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What is ITSM? An Important Question in IT Asset Management

Posted by Henry Cheang | October 7, 2014 7:00 AM

Remember: ITIL is not the same as ITSM

In a blog post last week, we stated that ITIL (which stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library) has close ties to ITSM (which stands for stands for IT Service Management). Note the underlying message here: ITIL and ITSM are not identical! This distinction isn’t always clear, and so, in the spirit of helpfulness, we’re going to highlight the key points to note regarding ITSM so as to clarify the difference between ITIL and ITSM. This is an important topic in IT asset management, after all.

What is ITSM?

To really understand ITSM, we have to take a step back and explain the actual meaning of “IT service”. In the present context, an IT service can be defined as a collection of hardware, software, people, and documentation that together provides an IT system that conveys a useful amenity to an end user (or customer). ITSM is a discipline and a process that enables information technology governance objectives. More plainly, ITSM is centred on meeting the technology needs of business end users.

What is ITSM?

The process covers (among many others):

  • Problem and change management
  • Disaster recovery
  • Capacity planning of IT resources in organizations.

Although technology management is clearly a necessary component in ITSM, it is not the chief focus of the discipline. Rather, ITSM primarily addresses the need to deliver IT services best aligned with business requirements. The following table illustrates some key differences between ITSM and the traditional business IT paradigm:

Traditional IT


ITSM Process

Technology focus

Process focus



Single instance

Repeatable, continuous, accountable

Informal processes

Formal best practices

IT internal perspective

Business perspective

It is beyond the scope of the current discussion to detail the full methodology and implementation of ITSM. However, a broad overview of both can be easily shown.

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ITSM Methodology and Implementation

ITSM is focused on providing support and delivery of IT services. For example, support includes (but is not limited to):

  • Management of IT infrastructure configuration (i.e., ensuring that IT resources are logically designed, selected, and placed)
  • Incident management (i.e., ensuring that unforeseen events have little or no impact on business functioning)
  • A service desk (a primary point of contact between users and the IT department).

Note that part of IT service delivery (could) entail measurement of the operational efficiency of a solution.

In general, ITSM implementation for any given organization begins with four high-level strategizing sequential steps:

  1. Determine the organization’s current IT infrastructure and resources;
  2. Map out future business IT goals (i.e., IT services needed to support and advance the business);
  3. Devise a roadmap between current and desired  IT state; and
  4. Define the concrete steps needed to execute the roadmap.

Once the strategy has been created, implementation takes the form of a continuous cycle of assessing (and re-assessing), architecting, deploying, and supporting the IT services necessary for achieving desired business goals.

Relationship with ITIL and ISO/IEC 20000

As we stated at the outset of this post, the terms (and concepts of) ITIL and ITSM are not synonymous even though they are highly-related and frequently mentioned together in discussions among IT professionals. ITIL is a registered trademark of Axelos and is just one formalized set of best practices and standards which, when adopted, should result in the efficient and financially-responsible use of IT resources in an organization.

In other words, ITIL can be used to achieve proper ITSM; this is the most basic mnemonic that we can give.

There are other frameworks comparable to ITIL, but ITIL is the most adopted framework in ITSM worldwide. Relatedly, adopting ITIL standards can help organizations achieve the ISO/IEC 20000 international standard – an internationally recognized standard that serves as evidence for an organization’s’ good IT service management.

How to recognize good ITSM

Now that we’ve established the basics of ITSM, a final question revolves around identifying a good ITSM provider. Looking for the above-mentioned ISO/IEC 20000 certification is good shorthand, but it shouldn’t be your only criteria. You should also ask yourself the following questions regarding an ITSM provider whom you’re considering:

  • Does the ITSM provider address your business needs?
  • Does the ITSM provider promise to deliver your expected end-goals at a price you find reasonable?
  • Will the ITSM provider be flexible enough to adapt to changes in your business (IT) needs as they emerge?

Final words for now

This concludes our informal little two-part series on ITIL and ITSM. If you found our quick overviews helpful (or potentially helpful to colleagues), please share them! And do feel free to add any of your experiences with either or both in the comments section below.

In the meantime, if you have questions about managing IT assets and services, contact us at Cimpl! We’re Canada’s leader in IT and telecom expense management, and we can always help customers keep track of their technology assets to increase margins!


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Related articles:

Topics: IT Assets, IT Expense Management (ITEM), Best Practices, IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Implementation, IT Service Management (ITSM)

Written by Henry Cheang

Henry is a dedicated technical writer, focused on conducting market research, contributing to product design, and writing clear and concise documentation for the company. He is an enthusiastic team member and is passionate about science and technology, who plays a key role in Cimpl’s product messaging. His dedication to writing is reflected in his experience in authoring academic papers, documentation, user guides, and in contributing to Cimpl’s marketing efforts.

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