Enterprise Service Management: Embrace the  ITSM Force

Implement the enterprise service management approach to revolutionize how your organization delivers services beyond IT.

written with the expert help from Paul Ille, Executive Vice President Of Operations, and Ivan Samoylov, CTO

An image metaphorically illustrating the relationship in Enterprise Service Management, where IT is the master of ITSM and other departments are its apprentices.

IT departments have been managed according to the principles of ITIL and ITSM for decades already. However, the attempt to transfer this success to services of other departments, such as HR or facilities, was not made immediately. There are still companies that do not utilize this opportunity, which, it would seem, is readily available.

In this article, we will explain the essence of enterprise service management, what software you might need for it, and why ESM might not be the best solution for you.

Table of contents:

Part 1. What ESM is and how it functions

    1. What is Enterprise Service Management (ESM)?
    2. ITSM vs. ESM
    3. The principles of ESM
    4. The benefits of enterprise service management

Part 2. How to implement ESM

    1. Who benefits most from ESM?
    2. Examples and use cases of enterprise service management
    3. What is an ESM strategy?
    4. Tips for the successful implementation of ESM
    5. How to choose an enterprise service management platform
    6. Key features of enterprise service management platforms

Key takeaways

Frequently asked questions

    1. What is continual improvement in enterprise service management?
    2. How does artificial intelligence (AI) influence ESM?
    3. What is enterprise service management compared to digital transformation?
    4. How does ESM help digital transformation?

Part 1. What ESM is and how it functions

What is Enterprise Service Management (ESM)?

Enterprise service management (ESM) is an organizational approach and set of practices that transfer the most effective principles of IT service management (ITSM) to other business functions outside of IT.

In simpler terms, ESM is when you use things like a service desk, a self-service portal, and request fulfillment automation to organize service delivery in departments outside of IT, such as human resources, facilities, and finances.

Historically, ESM was developed based on the principles of ITSM to optimize the services that departments provide to each other and external customers. Traditionally, those teams mentioned above routinely dealt with a vast volume of service requests, which made them the first target for applying best practices from ITSM, intending to improve service quality and customer satisfaction.

Like many information technology initiatives, enterprise service management gained higher popularity during the COVID-19 crisis. When employees started to work from home, thanks to ESM, companies could quickly restore access to services that were previously provided offline.


ITSM and ESM are two closely related disciplines.

ITSM is a collection of processes and policies that enable organizations to design, implement, manage, and improve customer IT services. By IT services, we mean all the valuable tasks that the IT department fulfills for the rest of the company, starting from password reset to migrating data to the cloud. The most popular ITSM framework is ITIL–the information technology infrastructure library.

ESM strives to adapt the best from ITSM to the service delivery practices in other business units.

Here is how ITSM and ESM intersect:

  • ESM emerged based on ITSM and became a separate discipline. Therefore, ESM is an extension of ITSM, not something to contrast with ITSM.
  • ESM doesn’t include anything that ITSM wouldn’t cover. In the end, they’re both about service management in an organization.
  • However, the principles of ESM are specific as it picks those practices and processes that apply best for the usage in particular business functions.

The principles of ESM

While there are similarities in the foundational principles of ESM and ITSM, the critical difference lies in the broader scope of ESM, which encompasses service management throughout the organization, not limited to IT services. The main principles of enterprise service management are the following:

  1. Customer satisfaction is the main objective. In ESM, customer satisfaction takes center stage. The primary goal is to meet and exceed customer expectations. Customer satisfaction is measured through feedback, surveys, and performance metrics.
  2. Focus on processes. ESM places a strong emphasis on well-defined and efficient processes for service delivery. Processes are documented, standardized, and optimized for consistency and effectiveness.
  3. Cross-functional collaboration. Cross-functional collaboration is a cornerstone of ESM, promoting cooperation and coordination among different organizational departments and functions.
  4. Continual improvement. Continual improvement is a core principle in ESM, emphasizing the need for ongoing refinement of service delivery processes. Customer feedback and performance metrics are crucial in driving improvements, ensuring that services align with changing customer and business needs.

The benefits of enterprise service management

Organizations can expect the following positive outcomes when implementing enterprise service management:

Improved service quality: Most importantly, ESM promotes a standardized and customer-centric approach to service delivery. Thanks to that, organizations can consistently provide high-quality services that meet customer and user expectations.

Paul Ille:

“Unfortunately, when organizations begin implementing ITIL, they sometimes forget what they’re trying to achieve. The actual goal is to provide high levels of service for end users. If there are no improvements customers can feel, the process design is going in the wrong direction.”

Enhanced efficiency: Automation of service request and fulfillment processes and workflow automation reduces manual effort and speeds up service delivery. For example, imagine how much time an automated approval mechanism saves compared to a practice where the project manager asks all the stakeholders for approvals individually.

Improved employee satisfaction: ESM provides users a user-friendly self-service portal, faster response times, and a consistent service experience. This leads to higher employee satisfaction levels, which is crucial in the post-COVID world, with its high standards of online service delivery.

Practical insight:

ESM brings higher accountability to the service delivery process. Imagine you’re asking for an employment verification letter from the HR department without any ESM system by sending an email. In the next few days, you’ll be wondering:

    • Did someone take over the work, or was the request overlooked?
    • Did the right person receive the request, or is a freshly hired intern working on it because no one else saw the email?
    • Am I on time, or was the task ignored while my deadline approached?

ESM introduces transparency into the service delivery process.

Cross-functional collaboration: ESM encourages cooperation and coordination among different organizational departments and functions. Different departments can bring surprisingly much value to each other when they have a straightforward way to request and deliver services. If one department has excess resources while another faces a shortage, ESM facilitates the sharing of resources to meet demand without the need for costly procurement. For example, product teams routinely prepare dashboards with data on customer behavior for their meetings. With a convenient way to request and share this data, marketing and sales teams might benefit from this knowledge and improve customer communications.

Easier digital transformation: Service catalogs and self-service portals, essential to any ESM system, make it convenient for users to adopt and utilize new digital tools and services. This user-friendly access accelerates the adoption of digital solutions.

Cost control: ESM allows organizations to optimize the allocation of human and technological resources, as it provides information on the actual demand for services. If specific departments or teams consistently require more IT support, staffing can be adjusted to ensure resources are used efficiently.

Ivan Samoylov:

“Often, we overlook how ESM can be a game-changer for many company departments. It provides clear metrics on their performance. And with these numbers, they have a stronger case to present to company leaders when proposing new ideas and projects.”

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Part 2. How to implement ESM?

Who benefits most from ESM?

Departments that benefit the most from Enterprise Service Management (ESM) typically share common traits and characteristics:

  1. High service demand: Logically, the departments that experience high volumes of service requests or interactions with other departments benefit from ESM’s ability to streamline and automate service delivery.
  2. Process-intensive operations: Departments with complex and process-intensive operations benefit significantly from ESM. This includes IT, HR, Facilities, and Finance, where service requests, approvals, and workflows are common and can benefit from standardization and automation.

Examples and use cases of enterprise service management

Here are the business functions that typically benefit from enterprise service management:

  • Human resources (HR): HR is a classic example of an ESM application. Companies use these tools to manage employee onboarding, offboarding, leave requests, performance evaluations, and other HR-related tasks. ESM in HR aims to enhance the employee experience and reduce administrative overhead.

For HR, it’s critical to have separate data access when dealing with service requests. This is because of the sensitivity of data they are handling, such as salary information, health information, and other personal and sensitive data of employees. For this reason, HR will typically have individual permissions to operate request tickets.

  • Facilities management: ESM tools help organizations efficiently manage facilities-related services, such as office space requests, maintenance requests, and equipment provisioning. This results in optimized space utilization and improved workplace experiences.

Facilities, on the other hand, will typically want their data visible to IT because they don’t work with any sensitive data, and the IT team might help them manage company assets.

  • Finance and Procurement: Some companies apply ESM principles to financial and procurement processes. This includes managing purchase requests, expense approvals, and financial reporting. ESM tools help organizations control costs, enforce financial policies, and improve transparency.

What is an ESM strategy?

An Enterprise Service Management (ESM) strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines how an organization will apply service management principles and practices across various business functions beyond the IT department. An ESM strategy aims to improve the overall efficiency, effectiveness, and consistency of service delivery throughout the enterprise.

There are no special rules on creating an ESM strategy. General common-sense rules apply: set clear goals, consider the targets against which you’ll measure success, break the plan into steps, and allocate responsibilities at each stage. However, we suggest paying attention to these factors specific to ESM:

  1. Think about the departments and services that will be involved in implementing ESM.
  2. Plan how you will adapt service management processes, such as incident management, change management, service request management, and problem management, to suit the needs of each business function.
  3. Design the service catalogs thoroughly, as it will be the primary interface for end-users to access enterprise services.

Tips for the successful implementation of ESM

Prepare to combat the resistance to change

As with any organizational shift, transitioning to an ESM framework can face resistance from employees accustomed to older methods. The fear of the unknown and concerns about potential job displacement due to automation can lead to hesitancy in embracing ESM. These tips might help you when promoting ESM initiatives among employees:

  1. Speak about the advantages in terms that resonate with the audience you are addressing. For example, consider what benefits the HR team would most strongly feel from using ESM. Perhaps it’s the opportunity to relieve employees who are overburdened due to the influx of requests. Or an opportunity for HR to make their work more visible
  2. Use the language that’s appropriate for your audience instead of the technical jargon. For example:
    • Rather than stating, “ESM facilitates end-to-end service orchestration and automation,” you could say, “ESM helps streamline and automate processes across all your services.”
    • Instead of highlighting technical features like “workflow automation” or “incident management,” you could explain how ESM “saves time and reduces errors by automating repetitive tasks and ensuring quick response to issues.”

Assign roles thoughtfully

Although ESM has traditionally been associated with IT teams, it’s not the sole responsibility of IT to implement ESM systems for other company functions. Whether it’s HR, facilities, or finances, the department itself should actively adopt ESM practices tailored to their unique needs and objectives to ensure their ownership and commitment.

Integrate tools and technologies

Given the diverse array of tools used across different departments in an enterprise, integrating them into a cohesive ESM platform is critical for the viability of the whole project. Choose ITSM platforms with more flexible APIs and integration protocols to handle this complexity.

Check out Alloy Navigator’s integration capabilities to connect it with other enterprise tools, such as Microsoft Active Directory, Azure Active Directory, and Okta. Our team can also develop custom integrations for you.

Challenges and limitations of ESM

Paul Ille:

“It’s important to ensure you’re implementing Enterprise Service Management when it’s right for your organization. ESM includes E for “enterprise,” and that’s for good reason. Small and mid-size companies can quickly overcomplicate themselves by creating processes they aren’t able to adopt.”

How to choose an enterprise service management platform

If ITSM is already implemented in your company, which should be the case if you’re reading this, you don’t need any dedicated ESM software. You can build ESM practices using your existing ITSM tech. However, your ITSM software must meet these requirements to be able to maintain ESM implementation:

  1. Service portals of different departments should function separately to preserve the sensitivity of data used by these departments. In Alloy Navigator, we use Data Segmentation to achieve this.
  2. At the same time, these separate service portals should be able to use data from shared databases, such as the list of employees and the workflows for the vital service processes (change management, incident management, etc.)

In Alloy Navigator Enterprise, the data segmentation feature enables you to apply the principles of IT Service Management and related functionality to automate essential functions in other departments. For example, you can set up your HR and Facilities teams to track their issues and manage internal work orders separately from other departments. Connect with our sales team to learn more!

Also, look at the list of these key features to get a reference of what an ESM system should look like:

Key features of enterprise service management platforms

Self-service portal: A self-service portal is the primary interface between the service provider, be it IT, HR, or legal department, and the service requester. A self-service portal typically includes a service catalog, a knowledge base, and a form for custom requests. The self-service portal acts as a navigator for the customer who wants to request services from a department.

Read more about the self-service portal and how SSP functions in Alloy Navigator.

Service catalog: The service catalog is an essential part of a self-service portal. It offers a centralized and standardized way for employees to request various services. The concept comes from ITSM, where it’s an interface to request IT services. Within enterprise service management, service catalogs span multiple departments. They may include HR services (e.g., leave requests, onboarding processes), facilities services (e.g., office space requests, maintenance), financial services (e.g., payments to contractors), and others.

Read more about what a service catalog is and the service catalog capabilities of Alloy Software products.

Workflow automation: ESM tools must automate service requests and delivery processes. For example, before deploying software per request, the ESM system performs a dependency check to ensure that the employee’s workstation has installed the necessary libraries and databases. Moreover, workflow automation significantly enhances processes where the approval of various parties is needed. When a service request is initiated, the tool triggers predefined workflows that route requests to the appropriate departments or individuals for fulfillment. The interested parties get instant notifications and can approve changes on the go.

The unique Alloy Software’s workflow engine can orchestrate the complete lifecycle of any business object, from IT assets and Service Desk tickets to purchase orders and contracts and define precisely when and how changes in one object act on other objects and people involved. Learn more about workflow automation here.

Knowledge management: Many ESM tools include knowledge management capabilities, allowing organizations to capture and share knowledge about service delivery processes.

Integration: ESM tools can integrate with various systems and applications across the organization. Integration is essential to ensure that data is shared seamlessly between different departments. For example, an ESM tool may integrate with HR systems for employee onboarding processes.

Reporting and analytics: ESM tools provide reporting and analytics capabilities to track and analyze service request data. This helps organizations identify trends, measure service performance, and make data-driven decisions to improve service quality and efficiency.

Governance and compliance: ESM tools often include governance and compliance features to ensure service delivery processes adhere to organizational policies and industry regulations. They help maintain transparency and accountability in service delivery.

Key takeaways

  • Enterprise Service Management (ESM) extends ITSM principles to improve service delivery in departments like HR, Facilities, and Finance.
  • ESM emphasizes customer satisfaction, efficient processes, cross-functional collaboration, and continual improvement.
  • To implement ESM practices, your existing ITSM tech is enough, as soon as it allows for separating data of different departments. Data segmentation is essential to keep safe the sensitive data that is often used by departments such as HR.
  • Possible challenges of ESM implementation include combating the resistance to change, engaging the department’s employees, and integrating the technological tools correctly.
  • Small and mid-size companies can quickly overcomplicate themselves by creating ESM processes they aren’t able to adopt.

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Frequently asked questions

What is continual improvement in enterprise service management?

Continual Improvement is a core element of ITIL, a framework that provides best practices for managing IT services. The term stands for a systematic and structured approach to making incremental and sustainable improvements in IT service management.

ESM aligns perfectly with this ethos by offering a structured framework for streamlining and optimizing service delivery and continuously enhancing it. Through feedback mechanisms, data analytics, and iterative processes, ESM enables organizations to ensure that service quality continually evolves to meet the rising expectations of internal and external stakeholders.

How does artificial intelligence (AI) influence ESM?

As AI technologies continue to advance, ESM benefits from further improvements in automation, predictive analytics, and the ability to meet evolving user expectations.

Here are some examples of how AI influences ESM practices:

  1. Handling customer requests:
    • AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can handle routine service requests, such as sick leave approval, 24/7. This reduces the workload on human agents and accelerates service fulfillment.
    • NLP capabilities enable AI to understand and respond to user inquiries in natural language, improving the accuracy and relevance of knowledge-based responses.
  2. Knowledge extraction: AI tools can extract and categorize knowledge from various sources, including documents, emails, and chat logs. This helps in building a comprehensive knowledge base for self-service and support purposes.
  3. Demand forecasting: AI analyzes historical data and user behavior to predict service demand. ESM teams can proactively allocate resources, ensuring that services are available when needed most.
  4. Automated triaging: AI can assess the urgency and complexity of service requests based on the language and context of user inquiries, prioritizing them accordingly.

What is enterprise service management compared to digital transformation?

Enterprise service management doesn’t equal digital transformation. However, because enterprise service management is a set of practices across different departments and functions, it can be perceived as a generalist, all-encompassing initiative.

However, the main goal of enterprise service management is optimizing service delivery within an organization. In contrast, digital transformation is a strategic initiative aiming to transform the entire business model and operations based on digital technologies.

How does ESM help digital transformation?

Still, enterprise service management may play a crucial role in enabling the digital transformation by contributing the following:

  1. Process efficiency and automation: ESM streamlines and optimizes service delivery processes across various departments. This includes automating manual and repetitive tasks.
  2. Service catalogs and self-service portals: ESM often involves the creation of service catalogs and self-service portals that allow employees and customers to request and access services quickly. These portals can be extended to include digital services and resources that are part of the digital transformation strategy, for example, new cloud resources or SaaS applications.
  3. Change management and governance: Digital transformation often involves significant technological, process, and culture changes. ESM frameworks and practices include change management and governance processes that can help manage these transitions effectively.

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