IT Service Management

IT Service Management: The Acronym, Tools, and Best Practices to Know

By Jason Dimaio

Many in leadership positions understand the importance of core business processes. There are those who believe in specific schools of thought or disciplines that drive a business. In a manufacturing or distribution space, for example, you may find heavy proponents of the lean process or methodology. Six Sigma is another discipline aimed at optimizing and maintaining business processes and is well-known to people in the C-suite.

However, information technology service management (ITSM) seems to baffle or be misunderstood by many outside of IT. It can be complex or simple, depending on who helps define it for you, but in its essence, it’s another discipline and philosophy centered around improving business.

ITSM is an umbrella term that can encompass many different types of subdisciplines. The most widely known and adopted is Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or as it’s commonly known, ITIL. However, it’s not the only one businesspeople should know. Frameworks such as BiSL, COBIT, ISO/IEC 20000, MOF, Six Sigma, TOGAF, and USMBOK all fall under the definition of ITSM, and some organizations will even use more than one in conjunction with another.

With all that said, we still must ask, “What is ITSM?” In the executive suite, you will have many who understand the business roles and needs of their colleagues. For example:

  • A CFO can speak intelligently to the COO.

  • The CEO knows how to read the financials from their CFO.

  • A COO can understand the strategies put forth by the CEO.

When the purview of IT comes along, however, it is frequently left to the side as something arcane or frustrating. It’s viewed as a necessary evil by some, a cost center that is rarely appreciated or that rarely produces value.

However, a good CIO or IT director knows that the purpose of information technology is not to have the most powerful servers in the data center, the most robust databases in the cluster, or the sleekest apps deployed to the workforce. Like any other business unit, its mission is to leverage its resources to make the company more profitable and more efficient, and to manage business risk. Implementing ITSM practices and tools is a way to focus on value, growth, and improvements through business processes, as well as develop a mindset for the IT team to focus on the strategies set forth by the business.

What is ITSM?

As the name suggests, the core of ITSM is the delivery of services. Just as the finance department may deliver myriad services to the company, so does IT. Finance may deliver accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, cash flow forecasting, financial reporting, and other services. IT may need to fix network issues; implement printing services; set up new users, from user accounts to all the devices a new employee may need; and manage licensing for software. Having a culture that embraces ITSM in the infrastructure and operations (I&O) segment of the technology unit streamlines its ability to react to issues, while at the same time making routine functions consistent, and making the services it delivers to the company as quick and efficient as possible.

ITSM in Action

When any department assesses critical needs or decides on which risks to manage, one of the first things it does is survey and measure which business tasks have the most financial impact. If an employee is unable to print for an hour, that may not have the same financial impact as if their email service isn’t working and they can’t read, compose, or respond to email.

In another example, compare the impact of a print server that goes down and affects the ability of 100 people to print for an hour, versus problems with an email server that denies access to email for 100 people. The recovery time of both of these services then matters greatly. If you’re able to resolve the issue in a matter of minutes, rather than in hours, the efficacy of your IT processes and solutions matters a great deal in protecting employees, and possibly the company.

Make IT Service Management a Priority

you’ve developed your culture to include strong discipline and adherence to your processes.

  • The structure and flow need to be consistent.

  • The logic needs to be uniform.

  • Your documentation, processes, and their execution by your team members should inspire confidence in any audit or compliance test. This is especially true when your organization is part of an industry that is subject to external audits and compliance, such as healthcare, banking, or financial services.

ITSM Tools

One of the keys for optimum efficiency in any task is automation. The ability to take a repeatable task and automate it not only makes the task quicker, easier, and more effective, but it also means that it requires less manpower to do the task. This has the effect of freeing up good talent to do more important work. For example, at one point in time, if an employee forgot their password, it required an IT professional to manually unlock and update the password. Now, “forgot your password” links on websites, and even self-service password reset controls in internal corporate IT, are omnipresent. 

The tools that an IT department can use to facilitate ITSM practices in its environment are abundant. They can be as simple as the free tool from a small company based out of Austin — Spiceworks — or can be enterprise-grade, high-end tools. As IT research giant Gartner said in an analyst study of higher-end products, “Integrated incident and problem management, along with request fulfillment, reporting and dashboard capabilities, makes up the core functionality of ITSM tools.” The same study notes that fundamentally, all ITSM products will have a focus on service and help desk needs, with ticketing functions to enable users to submit issues and for the IT department to track them.

The separation comes in not only how the IT department leverages the tools, but also in how it tracks the effectiveness of the solutions. It’s not enough to be able to open a ticket when a user’s printer stops working and close it when it’s complete. One has to track how long it took for a response, how long it took for a solution, and more: If it’s a recurring issue, what are the components in play? Does the printer keep going down for multiple people? Perhaps it would be more cost-effective to replace the printer than to keep dealing with having one offline, and the time it takes to fix. Is it only one user who repeatedly has issues with the printer? Perhaps some training is necessary to keep the user more productive, as well as allow the IT responder to work on other, more pressing tasks. Analysis of which technicians are closing tickets faster, or which kind, could lead to additional training, a higher responsibility, reassignment, or other alternatives to best utilize talent.

Good ITSM software isn’t just for ticketing and tracking work. Products like Spiceworks, for instance, take an active inventory of anything connected to a company’s network, scanning in intervals to look for new devices or software installs. It can also be used to track purchasing and deployment. Solutions such as ConnectWise allow for project management and remote control of machines that you manage so you can see what your users see at the same time. It integrates with other solutions, too, such as anti-virus or intrusion prevention systems, so that incidents can automatically generate a ticket for remediation. This helps facilitate not just reaction to potential service outages, but the ability to be proactive and prevent them from occurring in the first place.

IT Service Management Helps Companies Run Efficiently

The goal is to be able to set expectations for service levels and service availability. IT leaders should be able to inform their colleagues with confidence what they can support and deliver, and what expectations their organization should have in responses to incidents. They should be comfortably transparent in their IT processes and services, and be able to develop and grow well-defined roles and responsibilities for their team. All of this will help ensure that IT is enhancing and helping to deliver services that are aligned with the business objectives and the mission of the organization.
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