Last updated on: May 26, 2020

This extensive guide aims to give you a complete overview of the foundational concepts of IT service management (ITSM) to help you understand everything you need to know about ITSM, including ITSM processes and workflows, benefits, best practices, and how to implement it. Learn to align IT to your business needs, and efficiently deliver services.

In this IT service management guide, we will discuss the following:

  1. What is IT service management (ITSM)?
  2. What is the difference between ITIL®& ITSM?
  3. Benefits of IT service management
  4. IT service management processes
  5. ITSM processes and workflows
  6. Tips for selecting a new ITSM tool
  7. Future of ITSM trends
  8. ITSM glossary of terms
  9. Download ITSM resource pack for free

What is IT service management (ITSM)?

ITSM meaning

IT service management (ITSM) is the process of designing, delivering, managing, and improving the IT services an organization provides to its end users. ITSM is focused on aligning IT processes and services with business objectives to help an organization grow.

What is the difference between ITSM and ITIL?

ITSM framework

ITIL is a framework of best practices and recommendations for managing an organization's IT operations and services. It was commissioned by the UK Government's  Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in the mid-1980s. ITSM processes, when built based on the ITIL framework, pave the way for better IT services and improved business. To summarize, ITIL is a set of guidelines for effective IT service management.

86% of service desks use the ITIL framework. However, the use of ISO/IEC 20000 (29%) and DevOps (11%) has increased in recent years.

Source : ServiceDesk Institute

Benefits of efficient ITSM processes

Benefits of IT service management

Irrespective of the size of business, every organization is involved in IT service management in some way. ITSM ensures that incidents, service requests, problems,changes, and IT assets in addition to other aspects of IT services are managed in a streamlined way.

IT teams in your organization can employ various workflows and best practices in ITSM, as outlined in ITIL.

Effective ITSM processes can have positive effects on an IT organization's overall function.

Here are the 10 key benefits of ITSM:

  • Lower costs for IT operations
  • Higher returns on IT investments
  • Minimal service outages
  • Ability to establish well-defined, repeatable, and manageable IT processes
  • Efficient analysis of IT problems to reduce repeat incidents
  • Improved efficiency of IT help desk teams
  • Well-defined roles and responsibilities
  • Clear expectations on service levels and service availability
  • Risk-free implementation of IT changes
  • Better transparency into IT processes and services

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ITSM processes

ITSM processes typically include five stages, all based on the ITIL framework:

ITSM process lifecycle

ITIL service strategy overview

Service strategy

This stage forms the foundation or the framework of an organization's ITSM process building. It involves defining the services that the organization will offer, strategically planning processes, and recognizing and developing the required assets to keep processes moving. Service strategy for any organization includes the following aspects:

Strategy management

Assessing the organization's market, offerings, and competition, and developing a strategy for IT services.

Service portfolio management

Managing the service catalog to ensure it has the right IT services, within the defined level of investment, to cater to customers.

Financial management

Managing the organization's budget, accounts, and bills.

Demand and capacity management

Understanding and anticipating the demand for the defined IT services, and ensuring that the organization has the capacity to meet customers' demands and needs. 

Business relationship management

Identifying the needs of end users, ensuring that the right services are developed to meet their requirements, to maintain a positive relationship with customers.

ITIL service design processes

Service design

This stage's main aim is planning and designing the IT services the organization offers to meet business demands. It involves creating and designing new services as well as assessing current services and making relevant improvements. There are several elements to IT service design:

Design coordination

Managing designs to ensure that the newly designed or modified services, information systems, technology, and metrics are consistent and effective.

Service catalogue management

Creating and maintaining a service catalog that provides all information pertaining to the organization's IT offerings, their present status, and interdependencies.

Risk management

Identifying potential risks caused by IT service processes, recording them with their impact and plausible workarounds.

Service level management

Defining service-level agreements based on discussions with the customers, to ensue that services are designed based on them.

Capacity management

Analyzing the capacity of the offered IT services and ensuring that they suffice to meet the expected and agreed service-level targets.

Availability management

Managing all aspects of the availability of IT services.

IT service continuity management

Managing risks to ensure that at least the minimally agreed service levels are met, so that there's no disruption to business continuity.

Information security

Maintaining data security, as well as protecting the confidentiality and integrity of the organization.


Ensuring IT services comply with enterprise and legal policies.

Architecture management

Planning and developing the future of the organization's technological landscape based on new technologies that are available in the market.

Supplier management

Managing contracts with suppliers to ensure that suppliers meet their contractual commitments. 

ITIL service transition process

Service transition

Once the designs for IT services and their processes have been finalized, it's important to build them and test them out to ensure that processes flow. IT teams need to ensure that the designs don't disrupt services in any way, especially when existing IT service processes are upgraded or redesigned. This calls for change management, evaluation, and risk management. No transition happens without risks and it's important to be proactive during transitions.

Change management and evaluation

Controlling the life cycle of any IT change, including operational, strategic, or tactical changes.

Project management

Planning and managing major release activities.

Knowledge management

Maintaining a shared IT knowledge base within the organization.

Service asset and configuration Management

Maintaining and managing IT assets that are required for the offered IT services, and their configuration items (CIs).

Release and deployment management

Planning, scheduling, and controlling the deployment of various releases to ensure minimal disruption to existing services.

ITIL service operation processes

Service operation

This phase involves implementing the tried and tested new or modified designs in a live environment. While in this stage, the processes have already been tested and the issues fixed, but new processes are bound to have hiccups especially when customers start using the services. IT teams therefore need to closely monitor processes and workflows and be proactive in ensuring continuity in service delivery. The ITIL framework defines the following as some of the main processes in the service operation stage:

Incident and request fulfillment management

Ensuring that all IT incidents are resolved at the earliest and service requests are attended to within the agreed service level targets.

Problem management

Managing all IT problems, minimizing the impact of IT incidents that led to the problem, and coming up with a solution or a workaround.

Technical management

Managing the IT infrastructure with the most appropriate technical expertise and support.

ITIL Continual service improvement lifecycle

Continual service improvement (CSI)

Implementing IT processes successfully shouldn't be the final stage in any organization. There's always room for improvement and new development based on issues that pop up, customer needs and demands, and user feedback. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics play a significant role in identifying areas that need improvement or change. For better understanding, read this blog on the important KPIs for any organization. The following are a few of the aspects of CSI:

IT service review

Reviewing offered services and the IT infrastructure to identify any areas that may require improvements.

Process evaluation

Monitoring processes constantly and evaluating them to ensure that the benchmark is maintained.

CSI initiatives management

Defining and monitoring CSI initiatives to ensure that the CSI activities are being carried out as per the plan, and to fix any hiccups that may occur along the way.

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