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How automation, AI, and ITIL make ITSM a no-brainer

Linda Rosencrance Freelance writer/editor

Many organizations have discovered that IT service management (ITSM) can serve as a hub for digital transformation and other types of organizational change. But these days, the practice is itself experiencing a makeover.

Automation (in service management as well as process management, with robotic process automation), artificial intelligence (AI), and analytics are all redefining the role of ITSM in business innovation, services, and organizational reinvention, according to a new report from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), which was sponsored by Micro Focus.

The report, "Automation, AI, and Analytics: Reinventing ITSM," is based on a survey of 400 global respondents active in ITSM. It investigates the relationships between the business demands of digital transformation and many enabling technologies as they relate to ITSM. Some 64% of the respondents held VP through C-level titles.

The report's high-level findings can help inform ITSM practitioners about next steps they can take in their own organizations, according to Valerie O'Connell, research director at EMA and one of the report's authors. Dennis Drogseth, vice president of research, co-authored the report. 

Adopt ITIL: Success breeds success

Some 62% of respondents said they're moving toward an enhanced level of ITIL adoption, according to the report. 

And, in an interesting corollary, enterprises that are automating complex processes, or actively expanding automation across their entire IT infrastructures, are also more likely to successfully exploit AI/analytics, O'Connell said.

The authors arrived at this conclusion by looking at both those respondents who answered that they were going to be doing enhanced levels of ITIL adoption and those who said they have been extremely successful in their automation deployments and/or their AI and analytics deployments.

There was a high correlation, O'Connell said.

"ITIL has a long-standing history of helping to make these things work better. People are taking a more systematic and high-level approach to their automations and their AI implementations as well."
Valerie O'Connell

Automate, integrate

The integration of AI and automation creates a multiplier effect in both qualitative and quantifiable benefits on each half of the equation, O'Connell said. 

Service organizations are looking for ways to exploit the value of AI bots, virtual agents, and a range of analytics-driven automation within existing investments in ITSM platforms, systems, workflows, IT processes, and automations already in place.

The broad scope of AI crosses topics such as virtual agent bot-like automation, AIOps, machine learning (ML), predictive advice, and big data lakes. But without a clear understanding and adoption path, ITSM teams are often reluctant to trust and maximize the potential of AI.

Use ITSM for integrated operations, self-service capabilities  

Survey respondents identified integrated operations and self-service capabilities as their top primary use cases.

"If you're going to be doing it anyway, and you can do it better, faster, more efficiently, more effectively, and at less cost with fewer errors, why would you not do it?"
—Valerie O'Connell

She offered these other suggestions when it comes to figuring out use cases: 

  • Assess what's needed: Plan on top use-case priorities first, then go ahead with your investments.
  • Evaluate technologies, and base your due diligence on your unique environment and needs.
  • Put metrics in place to measure your team's effectiveness. 

Reinvent ITSM

Many ITSM teams are making the practice more powerful by adopting AI, analytics, and automation, as well as making more innovative uses of their ITSM platforms, such as for enterprise service management (ESM), the report said.

Some 55% of respondents view ITSM as substantially growing in importance, 31% view it as somewhat growing in importance, and 12% view it as staying the same. 

ITSM is definitely not going away.

The practice is becoming more important because it is the nexus for so many converging technologies, cross-boundary work, and new business initiatives, O'Connell said. And the more it's doing, the more important it becomes.

As the perceived benefits increase, more organizations are introducing automation- and AI-enabled services in both existing and new ITSM practices. As a result, the ITSM infrastructure—platform, processes, technologies, organization, and team—must remain "proactively flexible" and in a "state of constant reinvention."

Connect ITSM with enterprise service management

"The long-heralded IT/business alignment appears to be thriving in the ITSM/ESM partnership," O'Connell said.

ESM consists of non-IT services offered out into the user community. But increasingly, companies are seeking to connect the two worlds. And if ITSM teams offer these broader services to the business community, chances are good this will improve their relationships with the business, according to O'Connell.

ESM, as well as services that directly benefit the business, are viewed as transformational to the ITSM and IT relationship with the business, according to the report.

Take these other actions

O'Connell suggested some other ways that service management professionals can continue to make ITSM increasingly relevant in their enterprises. 


  • Be prepared for changes in how your team works and understand how process-related initiatives impact organizational structure.
  • Work closely with stakeholders on business workflows, outcomes, and expectations.


    • Make sure you have adequate skill sets before going forward.
    • Ensure your vendor/supplier is available to provide you with expert guidance and support.
    • Put metrics in place to measure and quantify your progress.

    Continue to invest in ITSM

    ITSM is a clear winner in this time of digital transformation, according to the report.

    Automation, AI, and analytics are increasingly used to cross functional silos, with workflows and intelligence that improve cost and operational efficiencies within and beyond IT, the report said: 

    "The more boundaries are crossed, the more critical the need for a centralized point of contact and control becomes. That point is ITSM."

    Keep learning

    Read more articles about: Enterprise ITIT Ops