving their issues and requests. ITSM software also often includes features like omnichannel communication through a self-service portal that offers a convenient “one-stop shop” for end users.
Service Desk Staff - ITSM software increases the overall visibility and transparency into IT processes, as well as provides ready access to team knowledge, making it easier for IT service staff to function effectively in their roles. The introduction of a formalized knowledge base, service catalog, and defined processes for resolving incidents, reduces errors and reduces guesswork. As a result, the service desk staff can accomplish more work at lower cost with fewer human resources.
Service desk is a core function of ITSM software, providing a single point of contact between the IT organization and its customers and housing integrated processes on a common platform with a global CMDB.
ITSM software should offer streamlined, out-of-the-box compliance with the most commonly used ITIL processes.
Users or customers of the IT organization can submit requests for goods and services, report issues, and check the status of any open ticket. On the IT side, operators benefit from full ticket handling functionality.
Change management is one of the most challenging ITIL processes to implement successfully. ITSM software should provide configuration and dependency mapping, which ensure that risks are adequately understood and mitigated when implementing IT changes, as well as automate key tasks such as change approval processes.
Configuration management is a crucial but often overlooked aspect of ITSM. Each IT asset should be documented as a configuration item with the organization's CMDB. IT operators can use the CMDB to access information about configuration items, including which CIs are needed to deliver a specified service.
ITAM functionality makes it easy for IT organizations to track and manage their hardware and software IT assets throughout the entire product life cycle, from purchase through retirement.
Related: More IT Jargon Explained
Each time we open a newly released ITIL manual, we're reminded that the world of ITSM is in a constant state of change. While we do our best to manage the present, we're also keeping an eye on some of the most important trends in our industry and working to understand how they will influence ITSM in years to come. Here's what we're watching out for in the future of ITSM.
Technology is developing rapidly, changing the ways that organizations do business and the services they expect from their internal IT departments. In the past, the IT organization was looked at as a necessary cost, but in today's environment, IT is expected to deliver continuous value by enabling digital transformation. In 2019, IT organizations are expected to innovative and drive technological adoption faster than ever before to promote business success, and there's a constant threat of loss of relevance for those that fall behind.
As younger generations enter the workforce, we're seeing a stronger need for self-sufficiency. Younger employees want to be able to resolve their technical problems through self-service catalogs, self-service portals,and knowledge bases. They want to keep the power in their own hands, as many of them have the knowledge to perform their own technical support when given sufficient access to information.
The next generation of users expects convenience in every interaction with technical support, so we're seeing a stronger desire for convenient options like live chat and a genuinely omnichannel model for interacting with users.
On the technical side, new technologies are playing a major role in shaping how IT services will be managed and delivered over the next decade.
IT organizations are increasing their implementation of the self-service portal, establishing robust knowledge bases to further enable self-service and building new capabilities for automated request fulfillment. The introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) into the service desk environment is also driving efficiencies. There are AI service desk bots that can interact with users, understand their requests, perform information searches, and even ask a human operator for help when it's required.
Technologies like automation and AI are helping the most mature IT organizations handle greater volumes of tickets than before, even while reducing their average time to resolution and resolution costs.
Technologies like automation and AI are helping the most mature IT organizations handle greater volumes of tickets than before, even while reducing their average time to resolution and resolution costs.
Forrester Research: The State of Service Management
ITSM software implementations can fail when the IT organization does not adequately prepare for the adoption of new processes and the creation of new roles and responsibilities. IT organizations need to be aware of their capabilities and limitations in ITSM and set clearly defined goals with respect to enhancing them. Co-operation from executives and management at all levels and a clearly delineated implementation are also critical factors in a successful implementation.
To help you avoid the common pitfalls of ITIL implementation, our top seven tips for elevating your ITSM software success follow. These steps reflect our own insight after supporting thousands of successful ITSM implementations.
The first steps toward implementing effective change is to understand and assess your present situation. For IT organizations, this step means mapping out the processes that you are currently managing and assigning each process a maturity value. You may have some processes that are operated extremely informally, and you may even identify processes that you would like to have, but that do not currently exist in your organization. Regardless, this initial evaluation is the key to setting realistic and measurable goals for your ITSM implementation.
Now that you've evaluated the maturity of each IT process that you manage, the next logical step is to determine which processes you would like to improve. ost low-maturity IT organizations first want formalized processes for incident management and request fulfillment so that can help reduce unplanned business downtime and provide better service for customers.
Other IT organizations may have different priorities, such as establishing a knowledge base to reduce ticket resolution times and drive service automation, or building a CMDB to keep track of configuration items. The maturity of your processes and organization and your unique circumstances will help you determine your goals for ITSM software implementation.
It would be impossible to overstate the importance of management buy-in when it comes to ITSM implementations. With new processes being implemented, and new roles and responsibilities being shared among team members, the implementation needs to be supported at every level. ITSM implementations also have a major impact on the customers of the IT organization - users will interact with the IT organization in a new way and will be profoundly affected by the success or failure of the implementation.
ITSM software implementations should be done strategically, with careful consideration of business goals, departmental budgets, resource constraints, and the impacts of organizational culture. Organizations should familiarize themselves with the industry-leading ITSM best practices of ITIL v3 and ITIL v4 and even seek to employ IT professionals who are experienced and certified in managing IT service delivery according to the leading standards.
Ultimately, the most important decisions in implementation are:
Having the right people in the right roles for your ITSM process launch is imperative. When implementing a new process or set of processes, you'll want to review the roles and responsibilities defined and ensure that you have the right people available to fulfill them. Follow this simple process to get the right pieces in place before your implementation:
Once processes have been carefully implemented and the right people are in place to operate them, the next logical step is to introduce automation. Automation has a number of positive effects on service delivery, including:
Automation drives efficiency, but it is important that IT organizations keep sight of their primary goal: to provide exceptional, personalized services to the business. Automation should only be implemented when it does not harm the customer experience.
When choosing the right ITSM software vendor, it's important for IT organizations to look beyond the initial cost and recognize the value of the customer-supplier relationship. The right vendor acts as a knowledgeable ITSM partner, providing you with support, feedback, and advice to help you implement their tool successfully and achieve measurable results that justify your decision to work together.
Still, IT organizations need to acknowledge their current and desired maturity level when justifying the cost of an ITSM tool. A larger gap between your origin and destination means that you'll probably require more help getting to your goal, so look for:
Regardless of your industry vertical, you'll want to choose an ITSM software that incorporates service desk, IT asset management, and IT self-service functionality. Choose a platform that provides a simplified user interface and modern user experience, with rich automation features and data tracking to support continual improvement of services.
Once you have selected an ITSM vendor, the last step to ITSM success is implementing a continual improvement plan that will enable your team to measure the overall performance of each new ITSM process. You’ll want to define the most important KPIs to measure for each process, benchmark your initial performance and make changes over time to improve and optimize your ITSM performance. Use our Definitive Guide to KPIs and Metrics for ITSM for further guidance on how to achieve continual process improvement.
*This content originally appeared on Cherwell.com, prior to the acquisition by Ivanti.