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What is the Difference Between ITSM and ESM?

When you research Service Management for your company, it can feel like you’re coming with more questions than answers. For example, should I consider an Enterprise Service Management (ESM) system if I’m an IT Director at an SMB? Do I want IT Service Management (ITSM) if I care about more than just managing IT? What’s the difference between ITSM and ESM anyway? 

We’ve got some actual answers for you. No matter whether you’re looking to adopt ITSM or ESM, this article will clear up the differences between the two. 

First, let’s break them down separately. 

What is IT Service Management?  

ITSM is the business practice of structuring the delivery of information technology as a service. In other words, IT isn’t treated as hardware or software widgets. Instead, it’s treated as packaged systems of hardware, software, business practices, and support built to meet a customer’s needs. Customers under ITSM can just as often be other business units within a company as they could be external customers.  

ITSM is sometimes misunderstood to be run-of-the-mill IT support, but there is much more to it than that. ITSM applications and practices are meant to structure the complete lifecycle of an IT service from its initial conception and design to its development, delivery, and only then ongoing support. You can use ITSM principles for managing any kind of workplace technology, including software, end-user devices, networking assets, or servers, among others. 

ITSM Example 

While ITSM isn’t all about support, IT support is a critical component. Support is often provided through a service desk application

Here is an example. Susan, a manager on your human resources team, is preparing to onboard a junior accountant. That person will need a new laptop. Susan opens up the service desk and creates a ‘new end-user device’ request. She fills in pertinent information about what applications the laptop will need, the user’s role, and the peripherals they will need. 

Susan submits her request, which goes to the Enduser Service team. Getting new hires adequately equipped is a high priority, so as soon as they’ve resolved a couple of urgent requests prioritized above it in their queue, that team begins provisioning the new laptop and user accounts. 

What is Enterprise Service Management? 

Early on, practitioners quickly realized that ITSM business practices were very transferable. If a business process could be structured and managed as a service, service management principles could make it more effective. 

Enterprise Service Management takes the core concepts of ITSM and applies them to all other business practices. That could still include IT, but that could also include activities like fleet management, facilities services, human resources, as well as project management across departments. ESM business practices are typically carried out using centralized enterprise service management software. 

Structuring business activities as a service is not a new idea. What makes ESM new and unique is the concept of bundling all of the different service workflows in a company together and managing them using a set of software tools and personnel. Centralizing all of your service management practices into a single portal generates powerful economies of scale and encourages collaboration, which can significantly benefit any company. 

Introducing ESM practices to your organization is an excellent way for IT departments to demonstrate their value. They will be able to figure out how to apply the newest technical advances, like artificial intelligence and big data analytics, to activities like fleet management and human resources. As a result, IT becomes more than just the people you go to for break-fix support. IT becomes even more of a core component of how your entire business operates. 

ESM Example 

Our human resources manager Susan is returning from a conference. She has a handful of receipts for which she needs to be reimbursed. Susan takes a cellphone picture of each and then opens a service request. She submits justification for each expense, images of the receipts and sends along her request. 

After resolving some urgent procurement requests, her colleague Kevin in finance processes her requests and approves applying her reimbursement to her next paycheck. Susan’s request is resolved efficiently. No papers needed to be moved around and potentially lost. Everyone wins. 

And this process is customizable, so you can add as many or as few layers to the approval sequence as your organization requires. Staying with this original example, Susan’s supervisor can be an added layer of approval needed before the request is handed off to Kevin.  

The Difference Between ITSM and ESM 

So as we’ve discussed, enterprise service management grew out of IT service management thinking. But as it is designed, enterprise service management will include IT as one of its many covered services. 

One of the critical differences between ITSM and ESM is in how they’re implemented. ITSM is frequently implemented using a defined methodology, like ITIL or other frameworks. Enterprise service management is an increasingly popular practice for the reasons we’ve detailed above, but there as yet are not any equivalent frameworks for ESM. Businesses typically apply general service management principles defined by the particular software suite they’re using. 

The latest update to ITIL, ITIL4 released in 2019, does introduce some new concepts that may make a defined ESM framework a reality in the future. 

We think it is worth underlining that selecting ITSM or ESM does not have to be an either/or decision. Choosing both in some capacity, based on your company’s specific needs, is almost always going to be the correct approach. 

How IT Departments Should Adopt ITSM and ESM software 

ITSM and ESM are more than just buzzwords, and each has its place in modern business. They’re both built on the familiar principle that customers—internal and external—should be able to request services from business units in a way that is prioritized, tracked, and completed in an organized manner. 

IT departments will need to be involved in implementing either an ITSM or ESM software management solution. For example, some companies ask their IT department to expand an existing ITSM solution to become an ESM solution usable by other business units. Others are asking for a new ESM solution that can absorb existing ITSM practices. And yet others want to maintain separate applications for IT and non-IT services. 

There is no right approach. All can be viable. It will just depend on what makes sense for your long-term business strategy.