What is ESM? This is Everything You Need to Know

Enterprise service management (ESM) refers to the application of IT service management (ITSM) concepts, tools, processes and/or best practices to non-IT departments, such as HR or facilities. Although the discussion around them is relatively new to the business community, investing in ESM can pay huge dividends.

Jump to the main takeaways:

 What is ESM? An In-Depth Definition
 ESM vs ITSM vs ITAM: What’s the Difference?
 Why ESM Matters For Your Business
 How to Build a Strong ESM Strategy


In general, ESM represents the continual evolution of IT’s role in the workplace. Various ITSM processes (ones once thought to be exclusive to the technically inclined) now underpin nearly every aspect of modern businesses. Without strong ESM tools to meet ever-rising consumer expectations, most companies fall short of their larger goals, IT-based or not.

In this blog post, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about ESM as a concept. From an in-depth definition to why it’s different from both ITSM and ITAM, I’ll cover all the basics, in addition to some powerful ESM tips and tricks.

Let’s get into it!


What is ESM? An In-Depth Definition

ESM encapsulates the processes and principles need to manage the services and assets across all departments of an organization, not just those that are IT-based. Areas like HR, facilities, marketing, and more now rely on various ITSM tools and concepts to maximize their productivity.

While the ESM conversation feels very new for many businesses, the somewhat unconscious repurposing of ITSM processes is nothing new. As CIO contributor Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord points out:

“The concept of enterprise service management was more of an evolution than a revolution, as a lot of the processes touch not only IT but also various other departments, as well. Let me give you an example: onboarding. To follow up on the onboarding process, IT departments add tasks and approvals into their ITSM tool that must be performed by non-IT employees.”

Those kinds of tailored implementations of ITSM systems or frameworks like ITIL outside of technical domains means that ESM has evolved to represent the idea of having a service management solution that touches every part of a business’ services.

This 2019 Forrester ESM whitepaper provides additional insight as to what that transition looks like practically:

“In 2018, ITSM vendors were still completing the transition to ESM. In 2019, the highly competitive ESM market has solidified, and customers are looking to expand their usage and maturity beyond initial use cases such as HR and facilities. To meet this demand, vendors are developing out-of-the-box, non-IT modules and functionality to help their customers scale their efforts. At the same time, customers are looking to increasingly leverage self-service options, speed up service delivery, and enhance their own ITSM capabilities [...]”

As ESM continues to grow conceptually, so too do the meanings of terms like ITSM, ITAM and a number of others.


ESM vs ITSM vs ITAM: What’s the Difference?

So, why exactly is it still so easy to confuse ESM with ITSM or ITAM? The answer lies, at least in part, in the historically fluid nature of the terminology itself.

I’ve covered definitions for ITSM and ITIL on the blog before, as well as the difference between the two terms, so I won’t rehash them here. That said, the true distinction lies in how much those terms have evolved over time. ITAM practices is essentially a subsection of ITSM, which in turn is now just one branch of a company’s global ESM solution.

Especially in light of the latest iteration of the ITIL framework, ITIL 4, ITSM and ITAM feed into ESM and inform its ability to apply that repurpose narrative and in non-technical domains. Think of it this way: When a non-IT department uses a traditional ITSM process to deliver a service or resolve an issue, is it a new concept or an existing one, just reimagined?

Just as ITIL 4 now represents an organizational lifestyle choice instead of a physical knowledge base, ESM is simply the logical next step in ITSM’s growth process. In fact, many ITSM tool providers who are transitioning to full-blown ESM systems are contributing to the blurring of those terminology lines through hard-earned progress.

In sum, while some of the moving parts may be somewhat interchangeable, ESM is the modern endgame, both as a concept and a set of processes, for all facets of service management, including ITSM and ITAM.


Why ESM Solutions Matter For Your Business

The next part of the ESM story is the “why.” In short, why is it so important for businesses to implement an ESM solution as part of their long-term growth strategy?

One of the biggest reasons is that IT services (and the professionals responsible for managing them) now impact every aspect of an organization’s operations. As Forbes’ Daniel Newman writes:

“The modern IT worker is a tech-savvy innovator who creates change across the organization’s entirety, not just a single department [...] IT workers aren’t just facilitating business goals; they’re driving change at an organizational level. CEOs are leaning on IT to deliver a competitive advantage as much as they do for a marketing strategy [...] Since our reliance on technology increases with each passing day, IT is steadily moving to the front end—not the back—of business.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that more and more companies are scaling operations to the point where each department has its own service desk team. In using ITSM tools or platforms to meet requests or demands from non-IT stakeholders, those organizations improve automation and workflows to more efficiently process user requests.

Here’s Forrester’s Charles Betz with an HR-based example :

“When you need a service, such as your address changed, you may still be sending a message to a shared email box. There, it is easily lost and there is no ability for the HR department to measure and manage this workload.”

Betz adds that at least 50% of the workload handled by a given ITSM ticketing system is not related to IT, thereby falling under the category of ESM. With an increased amount of responsibility being placed on related tasks, having an ESM plan in place isn’t just a nice perk–it’s a necessary part of evolving your business alongside a tech-savvy consumer base.

In fact, building a powerful ESM foundation is all about enhancing your customer experience


How to Build a Strong ESM Strategy

Building a strong ESM strategy involves leveraging ITSM processes for use by non-IT departments. To do this successfully, you’ll need to follow an implementation track that relies on sound decision-making, bold execution, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

The major parts of a sound ESM strategy include:

1. Assessing Your Organization’s Weaknesses, Needs, and Wants First

This is a straightforward but essential step. Before jumping into the ESM fray and shelling out for software you’re not sure you’ll need or use to its full potential, assess the current state your organization’s operations. Honesty is key here as well–lying to yourself and your team about what’s working or not won’t put you in a position to construct a strong ESM plan.

2. Identifying What Consumers Expect From Your IT Services

Just because you value certain ESM deliverables doesn’t mean your customers will feel the same way. In fact, regardless of what kind of business strategy we’re talking about, never assume you know what your clients or audience wants. If you’re too internally focused and not paying attention to external feedback, you’re only getting a partial picture of what you need out of an ESM system.

3. Formulating ESM Targets That Are Tied to Business Objectives

When you’re ready to structure your ESM strategy, those smaller initiatives must be directly linked to larger business objectives. In other words, your ESM plan needs to empower parallel missions to boost operational efficiency, revenue streams, and so on. That kind of synchronicity has a proven track record–76% of successful companies focus on a smaller number of initiatives to reach those overarching goals.

4. Embracing Change and Risk Instead of Running From it

One of the most underrated ingredients to both ESM and ITSM success is an organization’s ability to embrace change and the inherent risks that come with it. Even if part of your ESM strategy fails, it’s those experiences that will help your team grow their skills and knowledge. As Mark Zuckerberg put it: “The only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

5. Prioritizing Iterative, Precise Execution ESM Tactics

The best agile processes, especially on platforms like Jira Service Desk, put an emphasis on smaller, iterative deliverables instead of laborious initiatives that take months to complete. Your ESM strategy should be no different. With more frequent, manageable deployments, you’ll avoid falling behind your industry’s technological curve and achieve the flexibility needed to meet changing consumer expectations.

6. Selecting KPIs That Provide You Meaningful, Actionable Insight

Once you’re knee-deep in ESM tools and processes, you’ll need to be able to measure your performance via well-chosen KPIs. They should also go beyond surface-level, “Page View”-esque metrics and focus on how different components are working together to either increase conversions, reduce resolution time or costs, or maximize overall productivity.

7. Committing to Continuous ESM Improvement

Finally, we come to arguably the most important factor of all: committing to continuous ESM improvement. It’s one thing to mobilize an ESM strategy that is full of quick wins and inflated senses of accomplishment, but it’s quite another to refine those processes over time to build a lean, powerful blueprint for success.



In sum, ESM is more than just ITSM processes that are used in other departments. It’s a term that represents not only the culmination of decades of IT industry evolution, but also the very future of IT services as a whole.

Whether they’re used to streamline an HR team’s onboarding practices or help better manage an organization’s facilities and access permissions, ESM distills winning ITSM, ITAM, and ITIL concepts, and uses them to open up new pathways to enhanced productivity.

Without ESM as part of your business’ infrastructure going forward, you’ll have a far more difficult time succeeding in a digital landscape where the competition is fierce, consumer expectations are ever-changing, and margin for error is much smaller.

In order to get your implementation process of the ground, you’ll need the right ESM tool to get things done. As one of the top-rated software apps in the Atlassian marketplace, Insight has been helping companies all over the world achieve their ESM goals through clear data modeling, powerful automation capabilities, and superb informational transparency.

To discover all our features and to see the product in action, click over to our website now!

Learn About Insight

Originally published Oct 17, 2019 7:00:00 AM

Late 2019, we did a brand split. Mindville is the company behind the Insight products. Riada provides expert consultancy services on all things Atlassian. Riada can be found at Mindville is an Atlassian Platinum Top Vendor and Riada is an Atlassian Platinum Solution Partner.

Topics: ESM