What is IT service management (ITSM)?

IT service management (ITSM) is a set of policies and processes for planning, delivering, and supporting IT services. ITSM is how IT teams manage end-to-end delivery of their services to customers.

For many organizations, the main purpose of ITSM is to modernize IT practices and improve customer service in alignment with business goals. This often means expanding the traditional, narrow focus on infrastructure and technical support — viewing IT as a critical service that is vital to the success of the business.

There are several types of common ITSM processes that help IT teams provide more efficient and high-quality services. These processes include:

Asset management

Managing all technology (software, hardware, etc.) throughout the entire asset lifecycle

Change management

Strategic procedures for managing change requests to minimize business impact

Disaster recovery

Supporting and recovering critical IT services when major disruptive events occur

Incident management

Tracking, prioritizing, and responding to reported service incidents

Problem management

Optimizing the overall approach to preventing and resolving problems

Release management

Building, testing, and releasing service changes, new solutions, and improved functionality

Request management

Responding to and fulfilling IT service requests from customers


ITSM is sometimes confused with IT infrastructure library (ITIL), but they are two distinct concepts. ITSM refers to the broader idea of managing IT activities, while ITIL is a specific framework for implementing ITSM. For example, there are clearly defined standards and best practices for change management and release management within ITIL.

ITIL is the most popular framework for implementing ITSM, which is why the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. But there are a number of other effective ITSM frameworks, including:

Regardless of which framework you choose, ITSM can help you provide faster and better delivery of IT services through standardization and repeatability.

What are the benefits of ITSM?

IT teams are responsible for a wide range of services — from technology infrastructure to data security — and often have goals related to efficiency and productivity. The most obvious benefit of ITSM is that it provides structure and guidance for you to deliver these services and achieve your goals. This in turn helps to improve customer experiences with technology overall and drives progress on strategic business initiatives.

ITSM also benefits organizations by:

  • Reducing costs, delays, and duplicate work

  • Enabling swift and coordinated responses to disruptions or emergencies

  • Empowering IT teams to be leaders in cross-team collaboration

  • Considering more up-to-date and innovative IT practices

  • Promoting deeper IT-business alignment

Getting started with ITSM requires deep planning and communication. IT roadmapping software can help you build a technology strategy, map IT and business goals, and visualize your ITSM plans for leadership.

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