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Enterprise service management (ESM) is a term that has come up in the past few years, but has no universally accepted definition (there isn’t even a Wikipedia page on it – go figure!). It has therefore been used in various different contexts, which has made the situation even more confusing. To be clear: this article is not about software packages or platforms, for which the term ESM is also used.

In its essence, ESM aims to elevate service management, which traditionally used to be confined to IT (hence the soon-to-be-obsolete expression IT service management or ITSM), to the level of the enterprise (or service provider) as a whole. This means that common service management concepts can be applied to the enterprise as a whole and to individual (non-IT) departments, including, for example, facilities, HR, sales, etc. This is necessary, because the enterprise as a whole is responsible for delivering services, not just an IT department, so everyone in the organisation should contribute to the success of the services.

What does this approach mean in practice? You can start mapping some concepts from classic service management to the enterprise. For example, the Service Lifecycle, introduced in ITIL® 2011 (and sent to its grave in ITIL 4): Strategy, Design, Transition, Operation and Continual Improvement. These five natural phases in the life of a service can be easily mapped to various functions in the enterprise, especially if you seriously start with Service Strategy. When I first read the ITIL 2011 Service Strategy book, it seemed to me as if it were a concise MBA course. If you look at Service Strategy like that, it is straightforward to adapt its concepts to all involved teams. Strategy starts at the top, with proper governance (about which more later). It needs to involve all parties that are (going to be) involved in the service lifecycle to come up with a feasible service portfolio, including a proper financial business case and input from sales, marketing and service management on what customers really want and how much demand there is. This then leads into the other phases where, as early as possible, groups like IT (obviously, in today’s services there is a significant IT component, so the IT side of service management is not to be ruled out even if we don’t call it ITSM anymore) and Operations are involved in the design and implementation of the services. This can obviously be done in any way, cyclical (Agile) or not. Operation and continual improvement are not the sole responsibility of IT and operations either, because we need continual contact with the customer via Sales and Service Management to find out what their experience of the services is and what they think should be improved. Finance again needs to stay involved to assess whether services are provided within budget and, if applicable, the customer is appropriately charged for them.

Similarly, the core activities, such as all the service management processes, can be mapped to all groups within the enterprise. Taking the generic ones defined by VeriSM, these are Define, Produce, Provide and Respond. Per the description of the Service Lifecycle above these activities need to involve all groups in the enterprise. For example, HR should be involved in Define by assessing the competence of staff and the number of staff needed throughout the Service Lifecycle. HR is involved in Produce, Provide and Respond by assessing the environment staff works in and to see if that environment is in fact supportive of those activities. Similarly, Facilities needs to be involved in all phases to make sure the right physical environment is there and maintained to support staff’s everyday activities.

Naturally, ESM needs to extend into governance of the enterprise. In discussions about service management, governance is often left out, because it lives too far away from the operation of the services. ESM should rebuild the link to governance by focusing (part of) it on the services. Governance evaluates, directs and monitors (these expressions come from ISO/IEC 38500, which is about governance of IT, but can be easily adapted to the enterprise level) the more operational activities in the enterprise. Doing so for the service the organisation provides requires clear direction in the form of policies and principles that guide the service lifecycle, beginning with Service Strategy.

ESM thus involves the whole enterprise in the activities that are the core of its existence: providing services. It is not another methodology, but just a way to integrate all activities of the service provider to all collaborate and provide the best level of service experience to the customers. What needs to be done to elevate service management to the enterprise level is a slight re-interpretation of the concepts in the usual (IT) service management frameworks. How this is done with ISO/IEC 20000-1, the International Standard for service management, is the subject of a future article.

About the Author

Dolf van der Haven is author of various books on Service Management, the most recent of which is A Guide to ISO/IEC 20000-1:2018 Service Management.