By: IBM Cloud Education

In this guide, learn why ITSM is vital to the efficiency and growth of your company.

What is IT Service Management (ITSM)?

Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) is a set of processes, procedures, and policies that automate, integrate, and improve the way IT staff support an organization's employees. ITSM enhances your company's operational efficiency and improves employee productivity by increasing automation and improving visibility into financial and service data. ITSM provides better governance and analytics for making business and technology service decisions.

IT service management is supported by several frameworks, the most popular being Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). Other frameworks found in ITSM are Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT), ISO/IEC 20000, and Six Sigma.

ITSM focuses on the management of the IT infrastructure, including hardware, software, processes, and services. While these services can be delivered independently, you'll find more value from solutions that combine capabilities for essential business functions, such as the delivery of business services, support for agile development and DevOps, and support for cloud services. You should use an ITSM tool to automate services like software license management, automated patching, configuration management, and the supporting ITIL processes.

IT services

You use ITSM to manage the services that IT provides. Therefore, it is essential to understand the definition of a service. An IT service is any technology process or function that has a level of support, management, and maintenance. If IT needs to install it, patch it, configure it, or touch it in any way, it can be considered a service. With ITSM, your enterprise can better react to circumstances that are occurring, as soon as they happen. In other words, if a problem arises, your ITSM system can help you quickly understand what’s going on in the environment and provide a central location for managing and resolving the problem.

Change management

If your business is like most, you probably have some or all of your infrastructure, data, and other resources running in the cloud or split across multiple locations. While this is an efficient and cost-effective way to streamline operations, it also makes it more challenging to understand what’s happening at all times. IT change management is rapidly evolving to keep pace. With an ITSM strategy that includes proactive change management, your company will be able to manage change much more effectively.

Benefits

Efficient ITSM translates into smoother processes, better customer service, more productive employees, and higher profits. More specifically, it can reduce ticket volume, increase resolution rates, and result in fewer unplanned service outages. It can also lead to faster problem identification and resolution, lower IT operations costs, and more transparency into IT processes and services.

Choosing a tool

To get the full benefit of ITSM, you need to invest in the right IT Service Management tools. The advantage of these tools is that they include automated toolsets to integrate the ITSM framework you are working with, such as ITIL. Typically, these tools fall into four categories: identifying problems, analyzing the data, fixing the problem, verifying the problem resolution, and ensuring that it didn’t inadvertently cause more problems.

Most importantly, these tools should be modern enough to be able to handle rapidly changing environments. In other words, if your tools were built to handle environments that change once daily, they aren’t modern enough. Modern tools should be able to identify, analyze, fix, and verify problems in near real-time.

Make sure that your suite of ITSM tools cover these functions:

  • Identify: Collect information about the environment and identify problems.
  • Analyze: Evaluate the information to determine whether it is similar to past problems, whether to get a human involved, or whether to group like problems or incidents together.
  • Fix: Check if these tools already exist in your company. Depending on the nature of the problem and the fix, your subject matter expert probably has the right tool.
  • Verify: Make sure that the changes you have made have solved the problem and haven’t caused other issues to occur.

Your ITSM tools should also be able to map to all of the ITIL processes, including change management, knowledge management, integration of the service catalog, incident management, help desk, and problem management. They should be able to integrate with other tools in your environments, such as project tracking software, collaboration tools, and ERP systems. They also should have graphical, integrated dashboards with configurable metrics and reports to help monitor service delivery and quality in real time, based on key KPIs including ticket volume trends, incident response and resolution times, and service level compliance statistics.

ITSM and artificial intelligence (AIOps)

Modern ITSM solutions must address the needs of the organizations they serve, many of which are undergoing digital transformation and dealing with massive amounts of data and heightened customer expectations. To help deal with these issues, they are integrating Big Data and AI to help make informed business decisions and automate the service level management of ITIL in ITSM. Artificial intelligence can help solve problems based on best practices and knowledge of your company’s IT infrastructure. Much like a car’s navigation system, it will enable better-informed decisions in the area of IT support.

Artificial intelligence is fast becoming part of many business processes. ITSM is no exception. A recent Gartner survey notes that the number of enterprises implementing AI has grown 270% in the past four years. More than half of these companies are also considering or applying some form of AI for ITSM.

Over time, Gartner expects more ITSM tools to incorporate what it calls AI for IT Operations (AIOps), which it defines as the application of machine learning across the entire operational environment. This includes monitoring and ITSM. By applying AI to data from multiple sources, AIOps is expected to help better predict outages, prioritize events, and improve root cause analysis.

Examples

The following are three examples of companies that have seen value in an ITSM solution:

  • Cognizant’s Applications Value Center needed a better platform for providing services to its customers. Using IBM Control Desk automated knowledge management, the organization reduced help desk ticket volumes by up to 80% and cut the mean time to resolve tickets by nearly 40%.
  • Serima Consulting GmbH is helped develop a smart power grid management solution as part of Germany’s politically supervised shift from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. IBM Netcool Operations enables alarms, event management, and, most important, a single point of view across the entire grid infrastructure. Today the solution serves as a ‘lighthouse’ project that will guide similar smart grid projects throughout Germany.
  • St. Vincent's Health in Sydney, Australia provides IBM Control Desk to its medical staff. When they have an issue, they can access the software on their mobile devices. With this solution, the hospital is now able to resolve more than 50% of its tickets on the first call.

Outsourcing IT services

IT teams have also turned to outsourcing some or all of their IT support to an IT Managed Services provider. You only pay one fixed cost for support of your infrastructure, and much like ITIL, Managed Service Providers (MSPs) contractually bind themselves to a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for their response and solution times.

When choosing a managed services provider, make sure the MSP understands your business priorities and how your business functions. They should know what healthy and unhealthy looks like for your business. Also, make sure they are using modern ITSM tools—not outdated technologies.

It's also wise to ensure that their ITSM model includes one of the mentioned frameworks—preferably ITIL—and that their service levels meet your company's needs. Other best practices include a quarterly and annual business review to ensure that they still understand your company objectives, as well as trained personnel to support various stages of the ITSM process so that you can focus your resources on your priorities.

Finally, make sure to agree on specific service level agreements and KPIs (metrics) up front, along with consequences for failing to meet those objectives.

IT teams are continuously improving their operations management processes for optimal cloud operations. To learn more about IBM’s expertise in this area, schedule time with an expert in the Cloud Service Management and Operations group.

The future

ITSM solutions continue to change as the needs and technologies of the organizations that use them evolve. In the next few years, you’re likely to see changes like the following:

  • Support for Internet of Things (IoT): IoT-connected devices are becoming more popular—from hardware and network infrastructure to electrical fixtures and even delivery vehicles. These devices continually collect valuable data, including operating status, location, and movements. ITSM solutions will have to start monitoring and using that data to improve problem-solving and business decisions. By incorporating the information you receive from your Internet-connected sensors, you can gain even greater insight into your business.
  • Social media integration: ITSM tools are beginning to adapt communication channels to the user, rather than the user to the tool. This means adopting social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Instagram, and SMS messages as ways to log tickets and track support. With social media integration, your company will better be able to gauge customer sentiment.

IT Service Management and IBM

Find the right solution for your service management issues in IBM’s ITSM portfolio, including IBM Control Desk for best-practice based service desk capabilities; IBM Netcool Operations Insight and IBM Cloud Application Performance Management to spot and resolve application and infrastructure problems; and IBM Workload Automation to automate complex workloads. Learn what works best for your business model so your team can better meet user expectations, today and in the future.

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