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Krista Lyons | August 11, 2020

The Complete Guide to IT Service Management

In the age of the Digital Revolution, technology is an essential facet in nearly every business. As enterprises have been forced to pivot into remote work environments and quickly implement major structural changes to IT infrastructure, IT service desk employees have answered the call to action. The importance of a reliable IT team and the right software to manage a variety of digital needs cannot be understated.  


Despite mounting pressure on the service desk, the experience of contacting IT support with issues can be complicated and disorganization can lead to tickets left open and forgotten. This is where Information Technology Service Management, or ITSM, comes in. ITSM can help streamline the IT service desk (and the enterprise as a whole) and provide a consistent experience for users. 


In this post, you will learn: 

  1. What is ITSM? 
  2. The Importance of ITSM 
  3. What are ITSM Software Product Processes? 
  4. ITSM vs. ITIL 
  5. IT Service Management Framework and Processes 
  6. Understanding the ITIL Service Lifecycle 
  7. Roles and Responsibilities of IT Service Management 
  8. Top 5 Benefits of Using IT Service Management Software 
  9. Implementing IT Service Management Software 
  10. Best Practices for Managing ITSM 
  11. The Future of ITSM 


What is ITSM? 


ITSM is defined by Axelos as “The implementation and management of quality IT services that meet the needs of the business. IT service management is performed by IT service providers through an appropriate mix of people, process and information technology.” 


In other words, ITSM refers to the entirety of activities directed by policies, organized and structured in processes and supporting procedures, that are performed by an organization to design, plan, deliver, operate and control information technology services offered to customers. 

ITSM is often a catch-all term for the processes of the IT team. But your company has always had ITSM from the moment you turned on your first company computer (even if it was not formally defined as ITSM). This is because there have always been processes in place to answer what happens if something breaks, what happens when the phone rings, or what happens when a colleague needs advice. All of this may not seem IT related, but at the core, it is.   

ITSM ensures the appropriate mix of people, processes, and technology needed to meet a company’s goals. It organizes the activities of the IT organization to prioritize service delivery and ultimately drives down IT expenses. This is all made possible through IT service management software.   


The Importance of ITSM


In an increasingly digital world, ITSM is important because many organizations are completely dependent on technology to perform all business functions, and business and technology must work seamlessly.  


Technology is an important investment, and ITSM should help shape your organization’s digital transformation trajectory. ITSM software can help organize and manage the entire ITSM process, and helps companies meet their goals by managing IT needs, tracking tickets, and providing access to self-help for the end-user.  


ITSM software can also incorporate self-help technology and AI technology, including chatbots. Additionally, it can optimize several levels of business -- not just IT. The goal of ITSM is to streamline organization. 


What are ITSM Software Processes? 


IT service management software processes (or, in reference to non-IT related use, product modules) are the building blocks of ITSM software. These processes may include:  


  • Incident Management 
  • Change Management 
  • Problem Management 


The list above is not all inclusive, but altogether these processes combine to form the IT service management software and its functionality. 


Although many ITSM software vendors offer these processes, it is important to note that there may be varying levels of difficulty to configure, implement, and maintain these processes. For example, configuration may range from the simplicity of building blocks to requiring a skilled developer, depending on the product. An important part of the ITSM tool selection process is to consider these modules, or processes, as part of the greater initiative.  




IT service management should not be comprised of a random assortment of rules, practices, and tools. Rather, ITSM requires a set of uniform rules and common practices to function seamlessly.  


You may be wondering “Where do these rules come from and how do they work with ITSM?” 


This is where ITIL comes in.   


ITIL is defined as “A set of best-practice publications for IT service management. ITIL gives guidance on the provision of quality IT services and the processes, functions and other capabilities needed to support them. 


Think of ITIL as a language used by ITSM. ITIL and ITSM are two separate entities which work together. ITIL is a cohesive set of best practices and an accepted approach to ITSM. ITIL also describes processes, procedures, tasks, and checklists which are not specific to any singular organization or technology.  


IT Service Management Framework and Processes 


Approaches to ITSM are all led by processes. These processes are made of a framework of best practices – ITIL is an example of this and is the most popular ITSM framework. The focus of the framework is on services rather than systems, which differs from other IT disciplines that are more focused on technology.  


Although ITIL framework is the most widely used for ITSM, there are others that may be used by ITSM software companies. These frameworks include Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT), and Business Process Framework (eTOM). Frameworks may also have different subsidiaries outside of the general IT department, like DevOps, for example.  


Understanding the ITIL Service Lifecycle 


Many ITSM tools still currently use ITIL v3, which is built around the concept of 5 stages of the service lifecycle. These stages work together to enable more seamless delivery and communication between business services and IT.  


The technical definition for the ITIL service lifecycle is: “An approach to IT service management that emphasizes the importance of coordination and control across the various functions, processes and systems necessary to manage the full lifecycle of IT services. The service lifecycle approach considers the strategy, design, transition, operation and continual improvement of IT services. 


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In ITIL 4, which was released in February of 2019, the ITIL v3/2011 service lifecycle is not officially included. Instead, ITIL 4 includes the service value system and service value chain. These underpin ITIL 4’s focus on value co-creation. 


For many, the service lifecycle makes it easier to understand the spectrum of ITIL guidance. With that in mind, IT departments can either choose to stick with ITIL v3 for the service lifecycle or can choose some hybrid of ITIL v3 and ITIL 4 if the service cycle is a sticking point for your specific organization 


Roles and Responsibilities of IT Service Management 


It is important for ITSM administrators to define the scope of ITSM projects and to answer the following questions: who uses ITSM, and can ITSM be used by the entire enterprise?  


The answers to those questions should be that everyone can use ITSM, and the entire enterprise can utilize ITSM for services outside of the IT service desk. Regardless, defining these answers will help inform the roles inside of IT service management.  


The roles of ITSM are defined within ITIL. There are generic roles, such a service owner, and more specific roles, like service desk analyst (which are required within a particular lifecycle stage). A few important ITSM roles (according to AXELOS) include: 


  • Service Owner or Service Manager: the person responsible for establishing responsibilities for the lifecycle of specific services. 


  • Process Owner or Process Manager: the person who helps identify responsibilities in ITSM processes management and execution. 


  • Process Practitioner (for example, a Configuration Manager), Capacity Manager, or Service Desk Specialist: the person who has specific responsibilities within certain processes or functions.  


Typically, when used for IT service desk needs, these roles are filled by those working within the service desk. If these roles are being used enterprise-wide, they can be people outside of the service desk. For example, an HR representative can be a Capacity Manager in relation to enterprise service management. The main goal is to ensure that roles are clearly defined both of the ITSM software and the scope of projects.  


Top 5 Benefits of IT Service Management Software 


If you are wondering “What’s in it for my team?”  when it comes to ITSM software, there are several major benefits to consider. A few of these include  

Benefit 1: Streamlined Organization  

When tickets are routed to the service desk, it is important that they go to the right person on the first contact, which is a major benefit of ITSM software. Additionally, service desk agents can benefit from automated workflows to ensure that once a ticket comes in, it is handled properly each time. This will not only reduce the amount of time it takes to resolve each ticket from start to finish but will also ensure better overall efficiency. 


Benefit 2: Reduce Costs by as much as 50% 


The average cost-per-ticket for support teams ranges from $2.93 to $49.69, with the average ticket costing around $15.56 and the average cost per minute for handling a ticket around $1.60, according to a 2017 study from  HDI. When the number of calls for Level 0-1 tickets is dramatically reduced through the use of an ITSM self-service portal, there is a much higher return on investment associated with those costs. In fact, costs can be reduced by as much as 50% with the right IT service management software.  


Benefit 3: Increase Productivity by 30%


An ITSM automation tool enhances the ability to eliminate lower level tasks and implement a shift-left strategy. This strategy moves level-1 tickets to self-help and  eliminates some lower level requests  altogether. Overall, this results in a shortened  amount of time spent on repetitive tasks and enables employees working the service desk to focus on more complex issues and more demanding requests.  


Benefit 4: Modernize User Experience 


In a recent survey of IT professionals, 82% of respondents believe that working in IT will become more difficult in the future – and that was pre-pandemic. But, with IT service management software, user experience is modernized for both the service desk employee and the customer.  


Employees expect the same flexibility with problem-solving at work as they do at home. IT self- service technology paired with a knowledge management database allows employees to find answers quickly, making them more efficient, which  studies show  actually increases employee satisfaction. Providing an efficient ITSM portal that enhances employee experience is also key for internal branding, employee churn, talent acquisition, and so much more. 


Benefit 5: Automate Complex Processes 


IT service management software can automate extremely complicated processes, be it through automated workflows that take the guesswork away from employees, or by enabling a shift-left initiative through self-help. ITSM software reduces the instances of human error, with fewer data entry points leading to fewer opportunities for broken data. Additionally, visualization of complete flows can help ensure that important steps are not missed. ITSM software also ensures that there is accountability in each step of each process.   


Implementing IT Service Management Software 


When selecting an ITSM tool, implementation time and cost are important factors to consider. Implementing ITSM often is part of an overall effort to streamline processes you may already have in place, or it may be part of a larger change in strategy to introduce new processes. Either way, implementation of ITSM should be people-centered and roll-out should be clearly communicated and marketed to all users.   


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ITSM may take several months to implement, however most of the time an IT service management platform (like EasyVista’s) can be implemented in about six weeks. Any knowledge management, self-help, or AI components will also be implemented during that time.

The implementation process will vary based on the services and scope needed. Implementation and administration may require skilled developers, depending on the software vendor. For example, some software vendors may require anywhere from three to five full-time-employees to implement and manage the software. Implementation and management for other vendors may require fewer than one full-time-employee. The key is in codeless “drag and drop” features that are ready out-of-the-box, which will lead to easier overall implementation and use.  


Best Practice Processes for Managing ITSM 


Although ITIL provides an overall set of best practices for managing IT service management, there are a few things to keep in mind to set yourself up for success.  


The first best practice is to plan before purchasing any ITSM tool. ITSM tool selection doesn’t have to be complicated when understanding what to look for. The main factors to consider are the total cost of ownership (TCO) of any ITSM solution (which includes the cost of implementation and administration), maturity and scalability of the product, and ease of use. 


Another best practice for managing ITSM is to automate whenever possible, thus freeing up the human agents for more complicated tasks. Further, when managing an ITSM solution it is important to monitor progress and feedback often.


Next, you will need to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for the IT service management software and any self-service additions. To help understand your level of ITSM success and to identify improvement opportunities, please consider some or all of the following six metrics (and their variants) as a means of better understanding performance: 


  1. Level Zero Solvable (LZS) – this is a measure that can be used to assess knowledge article strength (and suitability) prior to launching a self-service/self-help/self-care capability. But it also has an ongoing use as a success measure for self-service. Quite simply, it measures the level of tickets hitting the IT service desk that could have been solved using existing knowledge articles. You can read more about how to use LZS here
  2. Self-service usage – this needs to consider various dimensions. Firstly, there’s the absolute volume and then the percentage share of overall volumes. Secondly, there are different usage types to consider—knowledge access, support ticket creation, service requests, automated resolution/provisioning use, etc. Then all this can be both transaction-based and people-based (to understand if a relatively small number of employees are using self-service a lot versus a broader range of employees). 
  3. Software success and failure levels – this can be both system-measured and ascertained via end-user feedback. For instance, the volume or percentage of knowledge searches that resulted in a ticket being raised. Or a simple feedback mechanism—it helped, or it didn’t. 
  4. Costs – there’s the month-to-month cost per transaction trend (it will differ based on volumes) and also in comparison with other support channel costs. Plus, the total support savings realized. This could also be extended to understand the business-level view of costs and savings. 
  5. Speed-related measures – whether self-service is speeding up resolutions and provisioning, resulting in lower levels of lost productivity. Again, this can be compared to other IT support access and communication channels. 
  6. Employee experience/satisfaction – as per the earlier HappySignals data, not only is the level of self-service performance against target and across time important, so is the relative level of satisfaction or happiness versus other access and communication channels. 

These are certainly not the only best practices, as more are available in ITIL’s guidelines.  


Future of ITSM 


The future of IT as we know it is changing, as is the future of ITSM. In a post-COVID landscape, there may be higher numbers of virtual agents, virtual service desks, and remote workers. With those increases comes a heightened need for a scalable ITSM software solution. Additionally, the future of ITSM includes more widespread adoption and implementation of AI technology.  


Another major prediction is that ITSM software will no longer be confined to the IT department, but will be used in an engaging way throughout entire enterprises. When ITSM becomes enterprise service management, other departments (for example, Facilities, Human Resources, and Marketing) can take advantage of the improved communication and streamlined processes. Thus, an ITSM solution becomes a valuable tool to meet overall business goals 


As the demand for an ITSM solution grows, IT practitioners can expect to see an increase in one-stop-shop software. Combined with the adoption of AI technology, automation, and self-service, users can expect to see continual improvement as well as increased speed and agility in IT service management software.  


To learn more about how IT service management can lower costs and increase efficiency for your enterprise, click here to get a demo.  


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Krista Lyons

Krista Lyons is the Content Marketing Manager at EasyVista and is dedicated to sharing helpful information and industry insights through EasyVista's website, social media, and communications. A graduate of the University of Tampa, Lyons has a background in journalism and communications. She enjoys all things tech and has a passion for reading and writing about artificial intelligence.