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

As you start the journey to mature the 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 a codeless 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 takes 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.

With ITSM, you’ll want to find a platform that allows you to step into ITIL as much, or as little, as needed for your business needs. While ITIL is a great framework for IT service and delivery – a tool that’s too complex and forces you into ITIL processes you can’t support won’t work.

Using TeamDynamix ITSM has helped Oklahoma City’s IT support teams realize their vision for using industry best practices to improve the delivery of IT services.

“We adopted the ITIL framework more than 15 years ago. We’ve had effective processes in place for a while, but we haven’t had a decent toolset to manage them until now,” Dusty Borchard, business systems manager, said.

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 reduce the drain on IT resources 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.

TeamDynamix is also supporting NaphCare‘s move to a self-service model. 

NaphCare, an Alabama-based company providing healthcare services and software to correctional facilities, was using a limited and less efficient platform to facilitate the delivery of IT service. The former IT service management platform wasn’t ITIL-compliant and lacked important features, like automation and self-service capabilities, that would significantly improve the delivery of IT service.

As NaphCare provides and supports software, they needed an effective IT support team with faster response times.

Switching to TeamDynamix has allowed NaphCare’s IT support team to build a self-service portal and automate key processes, resulting in faster, more efficient IT service—as well as happier customers.

Barry Bowden, NaphCare’s IT Service Desk manager, oversees NaphCare’s IT Service Desk team which supports technology for the 4,600 people who work for NaphCare, as well as the users of NaphCare’s electronic healthcare records (EHR) software, TechCare.

“About 60 to 70 percent of our time is spent supporting the TechCare product, and the rest is spent supporting the IT needs of NaphCare employees, such as creating user accounts,” Bowden says.

In 2021, NaphCare solicited bids for a more modern IT Service Management platform that would allow help desk staff to be more efficient—and TeamDynamix emerged as the clear winner.

“The thing that shined for us was the self-service portal, which could be highly customized and was easy to use without requiring much administrative overhead,” Bowden says.

The self-service portal within TeamDynamix connects users with knowledge base articles written by NaphCare IT staff so they can find answers to their questions online, speeding up problem resolution and avoiding the need for further assistance in many cases.

If users can’t resolve their own IT issue, they can submit a service request through the portal by choosing from an online catalog of services. Their request is then routed automatically to an appropriate IT staff member for a response, based on the nature of the problem.

As more people use the self-service portal, this frees up NaphCare help desk staff from answering phone calls and responding to emails—allowing them to service customers much more efficiently.

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.”

As NEOMED illustrates, the right ITSM tool can make all the difference when it comes to solid change management processes.

“We started our search with Info-Tech looking at just change management tool to add to our existing ITSM tool at the time, then realized we also wanted to find a tool that could help us automate processes,” Keyon Farrier, service desk manager at Legacy Supply Chain Services, said. “Info-Tech provided us with some great options, so we started the vetting process and found that TeamDynamix really fit our needs – not just for change management and automation, but for everything.”

“We were blown away by all that TeamDynamix offers, and our renewal was up with our former ITSM tool so we decided to just replace it all,” he continued. “We were really excited about the out-of-the-box features from TeamDynamix and knew the tool would help not just with change management and automation, but with some of the other challenges we were facing as well.” 

As a result of the switch to TeamDynamix “we’ve become a lot more efficient as a team because we’re getting the right tickets to the right people faster,” said Farrier. “We can now respond to service requests quicker as well. And we have a lot more visibility in terms of reporting.”

With TeamDynamix, the Legacy Supply Chain Services implemented a self-service portal—and IT staff have taken the time to build out forms that gather as much information on the front end as they can. As a result, “We’re now able to provide support in a timelier fashion,” he said.

What’s more, by expanding the number of service categories they have, Legacy’s IT team has been able to create more accurate reporting.

“Having better reporting has allowed us to focus our attention on areas that are demanding change,” Farrier said. “We can engage the right individuals to bring forth the right type of change based on the data we’re seeing.”

With more accurate information, Farrier and his team can address the root cause of problems, instead of repeatedly addressing the same types of service issues. “This has been a tremendous help to our overall processes and reducing the drain on our IT resources,” he said.

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.”

It’s a similar story a Kern Family Health Care.

“With TeamDynamix, I always have a source of truth on project data,” LaVonne Banks, director of Kern Health Systems’ enterprise project management office (EPMO), said. Kern Family Health Care, a Medi-Cal managed care health plan serving residents of Kern County, California, uses TeamDynamix PPM to manage all projects within the organization.

“I love the platform’s reporting features,” she says. “They’re super easy to use. Being able to pull reports and quickly see real-time data is wonderful.”

A key benefit of TeamDynamix, according to Banks, is that it helps EPMO staff get out ahead of potential issues before they become full-blown problems. While some challenges are beyond the control of project managers, having greater insight makes it more likely that projects will be completed on time and under budget.

“We can quickly identify resource constraints and make adjustments when unexpected circumstances arise,” Banks says. “Because we can identify these issues earlier, we have a better chance of staying on top of resource management.”

Better transparency leads to more accountability and, ultimately, a higher success rate on projects.

©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.

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