IT service management (ITSM) is a set of policies and practices for implementing, delivering and managing IT services for end users in a way that meets the stated needs of end users and the stated goals of the business.
For this definition, end users can include employees, customers or business partners. IT services can include any hardware, software or computing resource the organization supplies for a user—everything from a company notebook, software asset or Web application to a mobile app, cloud storage solution or virtual server for development or other services.
ITSM is a complicated discipline—after all, its intended goal is to enable and maintain optimal deployment, operation and management of every single IT resource for every user in the extended enterprise. This article is written to provide a basic understanding of the topic.
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is the most widely adopted best-practices guidance framework for implementing and documenting ITSM. It is an actual library; the latest version, ITIL 4, includes five volumes that cover 34 ITSM practices (up from 26 in ITIL 3). The ITIL framework is described in the volumes listed below:
ITIL is exhaustive, but an organization’s ITSM program does not need to implement it exhaustively—the organization can pick and choose only the ITIL processes and practices they need.
Other best-practice ITSM frameworks exist; some are closely related to ITIL, and many are used in concert with ITIL. These include the following:
We can’t review all 34 ITSM practices in a single article, but we can cover the core practices that organizations adopt most often:
The goal of ITSM is to ensure that IT services perform in a way that meets the needs of the users and the business. It’s no surprise, then, that a rigorous ITSM approach often results in some significant business benefits:
For IT departments, ITSM enables a continually more productive, effective and cost-effective service organization that’s aligned with business strategy—an IT department that increasingly becomes a critical part of the organization’s success (and less and less the source of the organization’s problems).
There are over 150 ITSM software tools on the market at this writing, designed to help organizations implement and even automate ITSM within the best-practices framework or frameworks of their choice.
The following is a very short list of criteria for choosing a tool:
Most importantly, any tool you choose should 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.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is fast becoming part of many business processes, and ITSM is no exception. A recent Gartner survey (link resides outside of ibm.com) notes that the number of enterprises implementing AI has grown 270 percent 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, or 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.
The following are three cases in which ITSM solutions delivered value for companies:
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 the following:
Discover how to make people more productive, processes more efficient, and IT systems more proactive.
IBM Cloud Pak for Watson AIOps is an IT operations management solution that lets IT operators place AI at the core of their ITOps toolchain.
IBM Control Desk provides the IT service management (ITSM) needed to simplify support of users and infrastructures.
Access an exclusive Gartner analyst report and learn how AI for IT improves business outcomes, leads to increased revenue, and lowers both cost and risk for organizations.
Download the IBM Cloud infographic that shows the benefits of AI-powered automation for IT operations.