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If you want to partner with the business, you'd better be talking ESM

Welcome to 2021, when the CIO is a competitive weapon for forward-thinking organisations.

“The focus of the CIO charter is increasingly changing – matching the new corporate charter for competitive repositioning. The prior focus was on the plumbing (infrastructure, ensuring applications are maintained and in compliance, etc.). Although those functions remain, the new charter focuses on building out and operating the new digital platforms and new digital operating models that are reshaping the competitive landscape.”

  • Peter Bendor-Samuel,


In a parallel evolution, IT Service Management has evolved from trouble ticketing and helpdesk in the 1980s to today’s focus on digitally transforming the data and workflows of the modern enterprise.


“Enterprise service management (ESM) is the set of ITIL-aligned tools, processes, and people that ensure IT services are directly linked to the needs and objectives of the business.”

- John Ryan and Mark Lees, ITSMWatch guest columnists

This means extending the service desk role beyond ITSM and integrating workflows from, depending on the organisation, such business functions as HR, Finance, Facilities, Customer Service, Field Services, Managed Services, Contracts and more.

Not all tools will get you there.

The Evolution of ITIL.png

Gartner’s view on this, leaving aside consideration of ITOM integration, is that today the service desk tools market can be divided into three levels of capability:

“Basic ITSM tools that have core ITSM capabilities such as incident, request and change management

Intermediate ITSM tools that have broad ITSM capabilities such as configuration, problem and service-level management

Advanced ITSM tools that have a full range of ITSM capabilities, provide advanced workflow support, and, increasingly, AITSM and collaboration capabilities.”

  • Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Management Tools 2020


For the CIO, IT service management tools must be chosen carefully in light of IT’s desired relationship with the business. If IT’s aspirations are to be “plumbers” (to use Bendor-Samuel's term above) then there are plenty of good, modern ITSM service desks with built-in support for ITIL processes. If, on the other hand, you as the CIO want to be a partner in digital transformation and re-imagination of the business’ way of doing work, then you will be hamstrung by a purely ITSM product.


If you’re not providing ESM services to the different areas of busines, there’s every chance they’ll go Q&their own way and do it for themselves with “Shadow IT”. The result is a missed opportunity for consolidation into a single system of record, and digitising end-to-end workflows across the business. A consequence is high cost of support functions, and erosion of the relevance of IT to the business.

Adoption of ESM can start anywhere in the business; it may be a replacement of the ITSM service desk tool with something that can be extended to other workflows, or it might be leaving the ITSM capability in place for now, and digitising and structuring other workflows and then migrating ITSM across once the other workflows are consolidated.