Can ITSM Help IT Succeed?

By | 2013/12/06

I’ve worked in IT for 30 years…plenty of time to notice some common characteristics of IT folks. I have found that, in general, IT skills fall into either the infrastructure or developer categories. At the organizations I’ve worked for, infrastructure includes helpdesk, hardware maintenance, network, and communication (service & support functions), while the development group consists of coders/programmers/developers and testers (creating new IT solutions). Few IT people have skills in all of these areas.

Geek Hierarchy


These categories make sense. The developers create applications and integrations, and the infrastructure group handles ongoing IT service and support.

Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years…er, decades…I’ve seen the differences not only in employee traits, but in departmental processes as well. One of the frustrations I’ve experienced when managing IT departments is that different processes evolve around infrastructure vs development, and these processes are rarely supportive of the entire IT department.

IT methodologies are developed to help organize work and improve productivity. When performing system development work, SDLC and Agile are two common options. Similarly, IT service and support is often performed using a set of standard methods, such as ITIL and COBIT.

Combined, these separate methodologies allow the organization to manage scope, handle change, and provide quality feedback to ensure the delivered results are accurate and the customer is satisfied. Unfortunately, the processes used by system developers and IT Service Management (ITSM) staff do not often overlap. As a result, transition from the development/testing team to the service/support team may not be as smooth as we’d like.

Developers often place an increased focus on engineering and design, with a reduced focus on post-implementation support. For example, the testing team may work hard to ensure the product is what the customer ordered, but may not include threshold tests that match the reality of the production environment. As a result, IT organizations may find themselves “perpetuating the traditional IT model. . . wherein one group builds IT services in isolation and throws them over the proverbial wall to the other group that struggles to support them, resulting in poor customer satisfaction” (Gupta, 2008).

Both the traditional system development lifecycle (SDLC) approaches and the more recent Agile development methods treat system development as projects, with a set beginning and end. In contrast, IT service management (ITSM) places a focus on the process to provide ongoing support of the system. The problem is with the transition from project-based system development to process-based ongoing support. This transition can be made easier by aligning ITSM concepts within the entire IT department.

Research in the field of ITSM shows that 80% of the cost of IT systems is in service support and delivery of IT operations (Galup, Dattero, Quan, & Conger, 2009). Implementing a service management framework within the entire IT department provides the organization with valuable processes and metrics for management, planning, and implementation of systems, including those systems created through the system development team.

ITSM “focuses on defining, managing, and delivering IT services to support business goals and customer needs” (Winniford, Conger, Erickson-Harris, 2009).

IT infrastructure management becomes more complex as organizations move toward increasingly distributed environments. Today, IT organizations are tasked to manage Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Internet and mobile applications, client-server technology, cloud and off-premise hosting, and personal device management to support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives. ITSM has evolved as a concept to help IT organizations measure and manage service levels, regardless of the types of systems that must be supported.

According to research performed by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), only 45% of organizations surveyed have implemented IT Service Management (Winniford et al., 2009).  Sixty percent of companies who have implemented ITSM represent large companies with over 20,000 employees, and the majority of these companies are in the manufacturing or education industries (Winniford et al., 2009). Surprisingly, companies within the technology, consulting, telecommunications/service provider, and media/publishing industries represent the low end of ITSM use.

ITSM incorporates change management processes, service level agreements (SLAs) and other tools to help measure and manage IT’s effectiveness as a service to the business. Using cloud-based SaaS tools allows even small companies to benefit from ITSM implementation. For example, vendors such as Autotask and Zendesk offer helpdesk support software as SaaS options. Click here for a review of ITSM vendors.

Autotask Dashboard Autotask Dashboard

By establishing departmental objectives around IT-business alignment based on services provided, IT can ensure it is providing value to the business. These services include the successful deployment of system development projects, as well as ongoing support. With all IT team members working toward delivery of IT services to support business objectives, rather than focusing on individual IT products, the application development and technical support groups work in tandem toward meeting the company’s technology needs.


Galup, S. D., & Dattero, R. (2010). A Five-Step Method to Tune Your ITSM Processes. Information Systems Management27(2), 156-167. doi:10.1080/10580531003685220.

Gupta, D. (2008). Build to manage – a case for service design. The Forum. Retrieved from

Pollard, C., Gupta, D., Satzinger, J. (2010). Teaching systems development: A compelling case for integrating the SDLC with the ITSM lifecycle. Information Systems Management. 27:113-122. doi: 10.1080/10580531003684959.

Winniford, M., Conger, S., Erickson-Harris, L. (2009). Confusion in the ranks: IT Service Management practice and terminology. Information Systems Management, 26(2), 153-163. doi: 10.1080/10580530902797532.

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