The A to Z of ITSM

A to Z of ITSM

IT service management (ITSM) and ITIL, the most commonly adopted ITSM best practice framework, are both full of terminology. Just look to the names of the 26 ITIL processes, some of which are pretty self-explanatory but sadly some aren’t.

So if you’re just starting out with ITSM and ITIL, I’m wondering which are the most important words in ITSM to know, from a traditional perspective? You might ask why I say “traditional” – it’s because I’ve written another blog that takes a more business-focused, and sometimes funny look, at the ITSM A-Z.

So please check out what I deem to be some of the most important ITSM words below, and their ITIL Glossary definitions, and please bear in mind that I deliberately only chose one word for each letter.

ITSM and ITIL in 26, Okay 23, Letters

A is for … Availability. Predictable I know, but I’ve a point to make. Described as the “Ability of an IT service or other configuration item to perform its agreed function when required. Availability is determined by reliability, maintainability, serviceability, performance and security.” My point? Monitoring is not availability management, i.e. “The process responsible for ensuring that IT services meet the current and future availability needs of the business in a cost-effective and timely manner.”

B is for … Business Relationship Management. “What?” you say. It’s in the ITIL books and exams, and described as “The process responsible for maintaining a positive relationship with customers.” Look to the Business Relationship Management Institute for real-world advice on what the cool kids are doing here.

C is for … “Customer.” There are so many C-words in ITIL and I’d have loved to go with any of “capacity,” “change,” “continual service improvement,” “configuration management,” or “cost” but felt compelled to have the customer front and center. Sadly, this is described in ITIL as “Someone who buys goods or services. The customer of an IT service provider is the person or group who defines and agrees the service level targets. The term is also sometimes used informally to mean user – for example, ‘This is a customer-focused organization.’” So you can only be a customer if you directly spend money with IT, and I point you to the letter “E.”

D is for … Demand Management. That is “The process responsible for understanding, anticipating and influencing customer demand for services. Demand management works with capacity management to ensure that the service provider has sufficient capacity to meet the required demand.” But how many IT organizations have this down pat? Not enough in my opinion.

E is for … End User. Although just termed a “user” in the ITIL Glossary, it’s “A person who uses the IT service on a day-to-day basis. Users are distinct from customers, as some customers do not use the IT service directly.” Sadly, while we insist on using such language to describe the people that consume IT services it’s unsurprising that IT can be accused of behaviors and service delivery that fails to meet the expectations and demands of tech and customer service savvy business colleagues.

F is for … Financial Management. Don’t get me started on this one. I’ll instead refer you to a blog written in 2011 – “Run IT As A Business?” Do You Really Know What This Means? – which is still as valid in 2016 as it was back then.

G is for … Guideline. ITIL describes it as “A document describing best practice, which recommends what should be done. Compliance with a guideline is not normally enforced.” We shouldn’t forget that ITIL is just guidance and any talk of processes or ITSM tools being “ITIL-compliant” is just bunkum. I instead refer you to letter “I.”

H is for … Help Desk. Although this term isn’t in the ITIL Glossary or any of the main ITIL publications, this IT support capability, whether it’s called a service desk or something else, is the bedrock of reactive ITSM. We do, however, still need more IT organizations to move beyond such reactive ITSM activities and on to the proactive ones.

I is for … ISO 20000. If you do want to be compliant with something, then this is your baby. ISO/IEC 20000 to give it it’s full title, is “An international standard for IT service management.” Check out Wikipedia for more information.

J is for … Job Description. Yes, I know it’s a boring one but the other choice was “job scheduling.” ITIL in particular will help through the provision of, and encouragement to create, formal job descriptions that specify role accountabilities, responsibilities, key tasks, and required skills – which along with consistent processes and technology, drive optimal performance.

K is for … Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). We love collecting metrics and statistics in IT, often probably more than what we actually get, or achieve, from collecting them. Point made, hopefully.

L is for … Lifecycle. Or more specifically the “service lifecycle,” not that the incident lifecycle and application lifecycle aren’t interesting too. It’s the backbone of ITIL and the concept of “IT delivered as a service.”

M is for … Major Incident. The highest ranking member of the incident army or, according to ITIL, “The highest category of impact for an incident. A major incident results in significant disruption to the business.” How an IT organization deals with a major incident – in terms of investigation and resolution efficiency, and communications in particular – will make a big difference to business operations and the business perceptions of IT.

N is for … Notional Charging. It’s “An approach to charging for IT services. Charges to customers are calculated and customers are informed of the charge, but no money is actually transferred. Notional charging is sometimes introduced to ensure that customers are aware of the costs they incur, or as a stage during the introduction of real charging.” You might question why you would want to incur the costs of creating “fake invoices” for business units but it can help with cost reduction on a number of levels. Firstly, IT is no longer seen as free and it can thus help to lower “wastefulness.” Secondly, customers might see chargeable items that they don’t need or aren’t worth the costs they are incurring. And thirdly, a comparison of IT spend across business units and services might identify IT spend priorities that are misaligned to business strategies.

O is for … Operation. As in “service operation,” which is described as “A stage in the lifecycle of a service. Service operation coordinates and carries out the activities and processes required to deliver and manage services at agreed levels to business users and customers. Service operation also manages the technology that is used to deliver and support services. Service operation includes the following processes: event management, incident management, request fulfilment, problem management, and access management.” It’s the ITIL publication and set of ITSM processes most commonly adopted by IT organizations.

P is for … Problem. With a problem being “A cause of one or more incidents. The cause is not usually known at the time a problem record is created, and the problem management process is responsible for further investigation.” Importantly, a problem is different to an incident (IT issue), which can be fixed and “forgotten about” by service desk agents (bar knowledge management and trend analysis activities), and is instead the same issue repeatedly affecting a single asset (or IT service) or an issue affecting multiple assets (or IT services). The resolution of a problem usually requires root cause analysis and potentially more extensive remedial action than an incident.

Q is for … Qualifications. The ITIL ITSM best practice framework is an ecosystem that involves not only the best practice publications but also training, qualifications, consultancy, and ITSM tools – with the main ITIL qualifications being: Foundation, Practitioner, Expert, and Master.

R is for … Release Management. It’s “The process responsible for planning, scheduling and controlling the build, test and deployment of releases, and for delivering new functionality required by the business while protecting the integrity of existing services.” It just does what it says on the tin.

S is for … Service. It’s the backbone of ITSM and ITIL, described as “A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.” However, it might be easier to think of it as what gets consumed by customers or end users. So, for instance, they might consume a managed desktop service rather than the individual IT elements such as hardware, software, network, and storage.

T is for … Transition. As in “service transition,” which is described as “A stage in the lifecycle of a service. Service transition ensures that new, modified or retired services meet the expectations of the business as documented in the service strategy and service design stages of the lifecycle. Service transition includes the following processes: transition planning and support, change management, service asset and configuration management, release and deployment management, service validation and testing, change evaluation, and knowledge management.” Change management usually sits between incident and problem management in the top three most commonly adopted ITSM processes.

U is for … Urgency. “A measure of how long it will be until an incident, problem or change has a significant impact on the business. For example, a high-impact incident may have low urgency if the impact will not affect the business until the end of the financial year.”

V is for … V2. We’ve had the original ITIL, ITIL v2, ITIL v3, and are now on ITIL 2011. The reason for calling out ITIL v2 is because it’s the version where ITIL really took off as the de facto source of ITSM best practice for many. While ITIL 2011 has 26 ITSM processes, ITIL v2’s two core areas of service delivery and service support only had ten (plus a few more wrapped up in additional IT management/ITSM guidance) – with these ten processes still containing the most commonly adopted ITSM processes today.

W is for … Workaround. It’s the savior for many a help desk or service desk and is described as “Reducing or eliminating the impact of an incident or problem for which a full resolution is not yet available.” So for example, rebooting a PC or server to get it working again when an issue arises. It doesn’t actually fix the issue; it merely removes it temporarily and the machine will no doubt need rebooting again (and again). With the workaround repeatedly used until a cost-effective fix is found and implemented.

X, Y, and Z? Come on give me a break, how many ITSM words beginning with X, Y, or Z do you know? I mean important words. And “exception reporting” begins with an “E” not an “X.”

So there you have it, some but not all of the important terminology used in ITSM and ITIL. What would you add? 

All definitions are from the ITIL 2011 Glossary.

  • Ivor Macfarlane

    Ten processes in ITIL V2? I counted that many just in Service Support & Service Delivery.

    • Eek. Thanks for pulling me up on this, Ivor – it’s a long time ago now. I think that, like many people, I fondly remember the service delivery and service support elements of ITIL v2 and somewhat conveniently forget the additional bits that didn’t see as much exam focus. Next time I’ll Google it rather than count them on my fingers (or perhaps use my toes too). I’ve updated the blog to accommodate your correction.