Agile ITSM vs Traditional ITSM

The proliferation of technology, software, applications, and enterprise digitalization has made ITSM a critical enabler of business success. Think of any piece of technology in the workplace – be it laptops, the apps on it, the password reset options, the connection to the printer, the business workflows, etc. — all are services provided by the IT team. 

ITSM -A Primer

ITSM, or IT service management, is simply the process through which IT teams manage end-to-end IT service delivery to the end customers.

The ITSM core concept believes that IT must be delivered as a service. 

In a typical IT scenario, the customer (internal or external) must raise a ticket to resolve a service issue. The ticket is raised on a portal with all relevant information and then lands in the IT team’s queue, where these requests are sorted and addressed according to importance.

From the look of it, ITSM can be misconstrued as basic IT support. ITSM, on the contrary, oversees all the different kinds of workplace technologies in place, including laptops, software, servers, applications, etc.

As the technical portfolios increase across enterprises, the role of ITSM becomes more prominent and strategic. 

  • Implementing ITSM allows enterprises to regularize processes through structured delivery and documentation. 
  • Increased support to counter-regulatory and compliance challenges, greater transparency, visibility, and understanding of IT services to manage expectations better, etc., are some of the benefits of ITSM.
  • Besides, the capacity to reduce incident lifecycles and reduce their pursuant impact on the business is also an obvious advantage of ITSM. 
  • ITSM also helps enterprises drive cost efficiencies by building a predictable IT organization.

As business processes mature and technological and software implementations increase, ITSM rises in strategic prominence across the enterprise. 

The ITSM market is expected to increase by $11.51 billion from 2020 to 2025 at a healthy CAGR of 19.08%. Research also shows that almost 90% of enterprises employ ITSM.

With technical portfolios becoming increasingly complex, ITSM helps IT reach others in the organization seamlessly and effortlessly. ITSM, however, is not a new concept. Traditional ITSM has been in practice for years now. However, traditional ITSM needs a facelift to manage the growing needs of the enterprise.

Let’s explore the key differences between traditional and agile ITSM.

What Are Traditional ITSM and Its Challenges?

Traditional ITSM is the management of IT primarily from a process and governance standpoint. It is mainly focused on ticket management and service request management and is a collection of repeatable processes that IT departments depend on to meet the needs of the end-users.

The focus on process standardization and governance across processes/management activities is extremely high in traditional ITSM. Traditional ITSM is also characterized by lower levels of automation and extensive documentation.

You can find centralized teams with their central role to ‘enforce’ IT with traditional ITSM. These teams lack empowerment and, as such, fail to drive IT empowerment across the organizations because of data silos and fragmented tools.

In this ITSM format, the positioning of the teams is on reactive resolution rather than proactive mitigation. Siloed knowledge and sharing in traditional ITSM also inhibits the capacity to build knowledge-centric service teams.

Some of the challenges with traditional ITSM can be highlighted as:

  • Inflexibility towards dynamic business needs since processes are not agile and flexible
  • Centralized and inflexible teams that impede collaboration.
  • Custom scripted modules that are time-consuming and effort-intensive.
  • Reactive resolution.
  • Siloed knowledge and data sharing that impede collaboration and inhibit data-backed decisions.

Surely, traditional ITSM needs a facelift to meet the growing needs of the enterprise today. As hybrid work, remote working, disparate teams, and boundary-less businesses become a mainstay, ITSM needs to become agile. 

It is no longer suited to meet the needs of the digitally transformed enterprise, especially as customer expectations of faster shipping, always-on service, and seamless support become enablers of competitive differentiation.

Research shows that through 2023, 80% of traditional ITSM teams who falter in adopting agile ITSM will find their processes and approaches ignored and bypassed as a result of more agile ways of working being adopted elsewhere in the organization.

What Is Agile ITSM?

Traditional ITSM needs agility — precisely what agile ITSM helps realize. 

Agile ITSM borrows some of the key principles of the agile software development methodology for service delivery. This methodology focuses on frequent delivery, driving technology excellence, enabling continuity, and simplicity.

Agile ITSM allows organizations to respond faster to changes and effectively deliver IT services in a rapidly evolving IT environment amidst continuously rising user expectations. It adopts some of the principles from the agile manifesto. Some of these are:

  • People over process and technology – Understanding users and their expectations and business alignment are the core of this service management style.
  • Provide real business outcomes and customer value by focusing first on restoring services and then on lengthy technical documentation.
  • Emerge as the single point of contact for technical assistance to drive up service quality.
  • Increase business responsiveness and competitive edge by enabling them to respond to market changes and technological evolution without losing stability.

In today’s enterprise, ITSM is a vehicle that delivers immense business value and not merely IT value.

 The Principles of Agile ITSM

Agile ITSM treats IT processes as ‘Services’ that must be scoped, documented, streamlined, and effectively executed. It focuses on delivering greater business value and upgrades traditional ITSM to make it fit for the digital world. 

Along those lines, the agile ITSM transitions from a process-centric approach to practices within the service value system (SVS). This provides an end-to-end ecosystem to support value creation via products and services. It transitions from a process-centric approach and is anchored in customer experience, value streams, and digital transformation.

That said, agile ITSM drives:

  • Better alignment between people and processes: self-service help desk and supporting ITSM processes are implemented based on the users’ needs and preferences.
  • Responsiveness: Agile ITSM framework introduces the ability to respond to emerging tech demands fast without disrupting other processes
  • Enables proactive collaboration: Agile ITSM teams employ customer-oriented SLAs and introduce automation. They deliver multi-tiered support for timely and effective issue resolution.
  • Creates a single source of truth: Agile ITSM creates a single source of truth for IT Docs & KB. This enables better learning, proactively improves processes, drives collaboration, and advances decision-making.
  • Use of technology: Agile ITSM makes use of new technologies like RPA and AI to drive greater efficiencies and effectiveness across the enterprise.

Modern-day tech is also finding its place in the agile ITSM ecosystem. As ITSM assumes strategic importance, technologies such as RPA and AI will bring in greater efficiencies. 


RPA gives agile ITSM increased efficiency and better process performance. It does so while reducing effort by helping organizations delegate repetitive, rule-based, highly transactional, highly manual intervention work to bots. In essence, RPA provides prescriptive advice and performs automated remediation.

Detection and communication activities like incident identification and logging, incident creation, etc., lend themselves well to RPA. This technology also helps organizations conduct response and investigation activities, ticket triaging and assignment, prioritization, troubleshooting, etc., faster and more efficiently. 

Issues fixes, SOP execution, verification, resolution, and confirmation activities that fall under the resolution and recovery umbrella are also great candidates for RPA in the ITSM ecosystem.

 AI Ops in ITSM

AI Ops takes ITSM from a reactive to proactive stand and allows organizations to optimize activities such as predictive maintenance, workload optimization, etc. AI-powered knowledge management, sentiment analysis, intelligent asset provisioning, and other functionalities enable ITSM teams to minimize negative user experience. This is because issues are identified and fixed before the user experiences their impact. 

Teams can also make changes proactively to avoid future outages. AI Ops introduces self-healing into the processes and systems to avoid future outages, automatically checks code for risk and policy adherence, finds deviations in the performance matrix, etc.


Businesses are looking at increasing agility and responsiveness with the development methodologies like DevOps for faster value creation. For that, however, software, business and IT teams must work cohesively to come together and deliver meaningful and impactful work. 

Favorably, agile ITSM helps organizations create more value by aligning people and processes and delivers greater change enablement and richer, contextual information (from both software development and infrastructure-related tools). Automated change risk assessments, advanced approval workflows, and deep integrations with popular CI/CD tools drive faster innovation.

Agile ITSM helps organizations create a single source of truth and ensure changes in the organization are dynamically updated throughout the plan, build deployment, and operational phases of a service lifecycle. With rich, real-time information on engineering components that power critical business applications and services that depend on IT, decision-making gets smarter and more precise.

ITSM can further deliver the resources to development teams faster, make smarter, safer changes, and respond to incidents faster – all of which contribute to increased competitiveness, agility, and resilience.