Modern businesses of all sizes and across virtually all industries rely on IT services for their daily operations—from individual applications to full-service IT service management. As defined by Gartner, IT services “refers to the application of business and technical expertise to enable organizations in the creation, management, and optimization of or access to information and business processes.” As such, it provides value in helping organizations to:
- Diagnose and remedy complex problems
- Securely store, manage, and back their data up
- Improve customer support through communication and ticketing systems
- Protect against the latest cybersecurity threats
- Keep mission-critical systems operational and up-to-date
- Streamline processes for more efficient resource allocation
In this blog, we’ll cover some of the basic ins and outs of ITSM tools, so you can better understand what
the top ITSM tools offer. We’ll also outline how a platform like Startly can help you better serve your managed services customers with a comprehensive and successful enterprise IT solution.
What Is ITSM, in Simple Terms?
IT service management—or ITSM—is a process and framework for an organization’s implementation and management of delivered IT services. For providers of managed IT services, ITSM relates to an end-to-end IT services delivery process, a streamlined and cost-effective approach. At the organizational level, ITSM tools help companies align their people, processes, and technology efficiently and effectively.
Companies that may be rethinking their IT approach— adjusting their scope of services or responding to new security considerations, for example—are likely to encounter two acronyms frequently. These are ITIL (or Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and ITSM. Next, let’s briefly define these terms and how they’re related.
What Is Service Management in IT?
In the context of IT, “service management” refers to the delegation of certain—or all—IT services and functions to an external provider. These providers can make use of a platform like Startly to ensure that all their bases are covered. By opting for the managed services model, customers like ours see myriad benefits, from increasing efficiency, accountability, standardization, and risk reduction in IT functions—while reducing operating costs. When all of an organizations’ ITSM needs are met by a single platform or provider, they’re able to gain more visibility into operations and performance, helping them to better see the ROI of their IT investment.
What Is the Difference Between ITSM and ITIL?
A simple way to explain the difference between ITIL and ITSM is to think of ITSM as the delivery and management of core IT services (the “what” of IT), while ITIL is a little more philosophical in outlining general best practices that should be applied to ITSM (the “how” of ITSM). So, rather than being opposites or a “this or that” proposition, ITIL and ITSM are better thought of as complementary. ITSM represents the actual IT services to be delivered and managed, and ITIL provides the framework for their delivery.
What Are ITIL Tools, and What Are They Used For?
As a framework or set of best practices, there aren’t ITIL “tools,” per se. Rather, ITIL principles apply to the ITSM tools an organization selects and implements—choosing the right approach and the right tools, in other words.
That’s not to undermine the importance of ITIL, though. When the ITIL framework is applied to ITSM, it helps to ensure several outcomes, including that the right resources and tools are being used, IT services are reliable and secure, and the customer experience is streamlined and effective.
Examples of the core areas ITIL impacts include:
- Service desk: This is the customer-facing point of contact for users to engage with IT service providers—including communication channels and incident reporting. Not to be confused with an organization’s helpdesk that receives and responds to individual customer problems or requests, the service desk relates more broadly to the organization (and its IT processes) as a whole.
- Technical management: This term encompasses various teams or departments that support IT services and infrastructure, to help ensure that systems are regularly tested and refined, for a more stable and streamlined IT solution.
- Application management: This relates to specific applications utilized by IT departments, from selection and purchasing to ongoing maintenance, to ensure that all systems and applications are working properly.
- IT operations management: This is the daily management of core IT services, focusing on the most-common functions in order to streamline and ensure that processes remain stable and effective.
What Are ITSM Tools, and What Are They Used For?
In most cases, the main focus of ITSM tools is to create better IT systems—with robust and integrated support—so that organizations can provide better end-user customer experiences. Ideally, an organization will work with an IT services provider to unite and streamline their systems.
While ITIL primarily applies to the planning, selection, implementation, and maintenance of IT systems, ITSM focuses on IT services’ operation and improvement. Gartner’s Information Technology Glossary defines ITSM tools by pointing to how they “enable IT operations organizations, specifically infrastructure and operations (I&O) managers, to better support the production environment. ITSM tools facilitate the tasks and workflows associated with the management and delivery of quality IT services.” These can all be achieved through Startly’s all-in-one IT and professional services platform.
In terms of what ITSM tools are used for, they can provide a range of benefits to organizations, not the least of which is reducing IT downtime, especially preventable downtime.
How big of an issue is downtime? It’s costly—with oft-cited Gartner research pegging the average cost of IT downtime at around $300,000 per hour. If you think that’s extreme, that’s just the revenue figure. There are also intangible costs attached, like the potential to frustrate employees and teams (which can lead to burnout), stagnate product development, and even impact the company’s reputation.
Additionally, here are some general ITSM categories and their benefits:
- Defining organizational needs and service requirements: Not all ITSM tools provide the same features or level of support, so it’s important for an organization to think through its highest-priority requirements. This way, a service provider can maximize the organization’s ROI through the selection, implementation, and management of the ITSM platforms that best-fit their needs (both now and in the short- and even long-term future).
- Optimizing processes: Designing efficient, effective IT practices and processes helps to minimize downtime and keep services reliably available. Optimizing processes isn’t a one-and-done proposition. When processes aren’t working as designed, the IT services provider should work to diagnose root causes and evaluate solutions for better processes moving forward.
- Managing assets: Within the context of ITSM, IT asset management refers to making sure the deployment, configuration, and maintenance of software platforms and other assets are sensible and effective. Like the “optimizing processes” point above, IT asset management isn’t a “set it and forget it” thing. As the business needs change, the assets utilized—and/or how they’re utilized—should be audited periodically and addressed as needed.
- Reporting: Even if an organization has a long-standing relationship with their current ITSM vendors, if the current services aren’t meeting the company’s needs, they should be re-evaluated. Considering the high-stakes impact of IT services, it’s best to not just “go with your gut,” but instead to evaluate relevant data. Actionable insights can be gleaned from a number of different types of reporting, from understanding high-level performance trends to identifying where different tools or processes can create better, more consistent outcomes.
- Effective communication: An organization’s IT landscape is a complex ecosystem of tools, platforms, and processes. Clear communication from their IT service provider goes a long way in helping companies justify their investment in ITSM. Any time tools, platforms, or processes are going to change, the reasons behind the change are addressed transparently so it’s clear to all relevant parties how and why changes are being made.
Next, we’ll explore the features and benefits of managed IT services, and how Startly’s platform can take organizations to the next level.
ITSM Tools: Features & Benefits for Managed Service Providers
Depending on the organization and its needs, IT service management roles and responsibilities can vary. That being said, there are a few responsibilities that usually fall under the ITSM umbrella. These include ITSM tools designed to help a company:
- Audit their existing IT infrastructure
- Create and implement the right technology
- Identify and apply the right procedures
- Train people to learn new technology and utilize new processes
- Formulate a plan of action to optimize the value of IT services
- Constantly improve the customer’s IT experience
- Prepare future-facing IT management practices
For IT service providers looking for the best set of tools for their customers’ needs, the good news is that virtually every specialized function of IT has led to its own mini ecosystem of cutting-edge technologies.
Cobbling these together into a comprehensive ITSM platform or framework can be exceptionally tricky, though. The different types of systems and technologies need to integrate (or “play nice”) with each other. Too often, this results in a higher total investment and more difficulty in keeping straight what each service or platform does, what kinds of workarounds might be necessary to make everything cohesive, and so on.
In other words, the longer your service management tools list becomes, the more difficult it’s going to be getting it all to work well together.
Benefits of All-In-One IT Service Delivery
Startly offers IT service providers with an all-in-one, fully-integrated ITSM and professional services platform. This way, organizations can more easily and efficiently track tickets, create project plans, evaluate asset management, and more. When you partner with an all-in-one ITSM provider like Startly, all services fall under a single functional umbrella, with a single point of contact.
This eliminates the need to manage multiple contracts with multiple vendors or work through the cumbersome problem of getting systems to integrate and communicate with each other.
A Recommended ITSM Framework for Implementation, Management, and Maintenance of Essential IT Services
ITSM doesn’t just refer to a collection of tools, processes, and technologies—it also refers to the coordination, implementation, and management of those elements. That’s why it’s so important to discuss potential solutions with various stakeholders in depth, so that smart decisions can be made about the best ITSM tools for each organization and their objectives.
For managed services providers, use the following 7-step framework to help ensure that you’re choosing the best ITSM solution for your customers, and implementing it successfully:
- Focus on value: Spend time understanding what your customers need. How are they currently handling their IT service needs? Once you understand what individual customers value, you can tailor your value propositions to those unique needs, implementing the right features and systems at the right time.
- Start where you are: Learn as much as you can about the current state of the customer organization’s IT infrastructure. What products, platforms, and services are they currently using? How were they selected? What is working and not working with the current configuration? Where does the organization want to go, in the near- and long-term future?
- Progress iteratively with feedback: Especially if substantial change management is going to be involved in transitioning a customer from the “current state” to an improved and optimized future state, make a plan to coordinate and prioritize which functions and systems to improve first.
- Collaborate and promote visibility: It’s much easier for an organization to recognize the ROI of their ITSM tools when they’re not only kept in the loop, but their feedback and input is encouraged. With each change that’s made, make sure it’s clear to the customer what’s in it for them, and gather timely feedback to determine how the new technology is or isn’t meeting their expectations. This way, you can iterate as you go, rather than making sweeping, wholesale changes and then trying to sort out the positive and negative impacts of specific components.
- Think and work holistically: This is both a strategic point, and a practical matter. See “Benefits of All-in-One IT Service Delivery,” above.
- Keep it simple and practical: Apply outcome-based thinking for better, more intentional problem solving. Especially when working with the customer to coordinate their IT wants and needs, focus on building value at each decision point and drive everything back to whatever the customer’s highest-priority needs are (as you’ve understood them).
- Optimize and automate: When possible, help customers identify and understand where their IT processes could benefit from tools and technologies designed to automate routine tasks as appropriate. When leveraged well, automation doesn’t replace humans, but augments their efforts by creating optimized workflows that work in tandem with human-powered tasks.
Count On Startly for the IT Services You Need (and Only Pay For What You Use)
Learn more about Startly’s customer-centric approach to IT services management and the wide range of ITSM tools for project management, time tracking, ticketing, asset management, change management, even invoicing and financial controls. We offer IT service providers comprehensive, affordable, and easy to use solutions for the full range of IT services they may need, today or later on down the road.
Does this sound expensive? That’s an understandable reaction. Too often, IT decision makers are appealed to with the promise of a “comprehensive solution” only to find that their offering also comes at a steep price point. Startly offers a better experience, and one that can help IT service providers build better, more trusting relationships with their customers. With Startly’s streamlined, customer-focused approach to delivering information technology, you’ll only pay for the features you use. Startly is inherently flexible and extensible, meaning it can provide the best solution for today, and days to come.
Want to learn more about our platform? Try Startly for free today, or call 1-888-STARTLY.