Should ESM Follow ITIL Processes?


The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) frameworks led to information technology service management (ITSM), which structured the entire IT service delivery process. Since then, ITSM has become its own niche offering, catering to the IT department's various services and validating the associated costs.

IT services aren’t limited to IT departments anymore. ITSM’s applications have expanded across organizations through the use of cloud technologies. This organization-ide practice is known as enterprise service management (ESM).

Organizations have synchronized all levels and departments using cloud-based technologies. These tools have helped enterprises form a consistent approach to delivering their services. Since these technologies allow users to integrate their services throughout their service cycle, they can collaborate in real time. Additionally, since all these services link to a single cloud platform, users can monitor everything at any time, making it the perfect solution for at-scale operations.

We’ll examine ITIL 4’s specifics and highlight how it applies to ESM. We’ll also discuss whether ESM can adopt ITIL processes and explore if it’s more beneficial than the current ITSM framework.

What is ITIL 4?

ITIL is a guiding set of frameworks for ITSM. It upholds the quality of service delivery in the IT sector. It also acts as a reference document for IT processes and other capabilities. The intention is for all IT services to align with business needs, contributing to higher operations efficiency, lower business costs, and better resource use.

ITIL 4 is the newly-launched ITIL library update. It was created to integrate the IT process with current Agile business needs. The jump from ITIL version 3 to ITIL 4 is significant, as it takes the best practices of ITIL and merges them with essential applications such as DevOps, Lean, and Agile. ITIL 4’s name reflects its intent to support the industrial revolution’s next generation, Industry 4.0.

ITIL 4 consists of two core components: a four-dimensional model and an ITIL service value system. The model focuses on serving two critical groups of stakeholders in an organization. These are the internal employees and the external partners and suppliers. The model also aligns current information and technology models with an organization’s value streams and processes.

The ITIL service value system focuses on your processes to deliver value-added output to its customers and stakeholders. It includes guiding principles, governance, service value chain, continual improvement, and management practices. Together, these all help constantly improve value-based service delivery execution.


Should ESM follow ITIL processes?

A critical difference between ITSM and ESM is that not all of ITSM's guiding principles apply at the enterprise level. ITSM acts as the backbone of any IT-related service delivery, whether it's for internal or external stakeholders. On the other hand, ESM emphasizes supporting service delivery within an organization. This is one reason why not all ITSM frameworks apply to an enterprise level.

The current ITIL 4 framework accounts for the kind of digital transformation practices organizations are undertaking. ITSM principles serve more as an example than a rigid framework in this context. Now, organizations are applying the effectiveness of ITSM practices under the broadened umbrella of ESM.

Cloud technologies have been the primary driving force for this shift — something the pandemic-instigated digital transformation makes apparent. Before 2020, most organizations hadn't given remote working so much as a thought. But with both global and regional lockdowns, businesses needed to adapt. Integrating cloud technologies with ITSM has kept service desks interconnected without needing employees to be present in one fixed location.

Organizations have transformed how they connect because of cloud technologies. This change is now irreversible because companies have adopted it in a way that wouldn’t occur if businesses were on-premises.

Many organizations have already used cloud technologies to incorporate service management capabilities, supporting their remote workforce. According to PWC, 60 percent of executives have already invested in training and collaboration tools. They use workflows for assigning equipment to end users, providing better remote control for work, or enabling a productive work environment.

ITIL’s role in ESM

ESM is based on ITSM principles, but not entirely. So organizations have begun using its root framework, ITIL, as a guidepost for implementing ESM.

But the question remains about how to incorporate ITIL 4 into an ESM framework. Integrating ITIL 4 into an ESM framework is primarily based on the 7 guiding principles of ITIL. Let's explore what role each principle plays in ESM.

1. Focus on value

Any service’s main intention is to drive value to the end user. The value the service offers makes it beneficial, not the service itself.

In ESM, cloud services amplify the expansion of ITSM into ESM. They've given organizations the ability to expand their ITSM strategies across various departments, unifying operations.

2. Start where you are

Starting from scratch isn’t necessary. Sometimes it’s wiser to pick and choose existing framework capabilities. Using the current capabilities as a baseline is a much more efficient approach.

3. Progress iteratively with feedback

This aligns with Agile development philosophies, where organizations iterate the capabilities based on regular feedback from stakeholders. When you envision something beforehand and improvise only based on that initial vision, it becomes challenging to offer the value stakeholders seek.

Organizations must incorporate feedback at regular intervals to ensure the end user benefits from the service. An excellent example is Atlassian Cloud’s regular updates, which keep users up-to-date with changing business needs.

4. Collaborate and promote visibility

Large-scale enterprises tend to have multiple departments containing specialists. The current state of technology demands specialization. The more specialized you are, the better it is for the organization because you become the go-to resource to fix that specific problem.

However, this siloed approach may become an issue when solving problems requiring a cross-collaborative approach. Unless you have a framework in place forcing you to visualize the bigger picture, you’ll focus only on the minor details, wasting time and effort.

5. Think and work holistically

Thinking and working holistically align with collaboration, which focuses on the bigger picture. Many companies offer services requiring integrating inputs from various company stakeholders. It’s best to use a holistic approach to make informed decisions with the customer's best interests in mind.

All these activities make up various value stream steps, so you need to observe changes from a whole-view perspective. While details are important, the value chain’s smooth functioning is even more essential. ITIL 4’s four-dimensional model comes in handy here, and the shift to ESM using cloud services enables this to happen in real-time.

6. Keep it simple and practical

Integrating systems across the enterprise can be challenging, especially when you hope to do it holistically. However, it's not impossible.

Use the Pareto principle (80:20 rule) to identify processes that contribute the least to the end goal. Prioritize processes that service 80 percent of your user’s demand. Then, you can handle the rest individually or eliminate them. When you automate processes that are part of your demand’s majority, you gain more time to focus on tasks and processes that need your involvement.

Think about delivering value-based outcomes in the least number of steps possible. Another way to keep things simple is to use the SMART goals framework. It'll help you clarify the objectives and processes for the stakeholders.

7. Optimize and automate

As digital transformation fuels organizations, unnecessary manual work wastes time and effort. A qualified skill force is one of the scarcest resources to find, so it's best to free up as much time as possible for tasks needing human intervention.

Again, you need to apply this principle with careful thought. It's best to optimize first and then automate. If you optimize a process that's not providing the right outcome, you're deviating from your desired goals. Every team has its own workflow, which makes it hard to integrate. But to unify the workflows, using cloud technologies like Atlassian Cloud is best.

For example, optimizing workflows using cloud technologies can help you identify sub-optimal configurations quicker than on-premises. When you identify issues, it's easier to fix and automate them.


At the outset of this article, we questioned whether ESM should follow ITIL processes, and the short answer is yes. Applying ITIL 4’s seven guiding principles could give ESM the much-needed flexibility it needs and ease enterprise-wide adoption.

Remember that ESM is an approach to an end-solution, not the end-solution itself. So, if ESM strategies adopt the ITIL 4 framework, organizations are much more likely to understand the “why” behind a specific approach, not just the “how.” This strategy also empowers organizations to invent creative and innovative approaches to delivering the services, leading to more business.

ITIL 4 processes help your organization pivot through improved IT operations and overall cost reduction while providing a baseline to create your own ESM strategy.

Check out our webinar with Atlassian and Appfire to learn how we changed the way we work with organizations to solve ITSM challenges and provide modernized processes.

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