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The 5 Pillars of ITSM: A Guide to IT Service Management Best Practices

As you start the journey to mature IT Service Management (ITSM) offerings at your organization, it’s important to measure how your current ITSM system and processes stack up against the recommended best practices for IT service delivery. Those best practices are built around the 5 basic pillars of ITSM:

  1. Process control/ITIL adoption
  2. Self-service adoption
  3. Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)©
  4. Change management
  5. Resource capacity planning

By building your service management strategy around these pillars and using an ITSM tool that allows you to scale your service delivery as you grow and mature your organization, you can set your organization up for both short-term and long-term success.

Pillar One: Process Control and ITIL Adoption

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library and refers to a specific framework for ITSM that was developed in the 1980s. ITIL is comprised of a set of specific methods, practices and processes for managing an organization’s IT operations and services. If you’re looking to mature your ITSM start by making the move toward ITIL adoption. Using ITIL can help mitigate ongoing service gaps throughout your business or organization.

The ITIL framework bases itself on the five phases of the service life cycle. The guidelines set out the necessary processes, associated challenges and best practices for each phase of the service life cycle, as well as the requirements for the implementation of each phase. These guidelines can, and should, be used to kick off internal discussions and policy creation within an organization to ensure service delivery is optimized appropriately for the end-user. 

The 5 stages of ITIL are: 

  1. Service Strategy – This is the start of the ITIL life cycle, and it sits at the center because a stable and precise service strategy is necessary for better service management. This stage determines what capabilities will need to be developed or implemented, including the definition of markets, development of assets or the necessary preparations for deployment. 
  2. Service Design – Ideas become plans in the second ITIL life cycle stage. It is here that services and processes bear out the primary goal of providing a better service management environment.  
  3. Service Transition – The third stage of the ITIL life cycle is where the preparation of services and strategies that will be implemented in the live environment take place. It is here that organizations test and implement new designs.  
  4. Service Operation – Following the launch of services and processes to customers and peers, the operation stage of the life cycle begins. Service owners must be prepared and available to report any issues as they arise, and make sure that customers are satisfied with the services and process.  
  5. Continual Service Improvement – This last stage of the ITIL framework directs organizations to search for potential improvements in all the previous steps. By looking at what is measurable versus what is not, and by processing and sorting the data into quantifiable findings, the cycle starts all over again.

Using ITSM software that allows you to scale your service delivery as you grow and mature your organization sets you up for both short-term and long-term success.

Pillar Two: Self-Service Adoption

Did you know a support call can cost as much as $22 (according to HDI), while self-service is just $2 per incident? It’s a recommended best practice to build out a solid knowledge base and service portal so customers can resolve their own issues instead of taking up your IT help desk’s valuable time with requests like “how do I change my password.”

Requests that can be handled through self-service help to reduce the drain on IT resources that can happen when customers need assistance with common issues or questions.

By building out a knowledge base within a portal that’s easily searchable, you can free up your IT helpdesk to work on larger, more complex problems. A great example of how this can be done is to take a look at the team at Cornell where they have rolled out portals for not only IT but across the campus for enterprise service management.

Using TeamDynamix, Cornell has been able to optimize the customer experience. And adopting a self-service approach to ITSM was a large part of that.

Using the client portal features of TeamDynamix, the university’s individual IT units have been able to set up a system of client portals organized by service categories that are dynamically linked to knowledge base articles related to those categories. If students or staff can’t find the information they need, they can initiate a service request directly from these portals, and their request is forwarded automatically to the appropriate service technician for a response.

What’s more, the automated workflows built into the TeamDynamix platform allow IT staff to manage knowledge base articles more systematically, ensuring that information remains relevant and up to date.

The platform’s intuitive reporting capabilities make it much easier to glean operational insights that will help leaders improve IT service, such as the average time it takes to resolve various kinds of support tickets.

Reporting that used to take hours now takes only a few minutes, and anyone who’s authorized can run reports without needing any specialized knowledge. “With TeamDynamix, we can teach people to fish, so to speak — and they can build whatever report they need,” Todd Maniscalco, assistant director for customer service and support within Cornell’s Central IT division, said. “We can also create and schedule a central set of reports that we know our leadership wants to see.”

Pillar Three: Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)

Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) is the perfect complementary strategy to self-service, as it can become the mechanism for creating and curating knowledge content that is already being collected as part of your help desk’s current troubleshooting and problem-solving efforts.

By taking this knowledge and creating new articles in your knowledge base, you are providing more ways for anyone experiencing an issue to find the appropriate article and solve their problem without needing to put in a ticket. This not only saves you valuable time, but it allows your IT help desk resources the ability to focus on larger problems or issues instead of the most common requests like password reset help, or how to access a calendar to reserve a conference room.

Here are a few reasons why Knowledge-Centered Service can be so powerful:

  • Helps to continually lower inbound call volume.
  • Increases customer satisfaction.
  • Provides customers with the answers they need now.
  • Crowdsourcing knowledge helps maintain accurate content.
  • Offers opportunities for professional development and career progression.

By adopting KCS, you can not only improve customer satisfaction but dramatically reduce the per-incident cost incurred by IT and reduce the volume of issues and requests coming into the help desk, allowing IT to reallocate technicians to higher-priority tasks and projects.

Since adopting KCS through TeamDynamix, the University of South Dakota has seen great success. 

Paula Cottrell, Knowledge Manager for the University, explained that prior to using TeamDynamix they didn’t have a good knowledge base in place, “We had a Wiki page. We had information siloed within team-specific SharePoints. We had old ticket notes, and we had employees with their own knowledge saved on their computers.” 

This unorganized system decreased productivity and efficiency and led to teams wasting time searching for different information and answers. After implementing the KCS methodology and building out their knowledge base, they saw an 18-percent reduction in time logged to service tickets.

Fast forward to just one month after adopting KCS, the University had more than 2,000 people taking advantage of the knowledge base and 31,000 page views. Six months later, there were 31,000 users and 262,000 page views, with 5,000 knowledge articles being included in the base. 

Pillar Four: Change Management

ITIL refers to change management as the process for controlling the change lifecycle within the third stage of ITIL – the Service Transition stage.

The goal of change management is to ensure there are standardized methods throughout an organization for the prompt and efficient handling of all IT infrastructure changes. With the right processes and standards in place, organizations can avoid communication problems and mitigate incidents that impact service as a result of a change. Having better control through a formal change management process can deter system outages and lingering issues.

At Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) they’ve been able to establish a comprehensive and well-thought-out change management strategy. Using the TeamDynamix platform NEOMED IT staff can plan effectively when making a change, to make sure they’ve thought through every implication first.

“We set up a special form within the system called a change form, and whenever a production change is pending, we have the technical lead fill out that form,” says Geri Hein, project manager within the university’s IT division. For larger changes, the change form is routed to a change control team that consists of Hein, a business analyst, the managers of the university’s IT infrastructure and database groups, and the IT director.

This process has increased communication within the IT division and helped with troubleshooting problems. Now, whenever a change is coming, the key people who need to be aware are automatically notified in advance, so they can weigh in if they foresee any risks or dependencies in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Changes are linked automatically to the ticket calendar feature within TeamDynamix, so IT staff can easily see which changes were made on which days. “If there’s a problem, we can go to the calendar and determine whether it was related to a particular change or not,” Hein says. “There have been a few instances where our infrastructure team made changes that we didn’t think would cause problems with our ERP system, but they did. However, we were able to track it back to the right source and easily resolve the issue.

Pillar Five: Resource Capacity Planning

Organizations everywhere are facing challenges when it comes to budget constraints and limited IT resources, that’s why resource capacity planning is more important than ever.

By using an IT Service Management tool that allows you to bring ITSM and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) together in a single platform, you can engage in true resource capacity planning and better utilize the resources you have available. By using the one-platform approach you can improve efficiency, visibility and customer service. You can also reap the benefits of improved IT productivity, enhanced IT reporting and improved quality of service.

At Covenant HealthCare, CIO Frank Fear recognized the value in having a combined ITSM/PPM strategy, “As the CIO, I have IT resources, and I need to assess their capacity,” he said. “I look at what capacity they have to work on projects, work on change requests and work on support requests. At the 40,000-foot level, having a comprehensive project management solution that also operates with the service management platform, allows me visibility for insight into those areas, and allows me to plan for project-based work based on the capacity to handle support requests and change requests.”

If you’re interested in learning more about ITSM maturity and the impact it can have on an organization, check out: Adopting A Mature IT Service Management Approach.

©KCS® is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™

This article was originally published in March 2021 and has been updated with new information.