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ITIL vs. ITSM: What’s the Difference, and Why Does it Matter?
To remain relevant in our fast-paced, ever-changing technological world, modern day business has had to adopt and perfect modern, agile methods to efficiently manage the delivery of IT services to its business customers. To solve this information dissemination and management dilemma, two acronyms are often used when discussing how to meet customer’s exponentially increasing demands, ITSM (information technology service management) and ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library).
First of all, what’s the difference between ITSM and ITIL? Simply put, ITSM is the practice of delivering IT services and support to internal customers through the use of people, processes, and technology. ITIL is a best practices framework governing how ITSM is delivered.
Similar to the “which came first, the chicken or the egg” question, some people believe that ITIL was the original driver to ITSM. In actuality, ITSM was the precursor. In fact, the concept of service management originated in industries such as manufacturing supply chain management well before IT began thinking about ITSM in this way. Traditional IT was designed to service early mainframe environments – they were siloed, reactive, and without formal processes. ITSM is the result of various technology vendors and product suppliers needing a better way to help their customers implement and utilize the technology they purchased. The solution is modernized ITSM that encompasses proactive processes and procedures used to plan, design, deliver, and control IT service delivery to business users.
The British government is to thank for the origins of ITIL. Not satisfied with the quality of IT services being provided in the early 80’s, the Office of Government Commerce was given the responsibility of developing a new framework for efficiently managing the use of IT resources within both the private sector and the Government. Originally called “GITIM” (Government Information Technology Infrastructure Management), more current versions bear little resemblance to the original framework. Today, ITIL is a world-renowned, best practice framework, adopted by both the public and private sector to align IT services with their on-going business goals.
When ITIL’s version 2 was released in 2001, it became an instant success, the most popular IT best practice framework in the world. It wasn’t until 2007 that a second version, ITIL V3 followed, emphasizing IT and business alignment. The most recent version, in 2011, was referred to as a “tune up” of ITIL V3.
Understanding the ITIL Service Lifecycle
Comprised of five (5) basic publications, each of the below IT Service Lifecycle stages is an integral part of the overall framework of best practices. The ITIL Service Lifecycle publications and processes include:
This aspect of the ITIL Service Lifecycle outlines business goals and requirements needed to service customers and includes the following ITIL processes:
- Service Portfolio Management
- IT Services Financial Management
- Demand Management
- Business Relationship Management
This stage offers guidance for designing, changing, and improving services (Definition of a service: A measurable service, governed by a Service Level Agreement (SLA), and consumed by business end-users in order to perform their jobs). This stage encompasses:
- Service Catalog Management (the service catalog is a published list of services available to end-customers)
- Service-Level Management
- Availability Management
- Capacity Management
- IT Service Continuity Management
- Security Management
- Supplier Management
The Service Transition processes guide the activities necessary for building and deploying IT services, including:
- Change Management
- Service Asset and Configuration Management
- Release and Deployment Management
- Knowledge Management
- Service Validation and Testing
- Transition Planning and Support
- Change Evaluation
The Service Operation stage identifies and defines key processes related to the service desk (interestingly, “Service Desk” is also an ITIL term, signifying an evolved and more strategic version of the Help Desk), technical management, application management, and IT operations teams effectively delivering services. This stage involves:
Continual Service Improvement (CSI)
This stage of the ITIL Service Lifecycle guides the plan for IT service improvements using a metrics-driven approach. In order to reap the benefits of Continual Service Improvement (CSI), it is important to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) for each service or process. The four primary processes relating to CSI are:
- Service Review
- Process Evaluation
- Definition of CSI Initiatives
- Monitoring of CSI Initiatives
8 Rock-Solid Steps to Elevate ITSM Success
ITSM and ITIL have a symbiotic relationship and are inextricably intertwined. ITIL provides guidance on how to work more effectively, while IT service management is the way IT manages the delivery of services to business users. In the next section, which features a visual eBook, we will discuss eight steps to help you leverage ITSM and ITIL to deliver exceptional IT services.
1. Evaluate Your Current ITSM Maturity Level
Change can be disruptive. Before changing your current people, processes, or business technology, it is important to assess your present situation.
- In your zeal to implement change, don’t overlook the most important aspect that will ultimately drive and implement those changes: your personnel. Are the right people in place? Will any be resistant to change? If there are any “round pegs in square holes,” now is the time to deal with those employment issues.
- What processes do you have in place to manage the services you deliver? Are they standardized and repeatable?
- Consider the technology you currently rely on to deliver your IT services. Does it support the culture and needs of your organization? Or are you forced to change your business to fit the technology?
- Have you completed the service definition process, clearly defining all of the services that your customers expect? Also, are you offering too many or non-essential services that over-complicate things or consume valuable resources?
- Are your Service Level Agreements (SLA – the agreement between IT and the end-customer that describes the expectations for the service provided) and Operational Level Agreements (OLA – agreement between IT and other internal departments who provide services in order to achieve the SLA) meeting the needs of your customers?
All of these are valid questions that should be asked and answered before proceeding. In other words, before you make any changes, find out what needs to be changed. Change for change’s sake alone is counterproductive to the efficiency of your business. Document these gaps before you move on to step two.
To learn more about evaluating your ITSM maturity level, check out Jarod Greene’s Periscope broadcast here.
Tweet this: 5 things to consider when evaluating your current ITSM Maturity Level
2. Define (and Communicate) Your ITSM Goals
Understanding the inherent value of setting achievable short and long-term goals that align with the needs of your business is essential. Think about where you see your business in a month, in a year, in five years, and so on. Your goals comprise the road map that defines the future of your business.
One of the main goals of IT service management to implement people, process, and technology in order to deliver valuable, business aligned services to your customers. In order to achieve this goal, you may, for example, make incremental improvements to staffing or technology. Or you may take on major process overhauls. Start by defining your long-term goals, and then pave the way to achieving those goals by setting short-term objectives. Using the SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) will help you achieve quick and quality wins along the way.
SMART goals are:
- Specific – Clearly define your goal.
- Measurable – Establish tangible metrics to measure progress.
- Actionable – Ensure the goal is attainable given your resources and capabilities.
- Relevant – Set goals that you are prepared and able to achieve using your and your team’s skills and resources
- Time-Bound – Ensure you have enough time to achieve the goal, and set deadlines that will prompt urgency and motivation
With all goals and objectives, it is important to identify the measurements and key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to demonstrate progress and success. Clearly defined and well-communicated goals help employees and leaders understand IT’s intentions and forestall resistance to pending change.
3. Obtain Management Buy-in
Don’t overlook the role and importance of upper management to help you gain momentum from the top, secure time and resource commitments, and encourage support from peers. A clear, concise explanation of the value service management will bring to your business, including how it impacts the bottom-line, well-defined goals, and an implementation timeline will help gain management support for your endeavors. Without their buy-in, your project will be “dead in the water.”
It’s a simple truism, if the CIO and management approves and supports your endeavors, so will the rest of business. In order to maintain on-going support, be sure to communicate successes, even small wins, to the leadership team and your peers.
4. Develop Your Plan of Attack
- Before implementing any IT change, take the time to gain a better understanding of ITSM best practices and methodologies. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Although ITIL is a widely accepted IT framework, there are many other alternatives that may better suit your industry and the needs of your particular business. Some of those options include Six Sigma, COBIT, Lean, Agile, ISO, and DevOps, each a viable business solution.
- Consider training and certifications in ITIL or the methodology of your choice prior to undertaking the implementation of ITSM processes. The rewards will be quantifiable. If you and your team utilize the ITIL framework, understanding the intricacies and benefits (reduce business risk, improve customer satisfaction, cut costs, maintain service during change) will help you better integrate your people, processes, and technology, while aligning both IT and business goals to help grow business and revenue.
- Evaluating your business goals, departmental budgets, resource constraints, and organization culture can help you determine which processes work for you. The ITIL guidelines are just that, guidelines. It is not necessary to follow them exactly as presented. It is up to you to adopt processes that meet your individual company needs.
Unfortunately, poorly defined and unenforced processes can create disagreement between IT organizations and business leaders. There is no simple solution or “silver bullet” to define and implement IT service management processes, but you can lessen the discomfort by carefully selecting processes based on their fit for your business needs.
Tweet this: Defining your ITSM goals is one of the most crucial steps to a successful ITSM strategy
5. Assemble a Winning Team
Behind every successful organization is a group of talented people who directly or indirectly contribute to the effective delivery of a product or service. Having the right people in the right positions is imperative to success. Some of the steps you can take to ensure you are effectively using your people resources include:
- Identify the people you already have on board and their skill sets
- Document what roles your business needs to succeed
- Align the people you already have and the roles they can fill
- Identify gaps
- Remove or reassign people who do not fit your needs
- Add people with skill sets that can fill in the gaps
Having the right people is essential to achieving your goals. Be sure that your people are not only committed, but also qualified and comfortable with your business culture. Ask yourself if they are the right people for the job, and don’t forget to define their roles and responsibilities. People need to know what they are supposed to do, including your service managers, IT service management team members, service sponsors, and associated process owners.
6. Automate Sensibly, and Automate Often
In today’s fast-paced business environment, it is impossible to improve service management without automation. Once the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed with the right processes identified and the right people in place, automation is the next logical step, with one word of caution: Don’t automate so much that you lose sight of your primary goals: your customer’s needs for personalized service. Consider the advantages of data-driven automation’s ability to generate an action based on intelligence:
- Manual human error is significantly decreased
- Any number of repeatable processes can be implemented and easily maintained
- Both productivity and predictability will increase dramatically
- Overall improvement in customer experience
- Cost reduction, a direct benefit to the bottom line
7. Select the Right ITSM Software
In order to automate the delivery of services to your end-customer and provide the most modern user experience, you will want to implement an ITSM software solution that incorporates service desk, IT asset management, and IT self-service functionality. There are several elements to consider when choosing the best solution to fit your business needs. Regardless of your industry vertical, organization size, and specialized needs, the solution should:
- Be intuitive and user-friendly
- Consolidate ITSM functionality into a single system
- Automate ITSM processes
- Support integrations
With the right ITSM solution you can:
- Boost productivity
- Minimize the impact of issues
- Reduce overall operating costs
- Adhere to compliance and industry regulations
- Increase team accountability and productivity
Tweet this: Selecting the right ITSM software is key to providing the most modern user experience
8. Implement Continual Improvement (CSI)
Matrices should be developed to measure both the successes and the failures of each process. After defining the parameters, manage all of the measurements in a single place so that you can use the information to define trends and make changes to continuously improve your processes.
IT success is not an accident. It is the considered, deliberate implementation of IT service delivery excellence. This is not achieved overnight, but rather as a series of coordinated transitional steps to achieve a desired improvement. With proper planning, communications, and implementation, ITIL or a similar framework and ITSM can position your company for both present and future growth and profitability.
For a deeper dive into ITIL processes, and how to implement an effective ITIL-based approach to IT service delivery, don’t miss the following white paper: ITIL Made Easy – ITSM Processes and Best Practices.