IT Operations Management is the behind-the-scenes star of your IT services, but how exactly does it work and why do you need it?
IT services are an intrinsic part of modern businesses, and as companies grow so do their systems.
IT operations management (ITOM) is, as the name suggests, the management and approach to planning, building and operating your IT services, as well as everything that supports them, to meet the needs of your organisation.
ServiceNow ITOM takes that a step further – it’s a suite of products that focuses on the visibility and health of your infrastructure/estate, apps and services.
It's not as concerned with end-user processes but rather the services and the hardware that supports your business and its users, internal or external. In this article, we explain why ITOM is important for you and your business.
Why is ITOM important?
ITOM, in general, is important for businesses and organisations as it creates a framework within which your IT operations, processes and services are maintained or improved for optimum performance.
It exists in the background of your IT operations, but it's a critical protagonist, delivering fixes and suggesting improvements – its absence would be sorely and detrimentally felt.
ITOM in ServiceNow
ServiceNow's ITOM products are at the forefront of IT technology. What separates it from other operations management offerings is its comprehensiveness. It’s an overarching ecosystem where all components work together as a single platform, delivering a complete and effective experience.
With ServiceNow, your fulfillers work with Incidents, Cases, Change Requests and so forth, to solve and improve the user's issues. For example, ITOM works in the background to ensure the configuration management database (CMDB) is up to date, and that every critical service and configuration item (CI) is healthy and not at risk because a server somewhere is low on disk space.
There are several products within ServiceNow ITOM, they include:
- ITOM Visibility
- ITOM Health
- ITOM Governance
- ITOM Optimisation
The first two tend to be the most commonly used, with ITOM Visibility including Discovery and Service Mapping services.
Discovery ensures the CMDB is properly populated with CIs containing the most critical information, such as RAM, OS Version, etc. It also recognises the relationships between the CIs, e.g., the Network Drives connected to the same server.
Service Mapping takes this second element one step further, allowing the relationships between your devices, applications and application services to be mapped. With this data, your needs and actions are better informed.
For example, when an Incident is raised, your fulfillers can be fully aware of what CIs and/or components might be causing the issue, as well as what services might be impacted as a result, allowing for a more targeted and expedited approach to resolution.
What is ITOM used for?
As mentioned, ServiceNow ITOM is a suite of products, from which you can pick and choose the ones you want or need.
On the Discovery and Visibility side:
- ITOM Visibility focuses on the visibility of the estate. This can be done through IP-based Discovery, which typically requires opening firewall ports and making sure the access credentials for the different devices are correct. ServiceNow then pings those multiple devices with the relevant information.
- The Agent Client Collector stores and brings back information.
- Service Graph Connectors are for maintaining third-party data with quality and consistency.
- Service Mapping links the service layer that would have been implemented as part of a CSDM project. That's critical for Service Mapping as it picks up on the services defined by CSDM projects and links them to the actual estate. The benefit is, for example, that when you raise an Incident to say something is happening with a server, you can understand what the exact service implications are for that event. As a result, you know what your business service relies on, but it’s also useful for external customers as it helps improve their experience.
The Health side of ServiceNow’s ITOM then looks at the health of the devices it has discovered. It's not mandatory to have ITOM Discovery to have ITOM Health, but the quality of the data needs to exist for Event Management, which is a part of Health, to collect the alerts it requires.
For example, if a server needs more CPU or if the RAM usage is nearly 99% and you need to expand the storage, Event Management will flag it in advance.
It's a proactive rather than reactive way of dealing with incidents before they happen.
Benefits of ITOM
The main benefit of ITOM is that it makes sure everything in your system runs smoothly.
Once upon a time, companies were put off because of the investment, but they’ve now realised that they actually save time and money by automating these processes and addressing issues before they arise.
The benefits include:
- Long-term financial savings by preventing system downtime, costly fixes and damage to reputation
- Improved security of systems and information
- Safeguarding your company reputation by keeping services running optimally and keeping data secure
ITOM also means that you're fully aware of your estate at all times, which enables better governance. As a business grows, it's easy to lose track of how many devices you have deployed, and that can cause issues down the line.
For example, you might lose track of stock when employees leave your organisation and end up paying for licences unnecessarily.
In the ITOM space, ServiceNow offers an unparalleled service. However, there are tools like SolarWinds available, which also allow you to manage devices and collect information about them.
ServiceNow has a Service Graph Collector plugin for SolarWinds, which imports information for assets, cloud resources and software.
There are also organisations like Microsoft, which have their own agent that allows you to install machines and collect your company's estate. You can then use a ServiceNow Connector with it. Those tools are out there, but they're not unified.
The main benefit of ServiceNow’s ITOM is that you have everything you need within it. You don't have to have three different tools – such as one for ticketing, one to manage your estate and one for the performance of that estate – you can have it all in one.
ITOM vs ITSM: Differences
Within ServiceNow, you have ITOM and ITSM alongside one another, and they sit underneath all those other products and processes to support them effectively.
ITOM and ITSM are similar services, but what's the difference?
ITSM is focused on delivering your services to your internal users.
- Logging Incidents because a team member's mouse or laptop isn't working and requesting a new one as a result.
- Fulfillers logging change requests to improve or fix devices and services.
- Long-term investigations in the form of problem records to confirm the need for workarounds, more permanent fixes or perhaps just accepting the risk of that issue's existence.
In essence, ITSM is about making sure your end users, the ones delivering the value of the business, are supported when it comes to IT.
ITOM provides information for ITSM to make sure you’re applying the correct fixes for devices. Instead of you raising an issue, the system makes sure you’re aware before it even arises.
For example, if you’re applying a change request to a specific server, then it's important to know before you power it down whether you’re going to take out a key service offering in the process. It's a more preventative approach that's about ongoing awareness of your estate.
Where manual approaches are always looking in the rearview mirror, ITOM provides discovery every day/week, in line with your preferred/set frequency, so you will always have the most up-to-date information.
Getting started with ITOM
The best way to get started on ITOM is either at the same time or immediately following an ITSM or CSM project.
ITOM requires specialised knowledge, so you need to align your infrastructure, security and network teams beforehand. That way, when you get into the project you don't waste time gathering resources.
You don't have to do the whole ITOM package at once, you can start with Discovery – either through Service Graph or the Agent Client Collector. Then look at things like Service Mapping and Event Management down the line as they are most efficient with a populated CMDB.
Another recommendation is that you implement CSDM properly. Hopefully, that will happen in your ITSM or CSM project, but even if you're an existing client of ours we would still advise a review of your services with a CSDM project to make sure everything's in good shape, particularly regarding your CMDB health.
In short, before you add ITOM, the best thing to do is make sure that your current CMDB is in good shape. ITOM Visibility, as we described earlier, will help with that, but it is possible that some work has to be done beforehand for optimum impact. That way you will gain the most benefit going forward.