Information Technology Service Management, or ITSM, is concerned with the optimization of delivering support and services to a business. Seen as the evolution of the help-desk, ITSM takes a wider view of the people, the services, the processes and the information technology within a business, and extends its definitions and practices beyond that of the traditional IT help desk.
Typically, ITSM encompasses a strategic approach toward designing, delivering and maintaining information technology, as well as embracing best-practice frameworks such as ITIL (and others) for handling incidents, problems and changes within the environment. ITSM has a strong focus on continuous improvement, not just for the technology, but also for the people, the processes and the culture the business operates under.
In general terms, many businesses that have a structured, repeatable methodology for designing, delivering and supporting their customers, staff , technology stack and service operations have already started on the ITSM journey.
The most common ITSM concepts and processes
Many businesses that embrace ITSM, and refer to ITIL work toward implementing and improving the following key processes
The service desk is the single point of contact that users can approach for all of their business and IT needs and services. The service desk will log, track and manage incoming requests, incidents and change requests, and work accordingly to fulfill, fix or change/improve the work order. The service desk is the central, coordinating business unit that provides service and support to the rest of the business.
Service Request Management
Service requests are the day-to-day things that staff and customers of the business would request from the service desk. This could be a request for support, a service, some training, some equipment, some information, or a range of other services that are offered by the business. Service requests are often lodged via a web portal (either intranet, or internet based), so that users can log and track their requests. Behind the scenes, each service request can be associated with a workflow that will ensure that the request is fulfilled in a timely and efficient manner.
Automation can play a big role in service request fulfillment. Concepts such as auto-assignment and classification assist with the initial stages of a job. Triggers, workflow rules, escalation and auto-notifications can assist in timely resolution, while things such as scripting, validation and authorization are key features of workflow automation.
A service request may well be linked with Change Management and Approvals (see below), Knowledge Management, and other ITSM services.
Read more about Service Request Fulfillment
The goal of incident management is to restore services and availability of systems when something goes wrong. Incident management includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Logging and recording details about the incident
- Classifying the incident
- Assigning the incident to the correct person and/or team
- Tracking the incident through its life-cycle.
Read more about Incident Management
Incidents are often causes by underlying problems, which leads to....
Problem management is concerned with resolving incidents. An incident is what the "user" experiences. The "Problem" is what is causing it. Problem management requires collaboration with technical staff, reference to the knowledge base, and solid technical skills in order to understand, diagnose, find and fix the underlying problems that are causing the incidents. Problem management addresses the following:
- Logging, documenting and tracking problems
- Linking original "incident" records to problem records
- Consulting and updating corporate and technical knowledge bases and technical documentation
- Finding, fixing and understanding the root-cause, the failure points and other system vulnerabilities
Read more about Problem Management
Change Management is the process by which a business can plan, track, approve, schedule and implement changes. It is a formal process whereby changes to the business, the infrastructure, or any other system is done in a controlled, considered fashion. Changes can often result from the occurrence of "problems", which cause the "incidents". An example of this might be.
- A printer does not print (Incident)
- ...because...the router is not configured correctly (Problem)
- ...so...the network needs to be taken off-line for a period of time to correct the problem (Change)
Other times, having a formal process in place for day-to-day changes, approvals or other general tasks means that a business takes a considered approach to anything that may affect worker productivity, business effectiveness and ultimately profitability. Change management is a key part in maintaining system availability and business "up-time".
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Corporate knowledge is a valuable asset, and in the context of service delivery and management, it plays a key role in just about every process of ITSM. When business processes, as well as technical information and trouble-shooting information is clearly documented, maintained and referred to by practice, a business can realize the benefits of a "knowledge first culture". Technical support team can refer to a knowledge base for key information to assist with Incident, Problem and Change Management.
Maintaining a "knowledge base" for all aspects of your service delivery, means that you'll have the information that you can share with both staff and clients of the business.
For organizations looking to take knowledge management to a new level, best-practice frameworks such as Knowledge Centered Support, or KCS have proven to be popular and effective.