What is IT service management?
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What is IT service management?

IT service management (ITSM) is the practice of planning, implementing, managing and optimizing information technology services to meet the needs of users and help organizations achieve their business goals.

By systematically speeding tasks such as service requests, IT support, IT asset management and change management, ITSM can help businesses improve the user experience and gain more productivity from IT infrastructure. ITSM can also help organizations drive business strategies, achieve compliance and reduce risk by embedding controls into IT service design, delivery and management.

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How it works 

The primary objective of ITSM is to provide the optimal deployment, operation and management of every IT resource for every user across an enterprise. Users can include customers, employees or business partners. IT resources can include any hardware, software or computing asset, such as a laptop computer, software application, cloud storage solution or a virtual server.

ITSM relies on software tools, automation and proven best practices. If a customer contacts a service desk to, say, report a problem with a computer workstation or request a new license or access to a software asset, ITSM determines the workflow to fulfill these requests, with an emphasis on continually improving the user or customer experience.

There are a wide variety of ITSM software solutions, processes and guiding frameworks for implementing ITSM. IT teams customize their approach to ITSM depending upon customer needs and business objectives. Some organizations extend their ITSM capabilities to include ESM, or enterprise service management, which focuses on the broader business needs of specific teams, departments or units.

AI and ITSM

AI is now a critical part of many business practices, and ITSM is no exception. AI for IT operations (AIOps) is a technology that organizations use to extend and improve their ITSM tools and processes for better IT service delivery in both cloud-based and on-premises environments.

Through machine learning, AIOps is able to monitor the performance of IT systems and identify areas that can be optimized for greater efficiency. It can also target the best opportunities to automate tasks to help accelerate and lower the cost of IT processes. And because AIOps works across complex IT environments, it can enhance the collaboration and synchronization between the many functional areas of ITSM in extended enterprises.

ITSM processes and practices

There are many ITSM processes that an organization might require to help deliver IT services to users. Here are a few of the most commonly adopted processes.

Incident management
In ITSM,  an incident is an unplanned outage or interruption in service. Incident management is the process of responding to an incident with the goal of restoring the service with minimal impact to users and business processes.

Problem management
Problem management takes place when multiple incidents are related to the same root cause. ITSM defines how the IT department investigates, analyzes and eliminates the problem so it does not happen again.

Change management
Change management is the establishment of best practices to minimize IT service disruptions, compliance issues and other risks that might result from changes made to critical systems.

Configuration management
Configuration management is the process of tracking configuration items for hardware and software components. A tool such as a configuration management database can serve as a central repository of all IT assets and the relationships between them.

Service request management
Service requests for new assets, permissions or licenses can come from employees, customers or partners. Service request management defines the most efficient and accurate method for granting or denying these requests, often by using a combination of automation and self-service capabilities.

Service catalog
A service catalog is a directory that may be integrated with service request management. Accessed through a menu or portal, it lists the IT services that are available to users across the organization.

Knowledge management
Knowledge management (KM) is the process of identifying, organizing, storing and disseminating information within an organization. A searchable, self-service knowledge base is usually a core KM tool. It gives users across the organization easy access to IT service-related issues and resolutions, metrics, documentation, tech topics and other resources.

Service level management
Service level management is the process of creating, tracking and administering the lifecycle of a service level agreement (SLA). An SLA is a contract between IT professionals and customers that determines the required or wanted level of a specific service, and the consequences for not meeting that target.

IT service desk
In ITSM, the IT service desk is the central point of contact for fielding and managing all incidents, problems and requests. More than a simple help desk, it also handles software licensing, service providers, pricing and third-party contracts as well as maintaining self-service portals and knowledge bases.

ITSM frameworks

Organizations often rely on established best practices and project management guidance to handle the complexity and ongoing challenges of ITSM. Here are some of the most popular frameworks for implementing ITSM.

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
ITIL is the most widely adopted framework for implementing and documenting ITSM. It consists of a highly detailed library of ITIL processes that cover functional areas such as service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation and continual service improvement. Originally created in the 1980s by a UK government agency, it is now owned by Axelos Ltd. The ITIL framework is periodically updated to reflect the evolving IT needs of modern businesses. The latest version, ITIL 4, focuses on digital transformation and was released in 2019.

DevOps
More than a framework, DevOps is a methodology designed to help development and IT operations teams work together more efficiently to create, test and deliver software. In some organizations, DevOps is used in place of or as an alternative to ITSM. But many organizations see DevOps and ITSM as complementary: DevOps focuses primarily on speed and agility, and ITSM focuses on user and customer satisfaction.

COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies)
COBIT is an IT governance framework created in 1996 by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association. It provides guidance for businesses that seek to use IT services to minimize risk, ensure compliance with regulatory mandates and achieve better business outcomes.

ISO/IEC 20000
The first international standard for service management, ISO/IEC 20000 was created in 2005 and is used by organizations around the world. It is compatible with other ITSM frameworks, and outlines the standards and best practices IT organizations must apply to receive ISO 20000 accreditation.

MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework)
An alternative to ITIL, MOF was created as a management system for implementing and optimizing IT services that use Microsoft technologies and products.

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