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What Is ITSM?

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What Is ITSM?

Read Time: 13 minutes Published: May 19, 2021

With business technology evolving rapidly, companies that rely on IT must find ways better to align themselves with the needs of their industries and deliver exceptional service at an affordable cost.

The most common paradigm for companies looking to manage their tech resources is IT Service Management (ITSM). By providing a process-led approach, ITSM allows technical teams to implement a structured approach to IT service management, implement new customer-facing functions, and increase organizational transparency and accountability.

What’s more, ITSM offers tools to support the newest generation of automated business technologies, letting IT organizations accelerate their services, drive digital transformation, and boost customer satisfaction.

What Is ITSM (IT Service Management)?

IT service management (or ITSM) is how IT teams design, plan, and deliver IT services to meet the needs of an organization. ITSM positions technology services as a crucial means of offering and obtaining value, with an external or internal IT provider working with business customers and taking on the responsibility for associated risks or costs. ITSM involves the entire life cycle of a service, starting with the original strategy to design and transition into its live operation.

To ensure that the quality of IT services is sustainable, ITSM sets up processes and practices that constitute a complete IT services management system. It includes national, international, and industrial standards as well as best practices for technology management.

IT Service Management has a set of principles that focus on continual Improvement and value. ITSM is not a simple set of processes — it involves the cultivation of a cultural mindset that ensures a business achieves its desired objectives. Additionally, ITSM incorporates practices and principles from different management approaches, including risk management, system analysis, organizational change management, and lean manufacturing.


A common question that many people new to IT ask is: “What is the difference between ITIL and ITSM?”

ITSM is the professional discipline that governs the effective development, deployment, and management of technology services, while ITIL is the framework used by IT professionals to implement ITSM best practices for their organizations, helping them move toward more effective use of technology and delivery of exceptional value.

Differences between ITIL and ITSM include:

  • ITIL is one of the frameworks which teach IT professionals the standards and best practices for ITSM implementation. At the same time, ITSM involves combining the framework’s principles with other business perspectives to offer quality IT solutions.

  • ITIL has a micro-focus on internal IT processes, and ITSM’s macro focus is on using technology to achieve the aims of the entire business.

  • IT professionals use the ITSM methodologies to manage services that an organization offers to end users, whereas ITIL provides a framework of best practices for ITSM.

  • ITIL gives IT organizations a way to provide services effectively.

When an IT organization follows most ITIL best practices, it is typically known as a service desk solution provider. Although some ITIL requirements might be impractical for an organization, they remain an excellent place to start for any company seeking an ITSM solution.

Common ITSM Processes

ITSM organizes 26 ITIL processes into five stages, with each of them representing one stage of the IT service lifecycle. The stages are Strategy, Design, Transition, Operation, and Continual Service Improvement.

Below are the definitions of each stage:

1. Service Strategy

The key objective of the Service Strategy is to establish a game plan for an IT organization to serve its customers best. To better understand what capabilities it should develop, what tools and technology it requires, and the type of service it should offer, an organization must assess the marketplace and customer needs. The Service Strategy ensures that all IT activities in an organization align with business needs and strategic objectives.

The following processes form the Service Strategy stage:

  • Service Portfolio Management

  • Business Relationship Management

  • IT Services Financial Management

  • Demand Management

2. Service Design

If an IT services organization establishes a strategic need for a specific service, Service Design is the next step. Before committing human capital or resources to the new service, Service Design ensures that the design of all aspects of the service maximizes value to the organization.

ITSM’s Service Design processes offer companies the guidance they need to create a service catalog, coordinate design activities, and put risk management protocols in place. The Service Design process also evaluates all improvements and changes to an organization’s existing services.

Service Design involves the processes below:

  • Service-Level Management

  • Supplier Management

  • Service Catalog Management

  • IT Service Continuity Management

  • Availability Management

  • Capacity Management

  • Security Management

3. Service Transition

The next step of the ITSM service life cycle is the Service Transition, a set of processes to offer IT teams the guidance they require to build and deploy new services. Service Transition outlines two critical services: 1) Service Asset and Configuration Management and 2) Knowledge Management.

Service Asset and Configuration Management deals with the best practices of maintaining configurations and information relating to new services. Knowledge Management handles the gathering, storage, and analysis of data collected by an organization.

The Service Transition stage includes:

  • Knowledge Management

  • Transition Planning and Support

  • Change Evaluation

  • Change Management

  • Service Asset and Configuration Management

  • Release and Deployment Management

  • Service Validation and Testing

4. Service Operation

When an organization chooses a service, designs, builds, and deploys it, the organization can start operating the service and offering it to customers. This stage of the service lifecycle identifies the processes necessary for supporting the service, particularly the vital request fulfillment and incident management processes.

The service operation stage encompasses a large and diverse set of operational processes that show IT organizations how they should moderate customer access to a service, manage the physical location of IT infrastructure, and maintain control over It operations.

Service Operation processes are:

  • Access Management

  • Event Management

  • Incident Management

  • Request Fulfillment

  • Problem Management

5. Continual Service Improvement

Continual Improvement is the final step of the ITSM service life cycle. Continual Service Improvement aims to offer practical guidance and methodologies for organizations to learn from past successes and failures. Through internal performance assessments and reflection, organizations can collect data as they deliver services and identify weak areas that need improvement.

The following ITIL processes form the Continual Improvement process:

  • Monitoring of CSI Initiatives

  • Service Review

  • Definition of CSI Initiatives

  • Service Evaluation

3 Popular ITSM Frameworks

According to a BMC & Forbes Insight survey of more than 260 senior executives from companies of different sizes worldwide, organizations implementing ITSM in their operations use five popular frameworks. They include:


With 47 percent of respondents reporting the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) use, it is the most popular ITSM framework.


COBIT, which 36 percent of the respondents claimed to use, is a technology management framework developed by ISACA. It is primarily for businesses looking to create, organize, and implement their IT governance and management strategies.

2. eTOM

A further 36 percent of organizations, particularly in the telecom industry, use the Business Process Framework (eTom). The framework outlines service providers’ processes, defining key elements and their interactions.

3. MOF

With 34 percent of the survey respondents using the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), another popular ITSM framework offers operational guidance for organizations’ service life cycle.

Although many other frameworks are better known, including Lean and DevOps, the five frameworks above appear to be the most popular.

Benefits of ITSM

With IT functions becoming more embedded into the daily operations of businesses, organizations move to adopt ITSM best practices and ITIL processes to meet the changing needs of their industries.

Here’s a list of some of the benefits of ITSM:

  • Improved efficiency.

  • Lower operational costs.

  • Risk-free implementation of changes in IT.

  • Improved accountability by standardization.

  • Better responsibility in business functions.

  • Improved efficiency.

  • Higher visibility into business operations.

  • Better business performance.

  • Improved service and higher customer satisfaction.

  • Higher ROI on IT investment.

  • More effective planning.

Challenges of ITSM

Although ITSM is vital in helping businesses improve their efficiency, cut costs, and provide better services to their customers, successfully implementing IT Service Management poses significant practical challenges. Some of the challenges of ITSM are:

  • Insufficient knowledge transfer from one technician to another.

  • Confusing auto-generated service alerts.

  • Mix-ups between incident reports and service requests.

  • Unwillingness to change the handling of repetitive tasks.

  • Inadequate information to customers.

  • Unstreamlined internal processes.

  • Late incident resolutions.

5 ITSM Trends to Look For in 2021

ITSM offers a structured, process-oriented, and profitable alternative to more technology-driven IT methodologies. Instead of a reactive, cost-prohibitive model, ITSM enables IT organizations to play a much more proactive role, and align their objectives with key business goals.

Of course, ITSM continues to evolve in terms of focus, usability, functionality, and process. Here are 5 significant ITSM trends that provide a glimpse into the future of the industry — in 2021, and beyond.

1. Increased Emphasis on a Remote Workforce

It’s no secret that more employees are working from home than ever before (a trend greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, one study found that up to 1 in 4 American workers (roughly 39 million people) may be working remotely throughout 2021.

Even though the pandemic was the driving force for the digital transformation of many organizations, the paradigm shift to remote work will likely continue for the next several years. If companies hope to stay ahead of the curve, they must invest in an automated ITSM infrastructure to support their remote employees. Automation is essential for an organization’s ITSM to have an adequate level of service management resilience in terms of supporting a largely (or fully) remote workforce.

The bottom line? Automation enables remote employees to focus on their core competencies, instead of navigating the myriad issues that could arise from a “work-from-home” model. Expect to see more businesses give their attention to this important ITSM trend.

2. Streamlined Digital Workflows

Closely associated with the increased emphasis on a remote workforce is a need for logical, optimized digital workflows. The development and refinement of these workflows may seem counterintuitive, especially for companies that still cling to a more traditional IT mindset (e.g., “the ticket must be processed this way, no exceptions”). However, an increasing number of organizations are finding that optimized digital workflows result in improved employee productivity — and employee productivity is, of course, critical to business success.

While this trend may be considered, in the strictest sense, a business trend, it has major implications for the future of ITSM. Not only will streamlined digital workflows improve your IT team’s quality of service; your IT department can actually take the lead in facilitating the delivery of workflows for other departments, using the proper ITSM tools at their disposal.

3. Recommitment to Exceptional Customer Experience

As companies pivot to a remote workforce and optimized digital workflows, the demand for ITSM continues to surge. B2B and B2C customers alike continue to deluge organizational service desks with a wide range of queries, from basic, frequently asked questions to extremely technical issues.

Of course, one key factor remains a litmus test for customer satisfaction in all such cases: how long the customer has to wait to get a live agent. It goes without saying that nobody likes to be put on hold; in fact, one study found that 35% of callers will abandon the line after 1 minute of waiting, and almost 70% will hang up after 3 minutes.

Organizations that are invested in ITSM want to provide the best possible customer experience — which in this case means the shortest possible wait times. In this regard, many companies have taken the initiative to create a customized knowledge base to fit the needs of their consumers. (This is a good move, since 91% of customers would happily use a knowledge base that met their needs.)

With a database of your optimized workflows in place, you are in position to craft a comprehensive, UI/UX-driven self-service portal for your customers. This will cut down on your incoming caller volume, and result in a better overall experience for your users.

4. A Variety of Touch Points

Only a decade ago, there were few options for connecting with an organization’s service desk. In many cases, phone and email were the only modes of communication available.

Now, of course, there are a wide variety of “touch points” open to the customer: social media platforms, virtual assistants, apps, chatbots, and so on. Modern consumers expect companies to offer a range of convenient communication methods to get in touch with their help desk. To meet that demand, companies are continuing to create different access points for their customers to use, according to their preferences. They are also supporting those access points with the infrastructure and employee training needed to deliver a seamless experience.

Social IT” is one example of this trend. Many IT consumers are now engaging with service desks via Facebook and other social media platforms, instead of more traditional methods like email. In response, more and more organizations are integrating their social media accounts with their help desk tools so that technicians can easily receive tickets, communicate with customers, and resolve issues.

5. Focus on Employee Experience

In order to provide high-quality ITSM for customers, many organizations are looking inward by exploring how best to enhance their employees’ experience. These companies want to streamline inter-departmental collaboration, eliminate any vestiges of the “silo mentality,” and ultimately empower their IT agents to deliver faster, better service to end users.

These and other factors are causing organizations to adopt an enterprise service management (ESM) model for their business. Some manifestations of the ESM approach include shared self-service portals across different departments, the introduction of features such as Kanban work management systems, and enhanced incident management “swarming” capabilities.

With such internal alignment, IT employees will find increased satisfaction from their work, and will be better equipped to provide world-class customer support (especially when dealing with complex issues that require collaboration across multiple departments).

ITSM Solutions

ITSM solutions help IT teams that are either in-house or managed service providers with helping them support the continuous delivery of IT services. The market for ITSM tools (usually software) contains a variety different options available. They typically allow users to do things like deployment management, incident management, bug tracking, ticketing, change management, and knowledge management

The Electric Platform can be used to help IT teams carry out ITSM processes. For example, inside the Electric Platform, you’ll have a full inventory of all of your company devices including the model, serial number, and OS version of each. As well, we’ll provide you visibility into device health details such as battery capacity, application usage, processor speed, RAM, and policy compliance.

As the world continues to navigate the complexities of remote and hybrid workforces, Electric is here to support your organization with world-class support. Electric can keep your business moving with Electric’s chat-based, lightning-fast IT support. Send us your requests and we’ll handle the rest, so you can get back to work.

Justin Sheil

Justin Sheil has 5+ years experience writing about a wide range of technology topics.

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