IT service management (ITSM) has a number of definitions from a variety of sources. Starting with the ITIL (the ITSM best practice framework)-espoused definition:

“The implementation and management of quality IT services that meet the needs of the business. IT service management is performed by IT service providers through an appropriate mix of people, process and information technology. See also service management.” Where service management is defined as: “A set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.”

A more “directly customer-focused” definition is provided on Wikipedia:

“A discipline for managing information technology (IT) systems, philosophically centered on the customer’s perspective of IT’s contribution to the business. ITSM stands in deliberate contrast to technology-centered approaches to IT management and business interaction.” Source:

To me, this definition is more explicit about the customer than ITIL’s (using the phrase “customer’s perspective” rather than “needs of the business” early in the definition) – with the emphasis on the customer (or consumer of IT services) – and Forrester agrees that just delivering IT services via the best practices espoused by ITIL is not enough if the IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) organization is still focused on the creation, rather than the consumption, of IT services. Unfortunately, this scenario is still too prevalent, where I&O organizations continue to be supply-centric (focused on costs and volumes) rather than demand-centric (focused on business needs and delivered-business-value) IT services.

A third, more progressive, definition moves ITSM even closer to the customer, dropping the “IT” from “ITSM” to talk in terms of “service management.” This is provided from the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge (USMBOK) – a “companion piece” that supplements existing resources such as ITIL on both strategic and operational levels.

“Also termed service management thinking, service management is a systematic method for managing the offering, contracting and provisioning of services to customers, at a known quality, cost and designed experience. Service management ensures the desired results and customer satisfaction levels are achieved cost effectively, and is a means by which the customer experience and interaction with products, services, and the service provider organization is designed and managed. Service management is also a transformation method for any organization that wishes to operate as a service provider organization.” Source: USMBOK Lexicon

IMO, USMBOK extends (IT) service management to encompass thinking and guidance on the “new service society,” the need to both understand and demonstrate “value” in a customer context, and the pursuit of customer advocacy and loyalty. All of which are key to delivering IT (or any other) services in a “reputation economy.”

While the above three definitions might seem confusing it is unfortunately a byproduct of the fact that we all interpret information sources such as ITIL differently. For instance, asking ten different people to define what a “service” is will result in nearly as many definitions.

One thing that is certain, however, is that the ITSM-related challenges for I&O professionals in 2012 and beyond (dealing with the triumvirate of increased business scrutiny, business expectations, and business and IT complexity – necessitate a far more customer-centric approach to IT service delivery.

I&O no longer has a monopoly on IT service provision and needs to demonstrate both worth and value to parent (or customer) organizations. In 2012, Forrester will continue to push the cause for “true” service management and the need for customer-centricity. Ask yourself: Where is the “service” in our service desk?

So how do you define ITSM or service management? How do you explain its worth? How are you meeting your customer needs?