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Breaking down IT service management and related concepts
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ITSM (or IT Service Management) refers to all the activities involved in designing, creating, delivering, supporting and managing the lifecycle of IT services.
Well, of course it does, but what are IT services? Think of any piece of technology you use at your workplace – your laptop, the apps installed on it, the printer that your entire team uses, or the option to reset your password even after the first 15 times. They’re all services provided by your IT team. In other words – IT services.
Although the most common perception of ITSM among IT users (employees) is just “IT support”, ITSM goes way beyond resolving day-to-day issues. Your IT team is responsible for end-to-end management of these services. They might use an ITSM software like Freshservice to effectively manage these services.
With that basic introduction out of the way, check out this video where Stephen Mann sums up ITSM and its relationship with the business.
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ITSM is important for a variety of reasons. Implementing ITSM can help regularize processes through structured delivery and documentation. ITSM implementation also helps in saving costs by building a predictable IT org. Implementing ITSM for business benefits by bringing actionable IT insights to the business that help in decision making.
Benefits of implementing ITSM processes range from IT-specific to Business-level benefits. These are illustrated below:
If your business has more than a handful of employees, and if even one of you is the designated “IT guy”, you’re already doing ITSM in a small way. But as your business grows, you might need to bring in more mature processes to get the most benefits out of your ITSM investment.
Here are the most common benefits of ITSM. Watch the video for a detailed walkthrough:
Reduce IT costs
Improve the quality of service
Improve customer satisfaction
Improve governance and reduce risk
Increase competitive advantage
Increase agility for new IT services
Let’s talk about a key benefit we discussed above – cutting costs. IT service management can help do this by:
Increasing IT efficiency
Increasing business efficiency
Reducing IT wastage
Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these.
Offer technology-enabled process workflow and eliminate manual process, thereby improving collaboration between all teams.
Reduce admin workload, waiting times, and even eliminate internal firefighting to make time for more strategic work.
Prioritize and customize the resolution time based on the business impact caused by IT issues.
Effective problem management and knowledge management help reduce recurring issues, resolution times, and impact on end users and the business as a whole.
Automate the report-generating process and reduce reporting costs.
With the help of incident, problem, and availability management.
Prevent serious, business-affecting issues through problem management and capacity management.
The adverse effect of severe issues can be mitigated through major incident management and IT service continuity.
Save time, efforts and unnecessary costs by reducing wastage and avoiding duplication of work.
Ensure that any new IT spend is essential through asset, configuration, and capacity management.
Effective asset management can help avoid duplicity of applications, hardware, hosting, and their support.
PCs, other devices, and installed personal productivity software need to be effectively tracked to prevent underutilization.
Avoid the costs of “reworking” mistakes that is ultimately the duplication, or even triplication, of effort.
The way to choose the right ITSM processes is to look at what your business needs, specifically. For instance, if you have a small IT support team that’s constantly firefighting similar issues, it makes more sense to find the root cause and resolve it once and for all. A simple example of it would be a storage space issue – you can keep deleting files and applications every time the hard drive maxes out. But simply installing a bigger hard drive is a better longer-term solution.
In ITSM terms, it translates to going from mere Incident Management to Problem Management. In the example above, the computer running out of storage space is the incident and the hard drive capacity being inadequate is the underlying problem. Of course, IT support teams in larger organizations typically handle incidents that are much more complex and send problems over to dedicated problem management teams.
ITSM processes require not just an ITSM tool to implement but a cultural change. The customers (end users) need to see IT as a service provider and not just as another department in their organization.
ITSM processes should be implemented keeping the following in mind:
The maturity of the team - Is your team mature enough to require the adoption of ITSM processes? An organization with a total of 25 people would not benefit from adopting ITSM processes as much as an organization with 150 people that is expanding rapidly.
Problem statement - What is the issue that you’re trying to solve? Are you trying to cut down on the IT budget? This can probably be achieved by bringing systematic processes and predictability into the IT organization.
Framework to be adopted - What is the framework you are looking to adopt? This largely depends on the problem statement. While every framework helps you achieve structure and predictability in varying capacity, the processes they employ are different.
Check out our deep-dive into ITSM Frameworks.
ITSM processes are grouped in various main categories under ITIL, although the same processes can be found under different names in other frameworks as well. The categories are, broadly:
Incident management: Incident management is the practice governing the restoration or rectification of any interruptions in service, due to outages or performance issues.
Problem management: Often times, an IT organization may face a problem with multiple incidents reporting similar issues. This comes under problem management, as problem management focusses on conducting a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and puts an end to the recurring problem.
Asset management: Every organization needs hardware or software assets to function. The tracking, updating and mapping of assets is achieved through asset management. Configuration management can be practiced with asset management or as a separate process.
Change management: Any change in service(s) offered, that takes place in an organization is managed through change management. Release management is often grouped under change management.
Project management: IT undertakes a lot of projects in an organization. Project management helps plan, track and delegate tasks through a project’s lifecycle
Knowledge management: Knowledge management reaches across domains in ITSM. Knowledge management helps avoid duplication of work by tracking, documenting and updating solutions in a knowledge base.
There are best practices governing the different processes of each category. You can find these best practices in our Ultimate Guide to ITSM Best Practices
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure”. While it’s great to be able to measure everything, you need to measure the right ITSM metrics in order to manage your IT support org. Measuring the wrong ITSM metrics will lead to bad management of your IT org as well as unnecessary spending of your resources. Some of the top ITSM metrics to measure are:
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
Cost per ticket
Mean time to resolution
An ITSM tool is a software used to deliver IT Services. It can be a standalone software or a suite of applications, consisting of multiple apps to perform various functions. An ITSM tool can perform multiple functions, like, incident management, handling service requests, problem management, and change management, to name a few. An ITSM tool will often consist of a CMDB as well.
Under ITIL, a service desk is a primary function in ITSM. A service desk, as an ITSM tool, acts as the Single Point Of Contact (SPOC) between the customers (whether internal or external) and the service provider. A service desk is responsible for constant monitoring of services and providing support in case of downtime. A service desk typically handles incidents, service requests, 3rd party contracts, and software licensing among other things.
Selecting an ITSM tool is not just an IT decision, it affects the entire organization. Since there are multiple stakeholders in the selection of an ITSM tool, it is important that the right ITSM tool is chosen for your organization.
When selecting a new ITSM tool, keep your existing ITSM processes in mind to decide what features and capabilities you’d need. This will help you select an ITSM tool based on its actual value to your organization rather than its price alone.
Before selecting an ITSM tool, ask yourself these questions:
What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? Go back to the basics. Look at what’s missing from your existing ITSM processes. What can you do to improve the delivery of your IT services? Where would an ITSM tool fit into this?
What are your organization’s ITSM requirements? Are you trying to manage assets? Are you looking to implement a self-service portal? Are you looking to streamline service requests? Answering these questions will help you refine your list of requirements and narrow your search.
What do you expect from your ITSM tool? Expectations of your ITSM tool would largely depend on your organization’s current processes. If you’re using multiple 3rd party applications, you would expect your ITSM tool to integrate with all of them. If you have many workflows, you’d expect workflow automations.
After you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have narrowed your search enough to select an ITSM tool. You can read more about selecting an ITSM tool on our blog.
Understanding the difference between ITSM and ITIL is important. ITIL is the most commonly used ITSM framework, but it’s just one of the ways of doing ITSM.
As Stephen puts it – "The easiest way to describe the difference is to think of goldfish and fish per se: a goldfish is a fish but not all fish are goldfish. So ITIL is ITSM but not all ITSM is ITIL."
Thus a company might be using ITSM but not using ITIL. They might be using no recognized ITSM framework or standard; or they might be using:
COBIT – a framework for the governance and management of enterprise IT
ISO 20000 – the international standard for service management
MOF – Microsoft Operations Framework is a series of guides for creating, implementing, and managing efficient and cost-effective IT services
USMBOK – the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge is a “companion piece” that supplements existing ITSM resources such as ITIL on both strategic and operational levels
Of course they could be using multiple frameworks or standards such as COBIT plus ITIL.
ITIL – the most popular ITSM best practice framework – is split across 5 core books. Each of these books relates to a different part of what ITIL calls the “service lifecycle”:
Service strategy – as the name suggests, it’s the planning and getting ready that the service provider must do to deliver services that meet business needs.
Service design – It’s the design of everything required to deliver a service, from the service through to management.
Service transition – This covers introducing, changing, and retiring services.
Service operation – It’s where the service desk, and its activities, sits.
Continual service improvement – which is all about improvement, whether that be keeping up with changing business needs or optimizing operational activities.
The process of managing IT issues (or incident management in ITIL terms) is just one of the processes in one of these stages – Service Operation.
Some of the other common ITIL processes are:
Release and Deployment Management
Asset and Configuration Management
While there is no “ITSM certification”, there are certifications for popular ITSM frameworks like ITIL or COBIT. With ITIL being the most popular ITSM framework, an ITIL certification is considered widely accepted as an ITSM certification. An ITIL certification has various certification levels. ITIL v3 has 5 certification levels, which are:
ITIL 4 has four certification levels, namely:
You can find an ITIL certification center near you on the Axelos website.
The future of ITSM, as with most technologies, lies with AI. Gartner reports that IT organizations spend 66 percent of their resources on day-to-day operations, in “keeping the lights on” activities. AI in ITSM would bring about automation of mundane work with changes like auto ticket resolution, workload optimization, predictive maintenance, to name a few. The future of ITSM will be heavily influenced by AI with effects reaching across departments, from the management to the agents to the customers.
AI in ITSM can help deflect L1 tickets, assist agents, provide 24x7 support, among other things. Implementation of AI in ITSM can take place in many forms like,
AI-powered knowledge management: would provide a solution from the knowledge base if present, or search the web to suggest relevant solutions. It would create new articles based on the agent’s response and provide smart suggestions to the agent while providing resolution.
Sentimental Analysis: would predict the end user’s emotion at the time of submitting a ticket, which would, in turn, help the agent respond accordingly and improve the CSAT score.
Predictive Maintenance: AI-powered service desk would continually monitor infrastructure and raise a ticket if anything goes down and inform relevant users.
Intelligent Asset Provisioning: AI-powered service desk would monitor an asset’s performance and would raise a ticket for replacement of asset if its performance deteriorates.
If you've read this far, you'd be interested in these:
The No-nonsense Guide to ITSM
Preparing for an AI revolution in ITSM
A-to-Z of new ITSM Tool Implementation
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