Effective IT service management (ITSM) is what separates great organizations from everyone else. It’s why firms spend millions of dollars each year on IT consulting services, to do things such as:
- Developing IT strategies that align with their overall business goals and strategies
- Supporting corporate objectives with effective IT services
- Ensuring that the provision of IT service generates a return on investment
As technology continues to permeate nearly every aspect of business, companies are constantly looking for ways to integrate IT service into their overall business strategies. ITSM comes in by providing businesses with a framework or structure around the lifecycle for IT services, which covers development, management, and upkeep.
What Is IT Service Management?
ITSM is a collection of policies and processes that guide the implementation, improvement, and support of customer-related IT services. Unlike other IT management approaches that are focused on hardware, systems, and networks, ITSM is specifically geared towards improving IT customer service according to the organization’s business goals.
A 2017 Forbes report shows that business leaders recognize the importance of ITSM in digital enterprise initiative. According to the report, 56 percent of executives view ITSM as either being “extremely important” or close to extremely important in their organizations cloud computing and big data initiatives. Meanwhile, 54 percent said that ITSM is “extremely important” or close to extremely important in the implementation of their mobile computing initiatives.
With IT service management playing such a big role in helping IT departments drive digital transformation in their respective organizations, it comes as no surprise why different enterprises and their IT leaders are constantly looking at new approaches to keep IT efficient and effective.
Whatever these approaches, are, however, they tend to share a number of best practices.
1. Integrate Instead of Align
Most ITSM frameworks envision the role of IT services as being fully integrated into the enterprise. Many business leaders, however, make the mistake of treating IT as a separate entity, using it as a tool that needs to be aligned with the organization’s overall business goals. As a result, the IT department is often isolated from other departments like customer service, sales, and marketing among others, when in fact, IT often has the insights to help these departments and vice versa.
Let’s look at marketing as an example. In many modern organizations, marketing teams rely on data analytics to understand their customers’ needs, make forecasts, and predict customer behavior. That data, however, often comes from huge tech stacks with multiple point solutions that only IT professionals can make sense of. It’s for this reason that today’s marketers and IT teams need to work together to fully leverage their ability to capture data using technology.
2. Anticipate Problems Instead of Simply Reacting to Them
In the bad old days of IT, the tech team’s role was focused on responding to problems as they cropped up. But as enterprise technologies became more sophisticated, this game of cat and mouse proved impractical.
Today, businesses can no longer afford to wait for problems to appear; they need to anticipate potential risks and issues before they turn into an actual problem. For the IT department, this means being proactive instead of reactive. For example, ITSM frameworks like ITIL recommend regular service improvements, such as:
- Regular security updates to safeguard your systems from cyberattacks
- Redundancies to ensure server uptime in the case of failure
- Regular data backups and recovery to protect the integrity of your database
- Regular risk assessments to identify new risks in your IT infrastructure’s technology, security, and functionality
3. Look at Your Infrastructure Holistically
A chief tenet of IT service management is looking at things as a whole. As mentioned earlier, it’s important for enterprises to avoid having IT and other departments operate in silos, as collaboration can be the key to driving synergy and growth.
Another area where this holistic mindset should be applied is in the design of services. ITSM avoids the all-too-common mistake of responding to problems as they arise with ad hoc solutions. Instead, it takes a more methodical approach to designing services, implementing them, measuring their performance, and making improvements.
Your IT department needs to look at this as end-to-end effort, something that is evident in the amount of design and planning recommended by ITSM frameworks.
4. Create Detailed Workflows for IT Incidents
Another best practice recommended in most ITSM frameworks is the need for structured workflows for recording and resolving IT incidents. No matter what kind of planning you do, incidents are inevitable and will require the IT department to get in touch with individual users.
Standardized workflows help optimize this process and increase accountability by ensuring that everyone follows the same set of procedures. If human error should be a factor, it becomes easier to track by checking where exactly someone deviated from the workflow. In addition, the use of workflows also allows IT to capture and record data about repeated incidents, which then can be analyzed to create new best practices.
5. Protect Your Information
All ITSM frameworks stress the importance of securing your data, whether it’s through data encryption on your standalone or virtualized servers, improving user access security and authentication, limiting physical access to your database to where the actual information is stored, or placing restrictions on the kind of work that can be done on certain workstations.
At a time when cyberattacks have cost companies like Sony, Marriott, and Uber millions of dollars, not to mention massive PR headaches, it has never been more important to keep your data, especially your customers’ data, under lock and key.
IT Service Management is About Constant Improvement
Finally, at the heart of every IT service management framework is the mandate to constantly improve. ITSM frameworks recommend continual monitoring and refinement of your IT services for a reason—to improve and drive the business forward. Gone are the days when IT departments simply have to set up a service and forget about it. Modern businesses are constantly finding ways to improve and innovate—is it really a surprise that IT must do the same?