As agility becomes a primary competitive advantage for the modern business, I’m seeing more enterprises adopt new technologies for quicker innovation and faster time to value. Public cloud, containers, microservices and serverless computing help you increase speed of execution and increase organizational flexibility, because the ability to react quickly is now part of the customer experience. In the era of digital transformation, speed has clearly become a competitive differentiator.

For the last twenty years, technology companies catering to the needs of IT operations and service management teams, have been trying to support this need for speed. Their challenge? The underlying technology, processes, and customer expectations are constantly shifting. Standard IT operations management (ITOM) has been focused on system health and uptime in an increasingly dynamic environment. Meanwhile, IT service management (ITSM) approaches have been built around the process of managing tickets and remediating individual incidents. Historically, these two teams have acted separately within the core of the enterprise IT team.

Yet bringing them together is not easy. Transparency Market Research writes that “The integration of IT operations and service management solutions is the greatest challenge that [software vendors] are currently struggling to address. The sheer effort required in coordinating between the myriad phases and interrelated processes in IT operations and service management is making seamless deployment challenging…” Why? Because it’s a new way of supporting business services in a more unified and centralized framework. It’s a transformation to new thinking.

This is the environment, and the opportunity, that fosters the growing need for a more unified approach to IT operations and service management, or ITOSM.

ITSM and ITOM: Unified, Aligned and Agile

Despite their historical silos, ITOM and ITSM have both tried to attack the same challenge of managing technology according to the needs of the business. They do it in two different and complementary yet contrasting ways.

ITSM brings a rigorous process framework (ITIL) to systematically remediate incidents as they occur in order to maintain service uptime. Service management teams use tools and technology to manage an incident lifecycle from notification to remediation. But service desk teams also lack what ITOM technologies brings to the table: a full suite of capabilities to monitor, maintain and manage the underlying applications and infrastructure of these business services. This means while service management teams could remediate incidents, they struggled with incident diagnosis (also known as root cause analysis) as well as incident prevention in the first place. And when service delivery teams spend a non-trivial amount of time in diagnosis alone, it’s critical to provide missing context behind incidents for faster overall remediation.

Meanwhile, ITOM is a discipline that lives and breathes the metrics of system health and performance. The IT operations team combines tools, insights and services to proactively watch and diagnose bumps in the road. Discovery, monitoring, event correlation and escalation management are their weapons of choice, but IT operations teams rarely interface with business customers, or bring rigorous ITSM process to bear for incident remediation.

What’s more, in a world of digital transformation, operations teams need to adopt platform thinking to enterprise IT management. Combining ITOM and ITSM into a single digital operations command center can deliver historical and current contextual data on system performance and create a uniform system of record that’s consumable across all levels of the business. And all without toggling between panes or combining disparate data.

Enter and Exit the CMDB

Some ITSM and ITOM software vendors have tried to bring these two practices together through a common repository called the configuration management database (CMDB). The CMDB is meant to be a single source of truth to link IT elements with the application processes that underlie the business services. For a time, the CMDB existed in its most raw form as a static spreadsheet of IT resources and their configurations, manually updated and managed. But the emerging technologies of virtualization, cloud computing, and new age workloads have transformed infrastructure, and made the static nature of the CMDB seem antiquated. Change happens fast. In a hybrid, multi-cloud environment that’s increasingly built around microservices, existing resources and configurations are dated almost as fast as they are added.

So what’s next? This is where opportunity lies: Holistically combining service and operational management to drive technology choices in a dynamic business context. And working as a unified ITOM + ITSM practice for agile and optimized customer experiences.

Welcome to the World of ITOSM

In the new world of IT operations and service management, both these silos will blend into a consolidated, open, platform-based approach that’s flexible and agile enough to serve the needs of a digital enterprise. Imagine combining the best of ITSM, including:

  • Incident/Problem Management
  • Change/Release Management
  • Remediation
  • Service Level Management

With an operational support system that works faster and more effectively with:

In this new vision for modern IT management, the contextual relationships between infrastructure elements and business services are more transparent, and reduce root-cause analysis and diagnosis by half. Preventive automation can reduce the sheer number of incidents and push IT staff towards innovation instead of just keeping the lights on. And artificial intelligence and machine learning (what Gartner calls AIOps) have the potential to reduce the overall mean-time-to-resolution through intelligent alert and ticket management.

With the goal of improving business service uptime, reducing the noise, and improving incident response, ITOSM can deliver the business agility that not only supports higher quality software faster, but offers greater competitive edge in an increasingly dynamic and digital world. I believe that this is the promise of platform thinking, where silos break down between IT practices, and technology is operated and managed as a united front, with an open framework of adaptability. It’s the future of a true digital operations command center. The pieces and parts already exist. ITOSM is just the next logical step for this movement.

This article was first published on the Network World IDG Contributor Network.

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