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Define ITSM Properly or Not at All

motherbookWhen organizations decide to drop the “IT” from “ITSM” (IT service management), the meaning of the term is unintentionally changed, and Ian M. Clayton refers to this change as a “poisoned apple” that is “designed to deliberately distract, to disable the term as less modern, and perhaps to hide the failings caused by the traditional infrastructure centric definition.” He writes in a blog post why the term ITSM is still valid and why reducing it to just “service management” is a gross oversight.

Clayton says “service management” was first introduced by “the business” in research papers and publications as far back as the 1960s. Businesses saw that we were entering past the age of mass manufacturing and into an age of providing services, and so it became necessary to first understand how customers defined success and second what types of help customers would enjoy employing to achieve that success. It was in this sense that service management was understood:

Service management was defined as understanding, influencing and managing service expectations, service encounter, the experience of interacting with a product and the providing organization, moments of truth, and the emotions at play, all from the customer perspective.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s this was further combined with the customer centric, ‘outside-in’ principles of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). Unfortunately, many of these vital principles seem to have been missed, misunderstood, or ignored by those who defined traditional ITSM, in favor of a best practice, process, manufacturing lifecycle, and infrastructure centric or ‘inside-out’ based view.

When defining ITSM, Clayton temporarily divorces “IT” from “SM” in order to explain that the “IT” component has to do with the goal of an organization attaining transparency. He says in an ideal setting, where infrastructure and technology involved in delivering a service seem non-existent to the customer, that IT should stand for “invisible technology.” As few layers of complexity should separate the customer from the intended outcome as possible. To best visualize this, Clayton gives the example of a soda machine, which strips down the process to inserting money, pressing a button, and reaching the conclusion of the interaction.

In the end, when IT and SM are put back together, Clayton defines ITSM as “the application of the original service management concepts and methods, developed by business product marketers, to the challenges of an IT organization being performance managed as a service provider.” It may be a mouthful, but it is comprehensive. Clayton’s point is that though “service management” and ITSM have several points of commonality, the differences are substantial enough that you really muddy the waters when you try to reference one as the other.

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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