ITSM (or IT Service Management) refers to all the activities involved in designing, creating, delivering, supporting, and managing the lifecycle of IT services.
Think of all the technology your team uses—the fleet of laptops and smartphones, the dozens of apps installed on each of those devices, the printers and servers, and phone systems. Your IT team is responsible for the end-to-end management of all this hardware and software, from provisioning and configuring it to securing and troubleshooting it to managing user access and updating apps. Beyond providing day-to-day IT support, modern IT departments also have big-picture responsibilities, like developing and integrating apps to build sophisticated hybrid cloud environments that help your team work smarter and faster.
ITSM aligns IT service delivery with business goals, helping your tech team work as efficiently and effectively as possible. To do so, they use a documented ITSM process flow (or framework) to standardize and optimize service delivery, and ITSM software to combine separately managed IT processes and components into a single platform.
Your IT department powers the technology that powers your business. As that technology has evolved, so have the services that IT provides. As noted in a recent Freshworks report on AI and automation, “The role of IT as we know it is changing and moving from a support function to a business enabler. CEOs not only trust technology leaders to be strategic business partners but also to drive organizational change with technology-driven initiatives.”
Modern IT departments need to support anywhere operations and always-on business, providing your team with access to best-in-class technology and automating as many workflows as possible. That’s where ITSM comes in. With the right processes and ITSM technology in place, tech teams can standardize and optimize IT services delivery and documentation, cut costs by building a predictable IT organization, and gain actionable IT insights that aid in business decision-making.
ITSM processes get your IT department on the same page and all the software and hardware they’re responsible for servicing—into one place.
Benefits of ITSM include:
Better alignment of IT service delivery with business needs
Reduced downtime due to faster incident resolution and predictive analytics
Enhanced agility and strategic innovation
Reduced IT costs and wastage via effective asset management
Increased IT efficiency and profitability
Reduced regulatory and security risks
Optimized workflows and improved collaboration due to more strategic use of technology
Reduced IT turnover
A better understanding of business needs
Standardization and continuity due to process implementation based on best practices
Increased support to address regulatory and compliance challenges
Reduced incident lifecycles, admin workload, and waiting times
Increased productivity due to ITSM process flow improvements, automation, and AI
Enhanced visibility and understanding of IT services
Ability to visualize workflows and continuously improve processes and service delivery
Continual service improvement
A better understanding of IT services and available support
Reduced downtime due to faster incident resolution
Improved IT user experience via software integrations
Enhanced satisfaction with IT
Ability to work (and receive IT support) from anywhere
Read more about the benefits of ITSM.
There are many potential ITSM processes and tools to choose from, and use cases can vary from one industry or company to the next. Freshservice clients use ITSM in a variety of ways, including:
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, cloud communications provider RingCentral needed to transform +1,000 office employees into remote workers in less than a week. Thankfully, the company had just deployed Freshservice ITSM, which gave their suddenly-virtual IT service desk the tools they needed to handle the inevitable spike in IT support tickets. Agents were also able to automate repetitive tasks and manual processes soon after they were identified, boosting productivity by eliminating redundant tasks.
IT Service Management is specific to IT departments, but the technology isn’t necessarily. Other employee-facing departments—such as HR, finance, legal, and facilities management—also provide services that need managing. RingCentral’s ITSM rollout was so successful that other teams wanted the same capabilities, so IT customized workflows for those departments, transforming the ITSM tool into an Enterprise Service Management (ESM) platform.
For fast-growing companies like Waterstons—a U.K.-based business and IT consultancy—scaling IT Service Management can be challenging without the right technology in place. Before ITSM, the firm’s IT help desk was plagued with high turnaround time and lack of workflow automation. Using Freshservice’s knowledge management and service catalog capabilities, Waterstons built a self-service portal to offload simple service requests and automated redundant tasks. This significantly reduced the average response and resolution times, enabling agents to handle twice as many tickets in less time than before.
Before investing in ITSM, OfficeMax relied on an in-house ticketing system that didn’t provide visibility into ticket resolution, didn’t support self-service, and wouldn’t allow employees to raise tickets unless a service attendant was logged in. Deploying Freshservice gave IT teams across the organization a single interface for tracking and managing support requests and a centralized knowledge base, which they used to standardize IT service delivery and create a self-service portal. This significantly improved ticket management and agent performance, increasing customer satisfaction levels to 91 percent overall.
These are just a few of the ways IT departments can use ITSM platforms and reap the rewards.
IT Service Management relies on agreed-upon processes (or frameworks) that let your IT team organize and standardize IT service delivery. Many industry groups have developed frameworks that consist of best practice recommendations IT organizations can use to manage the full spectrum of IT services—from network maintenance to device management, to app development and integration—and to measure the efficiency and value of these efforts.
ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is the most popular ITSM framework, so much so that the terms “ITIL” and “ITSM” are often used synonymously, but there are several other well-established frameworks for your organization to choose from. Most of them are based on ITIL but adapted to serve different business needs. They include:
COBIT—a framework for the governance and management of enterprise IT
ISO 20000—the international standard for service management
MOF (Microsoft Operations Framework)—a series of guides for creating, implementing, and managing cost-effective IT services
USMBOK (Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge)—an addendum to ITIL focusing on both strategic and operational levels
DevOps—an unattached set of principles that uses the methodology of cross-functional teams, promoting open communication
ITSM frameworks outline best practices for managing several key processes, including:
Your organization relies on a combination of hardware and software assets, all of which must be configured and managed. Asset management processes involve tracking, updating, and mapping assets. Configuration management can be practiced with asset management or as a separate process. Either way, it involves a CMDB (Configuration Management Database): a repository of data IT infrastructure and configuration information. A CMDB typically includes lists of assets and their relationships to other hardware, software, systems, facilities, and even personnel.
A knowledge management system (KMS) lets your IT team track and organize documentation, frequently asked questions, and other important information into easily accessible, always up-to-date formats. This helps them avoid duplication of work and ensure consistent service delivery, and helps IT users find their own answers.
Incident management is the process of responding to service interruptions caused by outages or performance issues, and restoring normal service operations as quickly as possible to minimize impacts on your business. Incident management is a multi-step process that involves logging, classifying, prioritizing, investigating and diagnosing, and ultimately resolving service tickets.
Service Request Management is the process of managing and responding to formal requests from users for an item to be provided or a task to be performed. This process outlines all the steps involved in service request fulfillment, from receiving the request to acknowledging receipt to fulfilling it, plus any authorization stages along the way.
Release Management is the process of moving IT projects through the production cycle so they can be consumed by end-users, enabling your business’s systems and services to change to support evolving business needs. The primary goal of release management is to protect the integrity of live computing environments and ensure the correct components get released.
Project Management refers to a set of processes used to organize, coordinate, and implement changes to your IT environment. IT projects can include changing operational processes, repairing or replacing machinery, fulfilling customer requests, developing new products or services, or deploying new technology. Project Management processes and software help you plan, track, and delegate tasks to make these changes.
What is the main difference between ITSM and ITIL? How do DevOps and AI factor in?
IT Service Management refers to the processes and activities involved in planning, designing, delivering, and improving the services that your IT department delivers.
ITIL is an ITSM framework—a clearly defined set of processes and best practices used to guide IT service delivery. There are other possible ITSM frameworks, but ITIL is the most popular and is the foundation of most other ITSM frameworks.
DevOps is a set of practices and tools used to integrate and automate software development and IT operations as efficiently as possible. This could mean developing new apps, building an IT infrastructure, or integrating various custom and third-party apps into a cloud or hybrid cloud environment.
DevOps is one of many processes involved in ITSM, which can be organized using ITIL or another ITSM framework.
ITSM involves managing a plethora of IT services, many of which are routine, redundant tasks. According to Gartner, the average IT organization spends 66 percent of its time on these basic day-to-day operations—many of which could be automated to free up IT resources for more strategic projects and even revenue-generating endeavors.
By leveraging AI in ITSM, your IT team can predict (and prevent) incidents before they happen and automate service requests as they come in. Researchers from the Hackett Group put it this way in The Future of IT Service Management report: "Technology leaders are realizing that it is time to modernize their IT Service Management (ITSM) capabilities by introducing intelligent automation enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) analysis of process data and AI for technology operations (AIOps)."
Simply put, AI makes ITSM smarter so your IT team can work harder on big-picture, innovation-driven, revenue-generating projects (such as DevOps), because they’re spending less time “keeping the lights on.”
Different businesses have different needs, but IT organizations across industries can reap the rewards of ITSM. What does that look like in practice?
By deploying a right-sized, no-code solution, ITSM for small businesses enables organizations to leverage logical and intelligent automation, deploy self-service portals for end users, and view and manage IT projects in real-time.
ITSM for enterprise doesn’t have to be complex and clunky. With a solution designed for the modern cloud, large organizations can get a sophisticated but user-friendly platform that delivers reliable and secure services, automates workflows across multiple departments and use cases, and delights employees with a consumer-grade service experience.
In such a fast-paced, highly regulated industry, ITSM for financial services must be low-code and low-risk, delivering measurable results, reliability, a modern experience, and continual innovation.
To help care providers deliver clinical excellence and drive superior outcomes, the best ITSM for healthcare is cloud-based, ITIL-aligned, and HIPAA-compliant—enabling organizations to build on-call IT services for around-the-clock operations and a mobile workforce.
ITSM for higher education lets universities unify all campus IT services into a single system—so departments can control their data via designated workspaces, and students and staff can request and receive IT support via the channel of their choice.
High-tech IT departments need right-sized tech solutions. The best ITSM for high-tech is both scalable and intelligent, delivering AI-enhanced employee experiences that drive digital transformation while managing growth.
Choosing ITSM Software for your business depends on your organization’s unique needs, IT infrastructure, and chosen framework. But generally speaking, the best solutions offer:
Easy-to-Configure, Easy-to-Use—As Freshworks CIO, Prasad Ramakrishnan, puts it, "We’re in the golden age of consumer-tech simplicity, and employees expect to see that same simplicity, instant gratification, and autonomy in their workplace tools as they experience in their everyday lives.”
Quick Time-to-Value—The faster you can deploy a solution, the faster you can start earning ROI. Freshservice can be rolled out in three to six months, roughly a third of the time it takes to deploy the average ITSM platform.
Low-Code/No-Code—Complex legacy solutions built specifically for large enterprises have a lot of bells and whistles and very little flexibility. With drag-and-drop functionality from Freshservice, your team can build new workflows and automate tasks (no coding experience required).
No Software Bloat—Unnecessary bells and whistles don’t just slow you down; they cost more. You want a right-sized solution or a software partner that will tailor their offerings to meet your unique needs, so you only pay for what you need and use.
Intuitive Workflow Automation Capabilities—According to Jiten Rajani, Freshservice Product Marketing Manager, "IT teams are eager for easy-to-configure, automated workflows in order to gain efficiencies, especially with basic day-to-day queries, which can add up quickly and divert resources from more mission-critical work."
Scalability—The best software for your particular organization will continue to scale and fit as the business grows.
AI Capabilities—Leading ITSM solutions feature intelligent or predictive alerting, event prioritization, root cause analysis, auto-remediation, and capacity and cost optimization.
Integration with Collaboration Tools—Best-in-class platforms enable users to request IT services using the same collaboration tools they rely on to communicate with everyone else in the company, including Microsoft Teams, Slack, and WhatsApp.
A Solution that Goes Beyond IT—Flexible ITSM tools can be transformed into Enterprise Service Management solutions, giving other employee-facing departments the same capabilities as your IT department.
Modern with Continual Innovation—As AI technology evolves, so do leading ITSM solutions. With cloud-based platforms, you can take advantage of the latest and greatest features immediately (no time-consuming updates or upgrades required).
Excellent Support—Your IT teams deliver great support; they deserve to receive it from their ITSM vendor as well.
360-Degree Reporting and Analytics—Knowledge is power. By equipping IT leaders with data-filled insights, ITSM software helps them continually improve service delivery and digital innovation.
Transparent Pricing—Surprises are fun unless it’s on a bill. Good software partners don’t nickel and dime your business; you pay for what you get, and that’s it.
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