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Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) is the framework for delivering technology within a business. While often interchanged with Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), the two are very different.

ITSM is the organizational implementation of a management model used to design, implement and manage quality services for business customers. ITIL is a library of process standards outlined in five core publications that guide the delivery and support of IT services, including strategy, design, transition, operation and continual service improvement.

ITIL and ITSM together allow for the deliverance and management of a portfolio of quality services for the organization. Think of ITSM as the organizational function, while ITIL is the process function, but the differences don’t stop there.

ITSM is the way in which information systems manage and deliver value to an organization’s customers. IT service management solutions can be used to improve call, asset and change management processes, among other high-impact services like event, fleet and problem management. For example, with ITSM an organization can manage its properties and premises from one queue, safeguarding the quality of your processes, such as room management, property management, asset management, reservations, key management or long-term planning. You can register all of your buildings and rooms down to the last detail.

Managing properties and assets is one of the core tasks of a facilities organization. Several processes can be applied to properties and assets: operational tasks, large and small-scale maintenance, reservations, cleaning, long-term planning, repairs, etc. With so much going on, managing, registering and organizing information is of utmost importance.

ITSM is the capability of delivering services to their customers. ITIL is a framework for ITSM. ITIL’s theoretical framework is proper for implementing processes. True, ITIL was born from the IT world, but it can also apply to other business sectors. This is particularly true for areas of business with an increasingly process-oriented mentality, such as facilities management.

ITIL can enable process-oriented and service providing organizations to support a higher level of service and its application can offer the following benefits:

  • Input concerning improvements, or help in easing existing bottlenecks in the service
  • Stimulate process-oriented thinking and working methods, making it tangible
  • Introduce common terminology, so that customers, service providers and mutual service providers all speak the same language

Not everything that is mentioned in ITIL is useful for every organization. The maturity, size and type of organization will determine which components of ITIL will be the most useful to bring into practice. ITIL is therefore no guarantee for success. A certain amount of translation is necessary when applying ITIL in practice. ITIL uses the words “urgency” and “impact”; two factors that have influence on the priority of, an interruption in services. However, both of these terms can be confusing and the terms may be better translated organization-specific terminology. In a hospital for example, people won’t talk about a “high” or “low” impact, but will instead look at whether an interruption in services has an effect on patient care. It is important not to make it more complicated than is needed.

With the framework in place organizations oversee better management of their processes, experience more efficient operational efficiencies and integration with service providers. Together, ITSM and ITIL improves service levels and enhances the relationship between an IT organization’s internal and external service providers while improving service levels.

TechTarget describes ITSM as a proper way to align the delivery of IT services with the needs of the organization, employees and customers. On the contrary, the benefits of ITIL are many, of course, including a deeper alignment of their IT services to the business as a whole and meeting services with a higher degree of efficiency; better delivery of IT services; and reducing the effort of IT to reduce waste and focus on needed solutions to meet specific needs.

Adopting every component of ITIL is not a requirement, but identifying certain areas and bringing them into the organization’s structure mean that it will likely experience operational improvements, from an IT perspective anyway. The ITIL structure that works best for an organization is up to that organization. The most efficient organizations often use a combination of the ITIL and ITSM frameworks.

Interestingly, US-based organizations continue to lag behind their European counterparts in the use of such solutions. More than 50 percent of European businesses manage their IT as service according to ITIL best practices guidelines compared to about one third of those in North America. Of those using the frame work more than 60 percent report meeting their service level agreements while only about 40 percent in the US report doing so. One report suggests that ITIL is key to ensuring that IT processes are closely aligned to business goals. According to researchers, the ITIL best practice guidelines provide results and those businesses that implement ITSM receive more of the benefits.

It’s surprising that not more US organizations participate in ITIL. Both those organizations in the US and Europe that effectively implemented ITSM and ITIL are considered top performers, achieving nearly 90 percent of their service level agreement goals. On average the best in class organizations also have 85 percent of their IT services delivered on time, which is 20 percent above industry average, and they experience 83 percent efficiency of IT processes or 112 percent better than all others surveyed, while they currently experience 63 percent cost savings from their ITSM implementations.

In fact, in another report, 68 percent of Europeans consider ITIL a must, while at least 50 percent of organizations use the services outside of IT in areas such as sales, human resources and even finance. However, Europeans utilize their service desks to improve customer satisfaction and to meet service level compliance. US organizations use their service desks for knowledge management, customer satisfactions and self-service.

In sum, businesses that invest in ITIL and integrate it with ITSM are typically the strongest in regard to how their IT organization run and perform.