IT service management, or ITSM, in its most simple definition, is “an IT management capability that’s grown in popularity over the last 30 years.” Despite such a succinct explanation, many CIOs are left to stumble through explaining exactly what that means. In essence, it comes down to just four core driving factors, as explained in this article by John Borwick of Heit Management:
- A way of thinking about what Information Technology does: IT provides serives.
- A common language for customers and IT people to use.
- A rallying point for technical people in different IT areas to understand how they can work together delivering services customers want.
- A process-oriented lens to understand good ways of developing, implementing, and maintaining services.
ITSM can be considered somewhat of a gap filler in the world of IT. Borwick uses the example of a research assistant accidentally deleting important files. The user finds that these important files were not backed up. For the point of view of Help Desk and IT, not knowing the file was important was enough of a reason to not back it up. From the point of view of the user, using IT’s file shares was done for the purpose of saving files in case they would need to be restored. ITSM, ideally, would negate such errors in communication by properly managing services to meet the needs of everyone. It is important to realize that this does not mean that ITSM is the one great saving grace of IT management, but it can be quite complementary when paired with application development, approaches to process improvement, and many other capabilities. Now that we better understand ITSM, it is time to get a better definition of what ITIL is:
“ITIL” is a framework for service management. It’s one way of approaching service management. Other approaches exist, but ITIL is widely used. ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, and is literally a library of five core books:
- Service Strategy
- Service Design
- Service Transition
- Service Operation
- Continual Service Improvement
Each of these books represents a phase in the “service lifecycle,” from the initial thoughts about offering a new service, to building it, implementing it, maintaining it, and improving it. As I mentioned above, ITSM is process-oriented; much of the five ITIL books talks about the processes needed for each phase of the lifecycle and how those processes could be designed, implemented, measured, and improved, and how those processes can work together across the entire service lifecycle.
Now, it is important to understand what each of those five books means. Service Strategy involves finding out what customers really want as well as how IT can help. Service Design tells us what this desired service will do, what risks it entails, and how to communicate all of these things with the customer. Service Transition, as the name would suggest, details how to put a particular service into production. Service Operation gives ways to appropriately deal with the risks and demands of a service once it is in place. Finally, Continual Service Improvement makes an organization or an individual consider how things could be done better the next time around. Of course, there is far more to ITSM and ITIL than what has been discussed here, but learning from these starting points is a great way to clear up confusion and promote utilization in the business world.