IT Service Management (ITSM)

Do you use IT services in your company?

Even if you’re shaking your head now: yes, you do. You may well be using IT services without even knowing. Think of any device you use for work. Think of your laptop on which you are reading this document and your email software. Think of your IT department’s support to help you the next time something goes wrong. Behind it all are IT services. Or, to put it another way, you use the services of your IT team for all of these things.

What is an IT service?

i-doit dient als gemeinsame Datenbasis für eine ITSM-Lösung

An IT service is a service. It is used to support business processes with the use of information technology. Very often, IT services make a business process possible in the first place.

In such cases, the service provider (IT service provider) can also be the company’s own IT department. However, many companies today leave this role to a specialised external provider, primarily for cost reasons. This is referred to as outsourcing.

An IT service is always a combination of several components. Above all, these include people, processes and technologies. The composition and process of an IT service are laid down in so-called Service Level Agreements. This is particularly the case with external providers. Since many IT services are responsible for the execution of business-critical processes, you should agree to such SLAs in any case.

In the case of your own internal IT department, this is referred to as an OLA (Operational Level Agreement).

To outsource IT services or not?

You should take into account that outsourcing has both advantages and disadvantages. The significant advantage of outsourcing is the cost factor. You do not have to hire and develop experts and know-how yourself. Moreover, with an external service provider, you have highly specialised experts at your disposal.

The disadvantage is usually the lack of a certain degree of flexibility. Special requirements for your company or certain special cases in your internal processes can usually not (or only with difficulty) be taken into account. In such a case, your company has to adapt, which can also result in costs.

Deckblatt ITSM - Eine Einführung in die Welt des IT Service Management

An introduction to the world of IT Service Management

You’ve heard of ITSM, but don’t know what it actually means? Then this whitepaper is exactly what you need. In this first of three parts in the ITSM series, we’ll show you what ITSM is all about and demonstrate the benefits it brings. You’ll learn the prerequisites for introducing IT Service Management and which steps are necessary.

The IT department as a service provider

Having your own IT department can therefore have its advantages. However, within the company it is primarily seen as a support department. Can’t access the network or send emails in the middle of your day-to-day business? A call to the friendly colleagues in the IT department usually solves the problem within a short time. However, you will notice below that such a call itself indicates a problem.

Internal IT should be viewed more as a service provider. Here, the planning, implementation and support from a wide range of technologies are the responsibility. There is no difference whether the support is provided for you as an employee of the company or for one of your customers. Every contact from the IT department is treated equally. Everyone becomes a customer of the “IT department” service provider.

Have you already implemented this in your company? Welcome to IT Service Management.

What is IT Service Management?

To ensure that IT services work and are helpful to users, IT Service Management (ITSM) comes into play: an approach that helps IT teams improve the way they work in a structured way. It also helps them optimise their services from start to finish.

ITSM is not a rigid specification, but a framework. It is a collection of policies and processes. These enable the management and support of IT services throughout their lifecycle. This framework is primarily used for process modeling. What makes it special: ITSM adapts to your processes and not vice-versa. As a rule, existing processes are optimised through the introduction of IT Service Management. And this is done in all areas of the company.

ITSM encompasses quality management, software development, change management and information security management. It provides a process-orientated approach to organising IT services. The focus is on the organisation and structure of IT departments that are focused on themselves. It helps to align IT goals with business objectives and customer benefits. A key aspect of IT Service Management is the continuous improvement of structures and processes.

On the way to becoming an ITSM tool

IT Service Management is primarily a construct of processes, guidelines and methods. This framework lays the foundations for its implementation.

In order to introduce ITSM in your company, you need the support of information technology. More precisely: an ITSM tool.

An ITSM tool is a software solution that allows you to co-ordinate and manage even complex processes from beginning to end. Such a solution works especially well when multiple departments and people are involved in a process. And that is exactly the purpose of this solution. After all, all areas of the company should benefit from it.

As a consequence, choosing an ITSM solution is a significant decision. You should not be tempted to make this decision in passing. It doesn’t just affect IT, it affects your entire company. In the past, implementing IT service management was often virtually out of the question, especially for small and medium-sized companies. The costs alone, and the human and technical resources required for implementation, blocked the way for smaller companies.

Today, however, the ITSM world is a different one.

Identify problems and requirements

Before you get down to the actual implementation of ITSM, you need to do some preliminary work. First, you should analyse where the actual problems lie that you want to eliminate with the implementation of ITSM. Take a thorough look at your existing processes and uncover any weak points. Then define the requirements you have for an ITSM solution.

Ask questions. Which processes are currently running well and should be retained? Which existing tools will you continue to use? What are your goals to be achieved by implementing IT Service Management? What problems do you want to solve?

The answers to these questions will help you get closer to the ITSM solution that is best for you.

The components of an ITSM solution

When selecting an ITSM tool, there is one rule we would like to emphasise:

ITSM cannot be implemented with one single piece of software.

You’ll quickly discover that uniting different systems brings more benefits than using a single solution. Why is that?

You will find systems on the market that combine all the necessary components. This has the advantage that you only have to maintain one solution and have only one point of contact when you need support. The decisive disadvantage, however, is that you have to rely on a single manufacturer. If there are problems in one of the components, the entire system is affected. And if one of the components doesn’t meet your requirements, the worst case scenario is that you’ll be forced to replace the entire system. 

If you implement a solution from individual systems, you gain both independence and flexibility. If a solution does not meet your requirements, you simply replace it. The rest of your ITSM tool continues to run unaffected. Each individual application is optimally aligned to its area, as each manufacturer invests its entire know-how in this system. In this way, each solution unfolds its full potential. You have professional tools at your disposal, which together represent a future-proof setup.

Deckblatt ITSM - 6 Schritte zur Einführung eines IT Service Management

6 Steps to Introducing IT Service Management

IT Service Management is to be introduced in your company. You don’t know yet how to approach the project and what is needed for it? Then this whitepaper will give you the most important hints and tips. In this second part of our ITSM series, we explain how to get through the project and select the right solutions.

Which components belong to an ITSM solution?

The CMDB.

This is the core of the entire ITSM tool. It contains all the information about the assets: the technical data, people, documents and much more. All the information is linked to other information by dependencies and relationships. All other components of the ITSM solution access or update the data in the CMDB.

IT monitoring.

Systematic monitoring of important networks and systems in real time is essential. If you detect faults and failures immediately through powerful network monitoring, you can react quickly and ensure availability. Ideally, you’ll fix a fault before users even realise something is wrong.

Network discovery.

Network discovery is the tool of choice for providing IT documentation with initial data. All the components connected to the network are automatically detected. Important information such as the software installed, serial numbers and IP addresses are provided immediately. The manual effort required for documentation is eliminated to a large extent. Later, during its operation, you will appreciate that the maintenance effort is immensely reduced.

The Service Desk.

Wouldn’t it be great if a customer support employee could automatically see all the information about a process in front of him? This is exactly the advantage you enjoy when you connect a CMDB to the Service Desk. All information about an asset is automatically read from the CMDB and stored in the ticket. In addition, there are details about previous communication, emails, incident reports and much more. No queries, no delays.

Are you already using one of these systems?

The ideal ITSM tool is open and flexible

No IT manager in the world can anticipate all use cases within an organisation. That’s why “open,” “adaptable” and “configurable” are the most important terms for an ITSM solution. Your ITSM tool must allow you to respond to new requirements at any time. 

With these considerations in mind, you can now narrow down the tools that come into question. The next step is to test the individual solutions in detail. Allow sufficient time for this phase. Cutting corners at this point to save time can end up being costly. Ultimately, you need to make sure that all the tools you select work together seamlessly and support you perfectly in achieving your goal: To optimise your business processes.

A practical example: A new server

The strength of the individual components of an ITSM tool lies in their integration. We would like to use a practical example to show you how the individual ITSM components work together. We are looking at a section of a server lifecycle.

With i-doit, you can map the entire IMAC process chain very easily. Managing the lifecycle of a server is significantly simplified by the possibilities offered by data integration. This shortens communication channels, you only have to enter data once, and IT operations are thus optimised.

Step 1: Basic documentation.

When you order a new server, it is included in the IT documentation. This is primarily for capacity management purposes. You can check whether you may need to make follow-up orders, for space, rack space, cabling, UPS, and so on. You can already document definable values (IP address, rack space). You do not need to consider deeper technical details at this stage. This is what Network Discovery is for later in the lifecycle.

Step 2: Delivery has taken place.

Now you have more information at your disposal. You should document this immediately. Delivery bill, supplier, invoice, warranty start and duration are all data that you cannot collect automatically. However, you will need them. So it’s a good idea to include them manually in the IT documentation as soon as possible. Also remember the serial number. You can use this to perform a mapping, which will be used by Network Discovery at a later point.

Step 3: Discovery provides the necessary details.

You have installed the new server in the rack and put it into operation. Now it’s time for Network Discovery. During the next run of your Discovery tool, you automatically find the server and its data is read out. Now information such as memory, hard disk capacity, operating system and patch level are automatically added into the documentation.

There is an enormous amount of detailed data in your network. With Discovery, you can transfer large parts of it into the CMDB. This simplifies IT documentation greatly.

Step 4: Monitoring in operational use.

Maybe your new server is also used as storage for important documents. Or you have assigned it the task of being an email server. In any case, its task is so important that a failure would be critical. You need to be able to detect a failure as quickly as possible.

Now the Monitoring can demonstrate its strengths. Data on the new server comes from the CMDB. As a result, your monitoring solution “knows” how to address the server. The Monitoring tool continuously checks whether the server is accessible. The data obtained is added to the server in the CMDB. 

If an error occurs, the tool immediately raises an alarm. This is done by a clearly visible, corresponding message in the dashboard of the CMDB. At the same time, a new ticket is generated and sent directly to the responsible technicians. Thanks to the integration with the Service Desk, this happens fully automatically.

Step 5: The Service Desk.

The Monitoring cannot reach the new server. This critical error is immediately reported by the system. You see the error message immediately on the dashboard of your CMDB. However, more is happening in the background.

A new ticket is created automatically. This process is triggered by Monitoring. The data on the server comes from the CMDB and is added directly to the ticket. The ticket is then assigned directly to the responsible technician. The technician now has all the important information available at a glance.

You can see how important it is for the individual components of your ITSM tool to work seamlessly together. This way, you can ensure that data is available when and where you need it.

The Benefits of IT Service Management

Introducing IT Service Management into your organisation is a significant step. It requires a certain amount of effort to take this step. But it is worth it. Because ITSM has many more advantages than you might think.

  • Clearly defined processes that you can rely on. Transparency across all departments. Defined roles and responsibilities. Everyone in the company knows exactly who is responsible for which tasks. Altogether, this creates efficiency.
  • The IT department becomes more deeply involved in the company. It knows exactly what is needed and why.
  • Departments move closer together and improve their collaboration. This leads to higher efficiency and thus to increased productivity.
  • Faults are detected and rectified much faster. This saves costs.
  • Your company becomes less afraid of audits for certifications such as ISO 27001 or ISO 20000.
  • The exchange of knowledge between different parts of the company is improved. This also improves the optimisation of processes.
  • Increased transparency places the customer even further into the centre. Customers are empowered to help themselves.

All this sounds fantastic, of course. In the end, however, ITSM has only one main goal: to increase the satisfaction of your employees and therefore your customers.

What does ITIL have to do with ITSM?

If you’re looking into the subject of ITSM, you’ll inevitably come across the term “ITIL”. This refers to the “IT Infrastructure Library”. This collection of best practices for IT Service Management was developed in Great Britain in the 1980s. Today, ITIL in its fourth version is the quasi-standard for the implementation of an ITSM.

The terms ITSM and ITIL are often confused, but they are two different things. ITIL is a method for implementing an ITSM. But not every ITSM is based on ITIL.

Frameworks support you in using the appropriate procedures, people and technology. They provide a collection of values, processes and strategies for implementing IT Service Management. And in addition to ITIL, there are numerous other models for this purpose.

COBIT

Framework for IT Management. It is intended to provide a link between IT-specific frameworks such as ITIL and models from other areas of the company. This applies, for example, to COSO for financial reporting.

Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)

Standards and processes for creating, implementing and managing efficient and economical IT services.

Six Sigma

System for process improvement and quality management. Focuses on describing, measuring, analyzing, improving and monitoring processes using statistical means.

ISO 20000

International standard for Service Management. It defines the minimum requirements for processes that must be established in order to provide and manage IT services in a defined quality.

TOGAF

Structured standard for companies to organise and regulate software technologies.

Some companies use multiple frameworks to implement ITSM. And others still manage without a framework.

How you get to your ITSM is up to you. The path you choose should fit your business and your methods. The only thing you should pay attention to is the goal: efficient processes for your company’s success.

The most important ITSM practices according to ITIL

ITIL speaks of practices in its current 2019 version. In previous versions, it talked about processes. Incident management process thus becomes incident management practice. ITIL 4 defines a total of 34 ITSM practices, which are divided into general management practices, service management practices and technical management practices.

The most important practices for ITSM at a glance:

Service Request Management

Requests from users for a tool, information or advice should be organised centrally. This makes sure that approval, processing and delivery times are as short as possible.

Problem Management

Analysis of the possible causes of incidents in order to prevent them in the long term and to find workarounds.

Change Control

Creating standards to make upgrades, developments and releases run as smoothly as possible.

Release Management

Planning, testing and contingency plans to facilitate the further development and improvement of services. This prevents any negative impact on business operations.

IT Asset Management

Collection of processes that simplify the management of all IT assets (software and hardware).

Availability Management

Ensures that the availability of an IT service agreed with the user is guaranteed.

Capacity and Performance Management

Organises all the necessary resources to deliver IT services in a timely and cost-effective manner.

What ITSM practices do I need?

To successfully implement ITSM in your organisation, you should first specify what your organisation needs. Is your IT support team constantly dealing with the same incidents? Then you should take a closer look and address the root causes. In ITIL-speak, this means problem management instead of incident management.

What’s important: ITSM adapts to your business, not the other way around. Neither an ISO standard nor ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library) dictates which processes and measures are most suitable for your company. Understand ITSM correctly. The goal is not to implement the maximum possible solutions. Success lies in implementing simply what makes sense.

To implement ITSM practices, you don’t just need the right tool and processes, but also a culture change. As mentioned earlier: look at IT within the organisation as a service provider, and not “just another department.”

Before implementing ITSM, ask yourself the following questions:

Is your team ready to implement ITSM practices? A company with 150 employees will benefit far more from implementing ITSM than a company with 25 employees.

What problems do you ultimately want to solve? Is it about reducing costs? You can also achieve that through systematic processes.

Which framework do you want to use? Here you should already be aware of the problem you want to solve. Each framework helps build structure and predictability, but the processes are different and should fit your problem.

How to implement a cost-effective ITSM solution

The days of a few vendors offering proprietary ITSM solutions are over. By integrating specialised tools, which are often available as open source, an ITSM strategy can be implemented cost-effectively.

This development is the ticket into the ITSM world for small and medium-sized enterprises. The functional scope of monitoring, discovery, service desk and IT documentation/CMDB goes far beyond ready-made off-the-shelf solutions. Two aspects are important in this context:

Evolutionary approach

When the company or organisation is ready to take the next development step, additional tools can be integrated via standard interfaces. The customer decides on the right time – not a software company that wants to generate more sales.

Adaptability

The interfaces can be adapted to the customer’s own needs and business processes. Although they are preconfigured, they can also be changed and extended. This leaves you free to decide which other tools you want to connect. There is no longer any dependence on a single manufacturer.

Deckblatt ITSM - IT Service Management mit der i-doit CMDB

IT Service Management with i-doit CMDB

You have already dealt with the topic of ITSM. You may already have monitoring or a service desk in place as a stand-alone solution. And now you want to move on to a complete ITSM solution? We’ll show you how this is possible with i-doit CMDB, what you need to get there and which solutions can help you succeed.

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