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IT Service Management (ITSM) vs Enterprise Service Management (ESM). What's the difference?  

In the realm of business services and technology, two frequently encountered terms are IT Service Management (ITSM) and Enterprise Service Management (ESM). While these frameworks may sound similar and share common principles and goals, they exhibit distinct differences that warrant consideration for proper understanding and implementation.
Adam Sima

29. 4. 2024

What is IT Service Management (ITSM)? 

IT Service Management (ITSM) stands as a framework dedicated to the efficient management and governance of IT services. Its primary objective lies in ensuring that IT delivers services that align with the organization's needs, providing tangible value to both employees and customers, and ultimately driving business success. ITSM draws upon a well-established set of best practices and principles. 

Key ITSM features 

  1. Incident Management: Swift restoration of services following disruptions, coupled with identification, analysis, and eradication of root causes. 

  1. Service Request Management: Overseeing all IT service requests, encompassing access requests, software and hardware updates. 

  1. Problem Management: Proactively seeking and devising approaches to eliminate the root causes of incidents, preventing their recurrence. 

  1. Knowledge Management: A cornerstone of user self-service, enabling the sharing of best practices and troubleshooting guides for common issues, empowering end-users to resolve them independently without support team assistance. 

  1. Change Management: Controlling and managing changes to IT infrastructure and applications (e.g., configuration database) to ensure maximum service availability and minimize the risk of outages and security incidents. 

  1. IT Asset Management: Encompassing the recording, deployment, maintenance, modernization, and timely disposal of an organization's assets. It contributes to more efficient utilization of existing assets and cost reduction. 

Foundational ITSM principles and practices 

For effective implementation of ITSM processes, familiarizing oneself with several key frameworks is recommended. These frameworks provide guidance in setting goals, establishing strategies, and effectively measuring their fulfillment. However, it is crucial to avoid dogmatic adherence and always consider your unique circumstances. 

  1. ITIL: The most popular, globally recognized, and adopted ITSM framework. It emphasizes a comprehensive approach to ITSM grounded in principles such as overall business value of IT, simplicity and practicality, and continuous improvement based on feedback. 
  2. DevOps: Focuses on more efficient service delivery through agile practices that foster collaboration among specialized teams (e.g., development and IT). 
  3. ISO 20000: An international standard for IT service management, assisting organizations in implementing IT service management processes that align with business needs and best practices. 
  4. Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (COBIT): A framework developed by ISACA as a supportive tool for managers, helping them align IT objectives with business goals by introducing more effective IT governance. 

Practical ITSM example 

An employee reports the unavailability of a critical business application. The ticket is routed to IT, where it is assigned to a technician with a clearly defined priority (SLA).Following analysis and a quick yet often temporary fix (incident management), the issue is escalated for permanent resolution (problem management) and subsequently implemented (change management). 

Benefits of ITSM 

  • Reliable and Secure IT
  • IT Aligns with Business Goals
  • Enhanced Employee Productivity
  • Reduced IT Costs:
  • Simplified Auditing

What is Enterprise Service Management (ESM)? 

While ITSM excels in managing IT-centric services, Enterprise Service Management (ESM) broadens the horizon, encompassing a wider range of services offered across the organization. ESM extends ITSM principles and practices beyond the IT realm, enabling seamless management of services provided by various departments, such as HR, Finance, Facilities, etc. The pandemic has accelerated its wider adoption within organizations due to the need to rapidly digitize services and processes. At the same time, the reduction in face-to-face contact and the growth of home office has led to the need for effective self-service tools to automate requests beyond the IT agenda. 

Key ESM features 

  1. Service Catalog: A comprehensive repository of all services offered by the organization, encompassing both IT and non-IT services. This catalog is accessible to employees, enabling them to easily locate and request the services they require. 

  1. Self-Service Portal: An empowering tool that allows employees to independently address common requests and issues, reducing the burden on support teams and enhancing user productivity. 

  1. Workflow Automation: Automating processes and workflows across departments ensures consistent and efficient handling of requests and tasks. 

  1. Performance Measurement: Tracking and analyzing service performance data helps identify areas for improvement and supports informed decision-making. 

  1. System Integrability: The ability to integrate various enterprise applications and systems into a unified ESM solution facilitates seamless information sharing and collaboration among departments and teams. 

  1. Virtual Assistants: With the rise of AI, smart chatbots and assistants are becoming essential features of ESM platforms, as they work 24/7 and can handle simple tasks just as well as human agents. 

ESM principles and tools 

Unlike ITSM, ESM lacks a standardized framework with proven best practices to draw upon. As a result, processes are often adapted individually based on the current state of operations in each department. Moreover, ESM's digitalization allows it to streamline inefficient processes, customize the processes current needs, and remove bottlenecks in workflows. 

Practical ESM example 

The company plans to upgrade its office security system. This task requires coordination across multiple departments, including facilities management, IT, HR, and finance. A ticket is routed to facilities management to execute security changes in the offices. IT is responsible for integrating the new system into the existing IT infrastructure. HR manages the distribution of new access cards and communicates the changes to employees. The Finance processes invoices and related administrative tasks. 

Benefits of ESM

  • Improved employee productivity
  • Effective cross-team collaboration and communication
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Market competitiveness
  • Transparent processes and measurable ROI
  • Reduced operational costs

ITSM vs ESM: The key differences


ESM (Enterprise Service Management) 

ITSM (IT Service Management) 


 Manages all services across the organization, including IT, facilities management, HR, and others. 


Manages IT services and infrastructure. 

Target Users 


All employees and customers of the organization. 


IT specialists and technical teams provide support to end-users and customers. 

Processes and Tools 

It typically uses an ITSM tool that allows great flexibility to adapt processes based on the requirements of different departments.  

A dedicated set of tools supports processes according to best practices and frameworks, such as ITIL and COBIT. 


Enhances the availability and efficiency of all services, improves collaboration, and reduces overall costs. 

Ensures a reliable and secure IT environment that aligns with business needs and objectives. 



How to select an ESM? How to start with ESM? 

ESM platforms are typically implemented in collaboration with IT. However, it’s crucial that the ESM platform features well and supports ITSM processes (e.g. ITIL). This means that before embarking on ESM implementation, it’s important to have well-established ITSM processes. Otherwise, you risk creating more chaos without the desired positive outcome. 

The goal should be the integration of both systems within a single environment that serves as a single contact point. This means that employees and customers have one place to turn to for IT support requests, as well as requests for HR, Facilities Management, Maintenance, Finance, etc.

The goal should be the integration of both systems within a single environment that serves as a single contact point. This means that employees and customers have one place to turn to for IT support requests, as well as requests for HR, Facilities Management, Maintenance, Finance, etc. When choosing an ESM solution, it’s important to ensure it has robust features to meet the organization’s IT service management needs, yet is simple and intuitive enough for all departments across the organization to understand and use. 


The ITSM approach deals with service management at the IT level, while ESM extends IT service management principles and processes to various departments and business verticals of the organization. The goals of ITSM and ESM overlap to some extent. Both systems use similar processes and tools for managing the organization’s services. These are an integral part of every organization, and their effective provision plays a key role not only in the satisfaction of your employees but also brings higher business value. 

Are you starting with new approaches to IT management? Or are you looking for a replacement for your existing solution that no longer meets your needs? ALVAO offers a comprehensive and certified solution for supporting and managing ITSM processes. Moreover, with ALVAO’s unique licensing model, you can easily and without additional costs digitize services within other departmental areas (ESM) thanks to the unique licensing model.