Welcome back to another edition of “What Is ___”, our bi-monthly(-ish) series where we cover some fundamental or important topic in the world of IT and explain it in terms that normal people can understand.

Today we’re looking at IT service management – more commonly known as ITSM. From a distance, it seems vague and complex, but when you break it down, ITSM itself is, like many things in IT, more complicated than it appears.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at ITSM: what it is, what role it plays in IT organizations and in business in general, how it benefits organizational goals, and how the future of ITSM is shaping up.

So, What Is ITSM?

IT Service Management, also known as ITSM, is…actually exactly what it sounds like. It’s simply the management of IT services. That’s it.

Sounds simple, right? Too simple, maybe? Yeah. That’s where many people get caught up – IT is simple, but it is simultaneously extremely complicated and requires constant care and attention to make it work properly for your organization.

So what actually is ITSM? ITSM is a blanket term, but at its core, ITSM is a framework for moderating an organization’s IT. It’s an overarching set of analysis and implementation of IT across teams, and it’s all based on the idea that IT is a service provided to the organization.

That is: under an ITSM framework, the IT department of your organization is essentially its own functioning business within your business. An ITSM framework changes the perspective of your IT department so they’re run like a business – fulfilling any needs of the client (you and your organization) through regimented, trusted, proven processes.

What Does ITSM Really Mean?

How does this take shape? Well, you have a regimented process for handling any and all IT-related operations, from upgrading software to investing in a data center to house several thousand square feet of servers.

Let’s take the most simple example – you’re upgrading your laptop. Without an ITSM framework, you might just search around on the internet, look for a brand, read reviews, and so on, then send something to your boss, who might then not follow up on it for a month or two, if at all, then you have to send him a follow-up, yada, yada, you get it. It’s messy, it’s disorganized, it slows everyone down.

Under an ITSM framework, however, you’d already have the needs, limitations, strengths, and requirements of your business outlined. You’d already have the entire process of upgrading IT equipment like a new laptop ready to go. That’s the big upside of good ITSM – everything is quicker, easier, and more efficient than just winging it!

You’d be engaging with the IT department through this process. For example, you may place a ticket in the IT queue for you to get your laptop upgraded, which they then address according to the predefined processes and guidelines laid out ahead of time. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness of your IT department, while also setting expectations for the end customer (you, the person who needs a laptop update!)

ITSM goes far beyond simple applications like upgrading hardware and updating your software. It encapsulates the entirety of your IT systems which, in 2023, is the entirety of your organization – no matter what industry or world you live in.

The bottom line with ITSM is this: that old paradigm of IT being a group of nerds in some overheated server room is gone and is being replaced with streamlined measures like ITSM in order to reduce costs and maximize IT resources. The reality is that success in business demands excellence in IT in the digital age.

Most companies around the world have realized this – we rely on technology to do everything in our lives. This simple reality has pushed businesses from a less organized approach to a methodical, cohesive suite of standardized services that businesses leverage to achieve their goals and objectives. ITSM is the most common pathway to achieving this transition into 2023.

Common ITSM Frameworks

ITSM is just one specific framework for how your IT organization handles the end-to-end delivery of IT services. Under the umbrella of ITSM fall many different formats and frameworks that fall under the umbrella of ITSM – some of the most common are ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), COBIT2000, and DevOps.

Learn more about ITIL in our deep dive on that topic!

Here are some of the most famous – and widely used – ITSM frameworks. Note that these are simply standardized frameworks created by organizations. There’s no reason you couldn’t create your own – provided you have the knowledge!

  • ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library): ITIL is one of the most widely accepted approaches to ITSM. It is a set of detailed practices for IT service management that focus on aligning IT services with the needs of the business. In fact, ITIL is so detailed and regimented, that many refer to it as the “rules” of ITSM. In reality, it’s more than that – but still…funny joke.
  • DevOps: DevOps is all about increasing collaboration between previously siloed teams. DevOps is probably the “hippest” or most “cutting edge” of all of these ITSM disciplines: it seeks to radically change IT departments by making them extremely agile – which usually means stripping away stuff that’s not needed and constantly making little improvements.
  • COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology): COBIT is focused on IT governance – how all the disparate users of your IT systems collaborate and come together in a unified, tightly controlled system. While not as totally comprehensive as the above two frameworks, COBIT (currently COBIT 2019) is a supporting toolset that allows managers to bridge the gap between control requirements, technical issues, and business risks. COBIT is a bit more straight-laced and formal than DevOps, and it’s widely recognized and used by users like auditors or other professions that require a high-level view of a bunch of disparate parts.
  • MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework): MOF is a series of 23 documents created by Microsoft, and while it maintains its branding, it’s intended to be technology agnostic – to be used on any platform. You may not see MOF very frequently, definitely not as frequently as the previous three heavy-hitters, but MOF can still be a useful framework for organizations who are obsessive about Microsoft – like government institutions.
  • eTOM (Enhanced Telecom Operations Map): eTOM is a business process framework for – you guessed it – telecommunication service providers. It describes the full scope of business processes required by a service provider and defines key elements and how they interact. eTOM was developed by the TM Forum, an association for service providers and their suppliers in the telecommunications industry, so obviously, it’s oriented toward the heavy IT demands of the telecom world.
  • FitSM: A newish addition to the ITSM world, FitSM describes itself as focused on “lightweight service management.” Its goal is to provide a baseline for organizations wanting to implement ITSM, particularly smaller organizations. This is good for small enterprises looking to benefit from ITSM, without the giant resources of larger companies.

The Far-reaching Impact of ITSM: Beyond Tech Management

How does ITSM impact businesses? As we’ve covered, the main way that ITSM improves businesses is through improved efficiency. ITSM can net big cost savings while simultaneously eliminating process bottlenecks and generally making everything in your IT network smoother.

Here are the three biggest ways that ITSM can improve operations across all elements of your business.

  • Resource Optimization: ITSM is all about maximizing IT resources through rigorous analysis and continued improvement of processes. According to a Gartner report, companies that effectively implement ITSM can reduce their IT costs by up to 30%!
  • Risk Management: By providing a transparent overview of IT services and their intricate relationships, ITSM facilitates superior risk identification and mitigation. This risk management feature was highlighted in a 2020 Forrester report, where 40% of surveyed organizations reported improved risk management after implementing ITSM practices​.
  • Customer Satisfaction: By consistently delivering reliable and efficient IT services, businesses can substantially improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. A 2021 ServiceNow survey found that organizations with effective ITSM practices saw a 20% increase in customer satisfaction scores​.

5 Trends Changing ITSM

Like everything else in IT, ITSM is changing rapidly. Here’s the 5 biggest things we’re seeing that are shaping the needs and wants of next year’s IT users.

1. Rising focus on consumer experience
The focus of IT has now shifted towards providing a better consumer experience. This includes enabling a multichannel communication process and introducing chatbots to improve the customer service experience.

The idea is to make things easier for everyone involved in the IT experience. Providing a better experience to the end user alleviates frustration for both end users and IT technicians – allowing them to work together on solving the problem, rather than the somewhat adversarial relationship IT and “normies” used to have.

2. Automation and AI
Automation is another key trend in ITSM, as it is everywhere else in every industry on the planet.

Automation, like ITSM, is geared towards increasing efficiency and reducing unnecessary inputs and energy. You see this in recent trends like automated helpdesks and chatbots, but it will only continue to extend to every element of IT. If you can automate it, you will probably see it automated.

3. BYOD workplaces
Do you bring your laptop to work with you? Or maybe you work in a co-working space? Then you’re BYOD (bringing your own device).

This is a massive trend across industries and professional strata. While BYOD offers flexibility and convenience to employees, it also brings along certain challenges for IT support, like managing assets, securing data, and extending IT support to a wider range of devices.

Without a proper strategy to handle this culture, it’s easy to drown in an increasingly complex (and expensive) web of devices and software and licenses and whatnot – so ITSM is needed more in the climate of remote or hybrid work than ever.

BYOD adds to the complexity of an IT environment, making impact analysis during a problem more challenging due to low visibility on employees’ personal devices. This is why a proven, practical set of guidelines and processes to handle the diverse and immense strain of the increasing commonality of BYOSD work culture is necessary for organizations.

4. ITSM and social media
We’re seeing an increase in users submitting incidents or requests through social media DMs or Discord chats rather than conventional methods like email or company portals.

This doesn’t have to be a problem, though – in fact, it can help IT technicians to better serve the end customer. Getting your IT team to engage with your company in the easiest, most seamless way is the key here – if your organization likes to handle everything over WhatsApp, then go for it!

Native apps on messaging apps like Slack or Discord or Telegram help ease this process. You can install helpdesks or manage service tickets, all natively in the apps that your users already prefer, which helps make the whole thing waaaay easier.

5. Enterprise Service Management (ESM)
Enterprise service management (ESM) is expected to be the natural successor of ITSM. ESM applies the principles, processes, and best practices of IT service delivery to every functional area within a business, thereby integrating different departments and facilitating a quicker flow of operations across them.

Though many vendors have already started talking about ESM capabilities in their tools, a complete ESM solution is still a vision that the industry is moving toward, and it’s not quite there yet. Since it is an extremely complex calculus that only grows more complicated by the year, it’s difficult to put together a robust, 360° ESM solution at this point in time.

Wrapping Up

So by now, you know what ITSM is, what it can do for you, and where it can benefit you in the future – so you might be thinking, what now?

Well, the first step, if you’re not an IT expert, is to get in contact with someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to IT. Especially when it comes to massive projects like overhauling your entire IT department or even expanding your IT footprint, it’s critical that you get an expert to collaborate with you, to lend you their arcane knowledge so your company can succeed – now and in the future.

Contact us today if you need help planning or changing your IT in any way. We’ve got the necessary years of hard-earned experience in the IT trenches to help you find a solution to your needs.