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What is IT Service Management (ITSM)?

IT service management (ITSM) is an essential part of modern business IT support – it's the infrastructure that supports the ongoing health and functionality of an organisation's IT systems and processes.

In its entirety, ITSM is built on three pillars:

  • The people that support IT: for example, your service desk.
  • The processes that keep IT running: these fall into the categories of incident management, problem management, change management and request management.
  • The toolsets that run those processes: such as a ticketing tool.

At FlyForm, we work primarily with the ServiceNow suite of ITSM products to manage access and availability, fulfil service requests and streamline services for clients and their organisations.

What is the main purpose of ITSM?

The main purpose of ITSM is to make sure everybody within an organisation can use IT to its fullest potential and capability.

IT should be an enabler, empowering your team to do their job easily and effectively. If it becomes a sticking point that inhibits a team member’s work, then something has gone wrong (or at least, it isn’t working as well as it should).

In practical terms, ITSM should keep all IT systems running and functional but also allow the organisation to innovate through change management processes.

So the ITSM framework should enable you to implement upgrades, procure new software and make improvements to your estate without everyone's work suffering in the process.

In short, it’s about both maintaining the current status quo and planning for the future of your IT capabilities.

The benefits of ITSM

With the main purpose of ITSM being to maintain and improve the health and functionality of an organisation's IT estate, the benefits that you gain from an effective ITSM framework are as follows:

  • Improved user experience: Effective ITSM processes will mean that users see IT as a positive service they can draw on to improve their work and work experience.
  • Audit and compliance: If you have strong processes that are approved, regulated and managed well, you can make sure your IT security is up to date, data is protected and changes can be made with accountability.
  • Cost savings: An IT estate that’s automated where possible – and managed effectively where not – will result in long-term cost savings. For example, if you have a process keeping track of all the laptops in the estate, then you don't need to manually update a spreadsheet. That’s an efficiency that will allow IT agents to focus on real issues rather than time-consuming administration.

Each of these benefits then has a knock-on effect, supporting the efficiency, productivity and functionality of your business as a whole, as individuals are freed up to focus on other things and can achieve tasks quicker or with better results.

ITSM infrastructure and how it works

Within ITSM you have a combination of processes, services and software. These generally operate within a set of recommended guidelines – otherwise known as a framework.

These recommendations tend to define processes in a way that the industry is familiar with. At Flyform we use a framework within ServiceNow called ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library).

ITSM Processes

At the beginning of this article, we detailed the processes typically involved in ITSM. To explain those a little further, they are defined end-to-end ways of managing different IT actions, ranging from problems to general tasks:

  • Incident management: This is when there's an urgent issue that needs to be resolved. It's either happening or about to happen and you need to do something about it. This is highly reactionary, acute and in the moment – something that needs an immediate fix.

  • Problem management: This is a longer-term issue that needs more consideration to resolve it. For example, if 10 people raise an ‘Incident’, such as not being able to access their email, then it's a large-scale issue that can result in a problem record. By addressing the root cause – such as resolving a problem on the server – you will fix more complex issues at scale.

  • Change management: This is where you set out to make a change to your IT infrastructure, such as installing Windows 11 on all the laptops in the estate. Change management is about making sure everyone within the organisation who needs to know about a change is informed, that the process has been approved and tested and that you have given people enough notice on lead times. You ensure that the change is justified, that you know the consequences of any actions required and that you can handle them. As part of change management, you would also check whether any additional training is needed following implementation. It's about making sure you're changing things in a controlled and approved way.

  • Request management: This is when an individual wants something from IT. It might be that they require a certain piece of software specific to their job, or a new laptop. These are standard requests that can be submitted and processed in a formulaic, refined and bookended way.

ITSM Services

ITSM services are the capabilities that the IT team provides for employees within an organisation, as well as the scope of availability of those services. For example, everyone will have access to email, but only certain individuals might have access to accountancy software.

Defining IT services within ITSM gives organisations an idea of what they have, the cost, how many people have each service, what services will be impacted when you make a change, and which ones are service-critical.

Having that knowledge clearly categorised will help businesses stay on top of the footprint of the IT estate, as well as understand and manage the risks involved in making changes.

ITSM Software

ITSM software is any piece of tooling that allows you to support IT services in a more efficient way.

Technically, an Excel spreadsheet could be used to support IT software, adding a new line for each issue that arises. The problem with that is it's labour intensive and it's not scalable – it wouldn't work for an organisation with thousands of people for example.

That's where platforms like ServiceNow come in, allowing people to come onto a portal with some level of self-service that enables individuals to do research before submitting a ticket for help.

The ticketing process is another piece of software, which places a request into a queue that feeds into a dashboard. From there, the IT service desk can pick it up, the ticket is prioritised, assigned and the appropriate action can be taken.

This type of efficient ITSM software provides a system of record for the services provided. Through this you can understand how many issues you have with comprehensive reporting so you can not only solve individual problems but identify what's causing them and make systemic improvements.

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How to choose ITSM Software

Choosing ITSM software depends on the needs of your organisation, its current maturity and your future goals. Key areas of consideration to help you choose the right ITSM software for you are as follows:

Complexity of service

A lot depends on the complexity of the service you're delivering. If you have a large and complicated IT estate that you're struggling to keep track of, or a large volume of calls that are largely password resets, you need an IT service management tool to handle all of that.

Size and skill of team

If you have a highly specialised IT team, then you can choose a tool that will allow them to contribute to knowledge articles within the portal. This will allow other staff members to search queries and see if there's a solution, so they can avoid making calls to the service desk, freeing specialists up for more complex tasks.

Level of automation you want

Some tools are able to automate more aspects of your IT services and processes than others. Automation is extremely useful for streamlining services and maximising the time, cost and skill of specialists within your team. ServiceNow is one of the most capable solutions for automation in ITSM.

Why is ITSM software better than a simple helpdesk or standalone ticketing system?

If you only have a help desk ticketing system, then all it will provide is a list of tickets and issues without any underlying information to help solve the problems.

For example, if someone calls and says they have a problem with their laptop, a ticketing system alone means you have to ask for all the information about the laptop, gain a remote login and start from scratch to understand the challenge. It requires a lot of time and expertise.

On the other hand, if you have a fully-fledged ITSM system in place, then when the same person calls with the same problem, you already know which laptop they have, the software that's on it and a wealth of other underlying information to help you improve your resolution process. You're not starting from the beginning.

The same ITSM system will also allow for the idea that multiple tickets can be interdependent, making it easier to identify larger-scale problems and handle them in bulk.

For example, if a problem is impacting hundreds of people at the same time, you don't need to handle them as individual tickets - you can scale your response for a faster, more efficient and more cost-effective resolution.

How FlyForm can improve your ITSM

At Flyform we are focused on improving your business's IT service management track record. We implement ITSM processes from scratch, but we also repair poor ITSM process implementations that make everything more complex than it needs to be. We do this through our specialist knowledge of ServiceNow and its capabilities.

We pride ourselves on 'trimming the fat' in an organisation's ITSM implementations – for example, by working out where we can add automation.

However, we also recognise that switching from existing processes, even when they're not working well, can be daunting. Therefore, we're here to walk you through that journey, evidencing the tangible benefits of ITSM, how you will see those benefits play out, and explaining exactly how it works.

As an example, one client took on our ITSM toolset, automating as much as possible, making knowledge available on a self-service portal and removing large numbers of manual processes. The result was a 75% reduction in the average resolution time and 99% user satisfaction – something you’d definitely want to write home about.

Want to find out more about how ITSM can help your business?

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By Ryan Duce
9th Oct 2023