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ESM essentials: What it is, why it matters

Ericka Chickowski Freelance writer

Enterprise service management (ESM) expands on the principles and technology of IT service management (ITSM) to add discipline, formalized methodology, and automation to how non-tech departments deliver services to internal customers.

Imagine for a moment that business stakeholders could ask for help from the legal department in drafting a contract, using the same kind of self-service portal they'd use to open an IT help desk ticket. Also, imagine that in delivering those requested contracts, legal had to adhere to service-level agreements (SLAs) similar to those IT is bound by in support of its users.

Enterprise service management is meant to facilitate precisely that kind of workflow and accountability. Here's what your team needs to know about the growing field of ESM.

The evolution of ESM

With decades of experience in perfecting a customer-centric attitude toward delivering IT services, ITSM professionals have learned a thing or two about how to efficiently field and satisfy requests from their business colleagues.

By leveraging ITSM frameworks such as ITIL, they've been able to formalize the processes around providing technical support, managing assets, responding to incidents, provisioning accounts, training users, and answering questions. ITSM is about helping both internal and external customers get the most out of the tech investments made by an organization.

Along with that, IT pros also typically tap into ITSM technology platforms to consolidate the service catalog for an IT department and to manage and track fulfillment of requests against that catalog.

As enterprises started witnessing the benefits of this approach, they began wondering if they could broaden the use of their ITSM platform to amplify the results. For example, if HR can use the platform to request account provisioning for a new employee from IT, why can't anyone in the business just as easily use it to request the broader onboarding process from the HR department for a new hire?

These kinds of realizations sparked a wave of nontraditional usage of ITSM tools that eventually coalesced into the establishment of ESM. In fact, when Charles Betz first defined the market for Forrester Research in 2017, he reported that he'd spoken to numerous enterprises that said over half of the work routed through their ITSM ticketing systems were non-IT based.

Some hallmarks of ESM that have evolved from ITSM include:

  • Service desk and ticketing
  • Service catalogs
  • Knowledge management
  • Self-service capabilities
  • Reporting and SLA tracking

The ability to track the lifecycle of a request from initiation to fulfillment using a ticketing system has big appeal for organizations seeking to improve collaboration among departments. So does the combination of things such as knowledge management and self-service with more advanced technologies such as AI and chatbots to automate the processing of high-volume requests to free up people to do higher-value work.

This is the next level that organizations that have already dipped their toes into ESM hope to achieve. In a recent study by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), 61% of organizations with mature deployments said combining AI, analytics, and automation with ESM was an extremely high priority for the coming year.

ESM use cases

The use cases for ESM can vary across enterprises, but some common services include:

  • Legal: Contract development, legal approvals, providing counsel, and answering questions
  • Facilities management: Coordinating meeting room use, equipment provisioning, visitor registration, and approvals
  • Marketing: Launching campaigns to support distributed product teams, answering questions about brand guidelines, and distributing brand assets and branded collateral
  • HR: Doing employee onboarding, policy enforcement, and approvals and answering policy questions

One common denominator in all these use cases is that the business function providing a service catalog gets a high volume of similar requests from across the organization. Another is that they must provide some sort of action or approval to help the requester move forward on a project.

These requests are usually time-sensitive, and the long-term performance of the department providing the discrete services could be trackable with the right kind of technology.

According to EMA researchers, "Any group that has to deal with people is a prospect for ESM. If those people are end users, employees, or customers looking for information or services, and they are used to sending their inquiries to a group email or phone message center, they are falling-off-the-tree ripe for ESM."

The ultimate goal

ESM's fundamental aim is to help organizations improve efficiency, responsiveness to colleagues, workflow, and employee satisfaction across departments. Using ESM platforms and methods, enterprises can better measure productivity across organizational silos and make targeted improvements to business processes where warranted by consulting empirical data.

Read more articles about: Enterprise ITIT Ops