2006 – 2016: ITSM trends in reviewDigging into a decade of service management predictions


Hop aboard the ITSM time machine

The year was 2006. Unless you were the one-man or one-woman equivalent of a 24/7 Service Desk, never once leaving the office, you might remember that:


  • The Winter Olympics were skiing, skating and snowboarding across Turin, Italy.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest became the year’s highest-grossing film.
  • Daniel Powter was having a Bad Day in the No. 1 position of the US Billboard’s top songs.


But to all of those flashbacks we must say… yawn! They’ve got nothing on the retro-trends in IT Service Management (ITSM) we’ve dug out for this paper.


We’ve had the privilege of talking with a number of ITSM experts and consultants, including Brian Hendry, Service Development Manager at Axios Systems, about how service management has evolved over the last decade, and whether this evolution is in line with various predictions previously shared by experts across the industry. Brian is a qualified ITIL® Manager and ISO20000 Consultant with 20 years of experience in implementing and consulting on all aspects of ITIL and ITSM. He spoke to us in-depth about the predictions published across a range of flashback commentary.


In addition to these perspectives, we’ve interspersed insights from exclusive Axios research spanning the industry. As always, we strive to offer you the right balance of well-informed thought leadership and real-world use cases to help shape and achieve your goals.


Once you’ve browsed this paper, feel free to share your own reflections on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Google+.


The ITSM time machine is about to revisit 2006. Buckle up and enjoy!


Prediction 1: The rise of service management powered by SaaS

Perhaps one of the most exciting trends to observe in recent years has been the dramatic growth of service management driven by service-as-a-software (SaaS).


The underlying transition from on-premise solutions to SaaS has accelerated the growth of the SaaS ITSM space, with cloud-based ITSM growing at a compound annual growth rate of 16% to 2019, according to market research company Technavio.1


Across the global customer base here at Axios, we’ve observed a 300% increase in SaaS customers in the last year alone.


Another striking example of how SaaS-based ITSM has matured throughout the industry can be noted by its inclusion in the G-Cloud 7 procurement framework. Managed by the UK Government, the G-Cloud initiative allows public-sector organizations to procure cloud services from suppliers listed in the framework's Digital Marketplace, expediting what used to be a lengthy tender process. First launched in June of 2012, public sector spending through the framework has now surpassed £806m2. Sales in 2015 have risen by more than 80%, up from £447m at the end of 2014. The strong growth is underpinned by the mandate for central governments to prioritize cloud computing, which in turn fuels organizational savings and efficiencies.


Across the public and private sectors around the world, there are many good reasons supporting the rise of SaaS ITSM solutions. Of great value to any organization, SaaS ITSM doesn’t involve infrastructure or maintenance costs. SaaS ITSM solutions can be easier to get budget approval, or allow you to avoid budget issues with the costs absorbed by the operational budget. SaaS-based updates can be more frequent and helpful. And, thanks to no power costs or cooling, you can save money on energy and produce a smaller carbon footprint.


Did the prediction come true? All indicators show that SaaS-based ITSM continues to accelerate within the public and private sectors.


Are there any gaps or opportunities for the industry to work on? Yes, unfortunately we still have a few myths to tackle. You may have heard, for example, that SaaS-based ITSM tools are not fit for enterprise companies, and that this solution is more popular among start-ups, for example. Yet, numerous Global 2000 companies have turned to the SaaS model, including Apple, Intel and others.


Another common myth is that SaaS tools lack the security for data protection. Though there is some potential for security problems, SaaS vendors are acutely aware that any security failings would result in a fatal loss of reputation. Therefore, system security is a primary requirement of product development. Rigorous security standards are applied to ensure tighter security than something deemed appropriate for a single-tenant, standalone system.


What should the industry focus on this decade? To fully leverage the power of SaaS-based ITSM, CIOs must continue to find the right ways to communicate the benefits to CFOs and other stakeholders. Some of the key talking points should include:


  • Reduced risk: no vendor lock-in
  • Scalability: support business growth without expanding infrastructure
  • No CapEx cost to justify: simplify or even remove the need for a business case by including subscription costs within your current IT budget


Learn more about SaaS ITSM for CIOs.


Prediction 2: Observe broad adoption of ITIL® definitions

Adoption of ITIL® processes has increased steadily over the years. A 2014 study published by the Association for Information found that nearly 50% of organizations worldwide had adopted ITIL. Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH) showed a 75% adoption rate, followed by 53% in the UK and approximately 40% in the US and Australia.3


By comparison, look back to 2007, and only one in three IT professionals had adopted the ITIL framework, according to an Axios Systems research study.4


In 2006, Forrester wrote:


"Wide adoption of ITIL-standard definitions by service desk and systems management vendors leads to broader use of this terminology within user organizations (see Figure 1). Consistent definitions allow IT and service desk management to better define processes, roles, and responsibilities. Handoffs between groups become clearer; inputs and outputs are articulated and codified; processes and governance models are mapped to expected and desired outcomes.5"



So, where are we today? Is the industry building upon this growth of ITIL adoption and channeling it in the key directions that promise to drive greater organizational benefits?


Did the prediction come true? Largely, yes. As ITSM consultants who observe long-term market changes in daily practice, we’ve observed a substantially greater adoption of processes and definitions. Beyond seeking standardized processes, organizations are looking for a standard set of definitions, and ITIL seems to be providing them.


Are there any gaps or opportunities for the industry to work on? From an IT perspective, the interesting issue is that in the last four to five years, it’s not just IT that’s been using these tools, it’s the other non-IT departments that have been as well. So the question now is, do we try to teach the other departments ITIL terminology, or do we try to incorporate their definitions?


There needs to be a reevaluation of the standard terminology. At present, each organization decides for themselves what they want to do. One thing is clear: a lot of the standard terminology has to be focused on the users.


In essence, there are two main issues to consider:


1. Terminology needs to be consistent for IT and non-IT users who actually use log and manage issues in service management tools like assyst. It makes sense for standard ITIL terminology to be adopted by both groups, if only because there is a relatively limited number of people involved in service delivery.

2. The end user community, on the other hand, is vastly larger and more diverse in terms of ITSM engagement levels, service requirements, etc. Would we seriously try to educate all of our end users? That’s an extraordinary challenge and not 100% practical. So we need to consider another approach for this segment. Due to the scale and diversity of the end user community, and because the primary function of IT is to support the business, IT professionals need to understand and communicate to the wider business in a language the business understands.

To help illustrate the issue, consider your understanding of incidents and problems. In IT, we understand what an incident and a problem is, whereas an end-user doesn’t. So perhaps we need to have IT terminology and business terminology. Regardless, it has to become standardized across the industry. IT, business users, and non-IT (i.e. service desks supporting departments such as HR, Finance, etc.) are starting to use the same terminology, but we need to make it consistent across the board.


What should the industry focus on this decade? The IT industry may have adopted the definitions, but the next challenge is the adoption of definitions by non-IT users. ITIL definitions were originally aimed at IT people using service management tools, but within the 10 years we’ve moved on to non-IT people using service management tools. So the adoption process continues, and must evolve.


Prediction 3: Focus on internal process improvements

In Deloitte’s latest CIO study, 50% of respondents said that improving existing business processes should feature in the “ideal state” of IT. Nearly the same number told Deloitte that improving business processes will be part of their top three technology priorities this year.6


Reinforcing these findings, process optimization also featured as the No. 1 opportunity for improving service management in 2016, according to a recent industry survey by Axios Systems.7


This objective remains in line with industry aspirations referenced by Forrester in 2006:


"Processes that are predefined in the ITIL model and pre-articulated in vendor products provide a framework for internal evaluations. An organization looking to improve can refer to the ITIL reference model and can selectively implement the components that will provide positive organizational benefits. The result — ITIL-based or ITIL-like service desks emerge where appropriate practices are implemented taking organization dynamics, maturity, and overhead into account.8"


So, are ITIL-oriented service desks effectively considering the unique needs and characteristics of the wider organization?


Did the prediction come true? In many ways yes, but there’s still a bigger journey ahead. The same principle applies from the ITIL adoption discussion: process improvements can be very IT-focused, rather than looking at the specific requirements of departments across the business.


Are there any gaps or opportunities for the industry to work on? Whereas there’s no reason why non-IT people can’t adopt ITIL processes, some of the processes of Finance, Marketing, etc., are going to be fundamentally different from IT processes.


It’s not always feasible for them to modify or amend their processes, but they can at least be guided by the best practices of IT Service Management.


With service management beyond IT, process optimization maybe isn’t as straightforward as we thought it was. HR, for example, will have different processes not covered by ITIL.


So where do we take guidance from?


ITIL contains best practice guidelines, so there’s no reason why all departments can’t utilize those guidelines, but we just need to recognize that some things will be different and find ways to accommodate that.


What should the industry focus on this decade? These conversations have been happening at organizational level, but as an industry we need to take charge and drive the conversation forward, with a goal of achieving universal standardization, much the way ITIL successfully pioneered this for IT.


Prediction 4: Drive customer satisfaction via user benefits

Ensuring that IT aligns its objectives with those of the business is a core industry objective for 2016, according to global research recently published by Axios Systems9. Strategic alignment of both parties supports IT governance, as well as risk- and compliance-management. It does this by enabling transparency in processes, with a designated service management solution acting as the conduit of decision-driving information.


Our survey also underscored the ongoing importance of delivering customer satisfaction, which is a key component of any discussion on technology user benefits. This objective underpins the top 3 trends predictions for service management in 2016: process optimization, Service Catalog / self-service initiatives, IT-business alignment.


Delivering on these priorities can help minimize business costs and create new efficiencies. By focusing on improving processes, or helping business users resolve issues more quickly via a Service Catalog or self-service functionality, IT creates an increasingly positive customer experience.


The topic featured on the IT agenda of 2006, when Forrester wrote:


"Organizations can map applications and services to business benefits. Instrumentation of individual tasks and handoffs follows, and prescribed actions are automated. Analytics point to areas of improvement. As a result, organizations can set service levels to find the most efficient use of resources and provide the best user experience and maximum business benefits.10"


So, are we doing justice to the golden goal of creating an excellent user experience? Do our efforts culminate in the delivery of maximum business benefits?


Did the prediction come true? Overall, yes. When we talk about technology user benefits, we’re really talking about business benefits, and as consultants we’ve advised on some fantastic examples of this. For example, in terms of the user experience, I think we’ve improved in this area with the adoption of Service Catalogs and self-service online portals. These tools help the entire organization conduct business more efficiently. They enable faster service delivery with tangible results, which is a great credit to IT’s presence within the organization.


Moreover, the prevalence of self-service and Service Catalogs has improved dramatically over the past 10 years, allowing organizations to enjoy significant cost reductions thanks to automation. This makes possible the redistribution of resources from lower-value, labor-intensive tasks, to higher-value business opportunities, where competitive advantage can be pursued and achieved. In addition, because many problems that once required manual intervention by service teams can now be self-resolved — and indeed with greater ease and in less time — user experience becomes increasingly positive.


Are there any gaps or opportunities for the industry to work on? Even with this phenomenal progress, IT departments still need to do a better job of understanding the wider business. They understand the services they provide, which is great, and hopefully that follows with a better understanding of the business benefits. The availability of a Service Catalog allows us to understand and define the services we provide, but if you only consider service definitions, you’re limiting the inherently positive message that should be reaching stakeholders. See, we’re not effectively communicating to a wider audience the businesses benefits that the IT department provides.


What should the industry focus on this decade? We need to help the person fixing the equipment to better understand that fixing the equipment is all about supporting the business. Part of the breakdown in communication has to do with the overall reporting message and metrics we share. A lot of the metrics we provide are still IT metrics, having to do with changes, etc. Well, guess what? The business doesn’t care about how many changes we did last month. They care about how those changes impacted service availability.


So you see, there’s still much improvement to be made in the way that we message end user benefits.


Prediction 5: Prepare for ITIL® version changes

Reports vary on the full extent to which ITIL has been adopted as a standard ITSM framework across the industry, but reported usage appears consistently high. According to SDI, more than 60% of service desks have adopted ITIL, and only 12% aren’t following a best practice framework or standard.11 Across all European I&O organizations, Gartner estimate that more than 80% of IT professionals who use any kind of ITSM framework use ITIL.12


With that in mind, it’s interesting to reflect on the industry’s transition from ITIL v2 to ITIL v3, and subsequently ITIL 2011.


In 2006, Quocirca wrote:


"ITIL has matured over the past two years. This is mainly due to the acceptance by the vendor community that commonality of approach to basic IT processes is a good thing. Tooling is now becoming strongly ITIL-based and ITIL process templates come out of the box. Why waste time in creating your own approaches to IT processes when the best solutions are available with the tools you've chosen anyway?


One small fly in the ointment: the last refresh of ITIL was in 2000. There is a new refresh review ongoing, which started in August 2005 and is expected to be completed during 2007.


The problem for the vendors is then whether to change their systems wholesale to the new ITIL or to maintain their current ITIL paths. For end users, a similar choice applies — and they might also have to choose whether to maintain loyalty to an existing vendor. Until we see the new ITIL, it's a moot point — but a point worth bearing in mind while talking to your vendor of choice.13"


So, did the changing versions of ITIL actually challenge organizations to rethink their IT strategy?


Did the prediction come true? In practice, not really. ITIL is a set of guidelines, it’s not like a lock. In terms of what Quocirca are discussing, the underlying processes didn’t change a whole lot with v3, the day-to-day operational elements didn’t change at all.


Are there any gaps or opportunities for the industry to work on? With the arrival of v3, you didn’t have to fundamentally alter what you were doing in order to accommodate the new ITIL, particularly if you were happy with what you were doing. When a new version is released, business carries on, ITIL or no ITIL — it’s not like a new ITIL version has business-critical implications.


What should the industry focus on this decade? Since our founding 28 years ago, the Axios strategy has always been grounded in an ITIL-based toolset, and we advise anyone in IT who aims to improve service delivery within IT and beyond, to follow this guidance. Day in and day out, we aspire to help organizations increase their IT maturity with measureable and cost-effective results. We’ve always emphasized the ITIL element of it, so our strategy hasn’t really changed in this regard, and we recommend everyone in the IT industry stay true to that core focus. In 2006, our solution wasn’t becoming strongly ITIL-based, it always was ITIL-based and it remains so today.


Your challenge today: make change happen

As we disembark the ITSM time machine, we hope you’ll agree it’s been a fascinating conversation with Brian, and incredibly useful to tap into his 20+ years of experience in dealing with these types of challenges at organizational and industry levels. All of the issues we’ve discussed point back to a very human experience, which is addressed in our final 2006 flashback: the subject of change.


Allen Bernard writes about change and ITSM in his 2006 article for CIO Update, entitled ‘The Growing Importance of ITSM’:


"Because of the standardization that enables this shift in IT towards a more manufacturing-like division of the company, all manner of once unwieldy, ad-hoc internal "we've-done-it-like-this-for-years" processes that are ingrained in the heads of your employees can now be exorcised in a defensible manner based on someone else's ideas. Ideal if you don't want to take the blame for all the changes you are going to have implement to make ITSM work.


And, if there is a down side to ITSM that is probably it: Change. To manage this, you have to start by figuring out where you are today; a point many IT managers fail to realize as they scratch their heads wondering why their ITSM implementation isn't living up to expectations, said Hank Marquis, managing partner and CTO of itSM Solutions, an ITSM training company. 14"


So, to what extent has this issue of change improved over the course of a decade? Put simply: humans being humans, the challenge of change remains.


Just before the end of the year, Axios Systems published a research study on the adoption of service management beyond IT. We discovered that within Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH), as well as Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux), change in culture or business processes dominates the list of concerns around implementing service management beyond IT. But this isn’t the case for the UK or the US, where primary concerns tend to focus on budgets/costs. Fear of change proved to be a minor issue in the UK, and virtually nonexistent in the US, according to respondents.15



When it comes to implementing service management beyond IT, concerns about change in culture or business process dominate Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH), as well as Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux). Read the full report here.


With this in mind, how do you smooth the experience of change? The core messaging around the service management beyond IT proposition should be organizationally and culturally sensitive, particularly in Europe. One of your responsibilities as a champion of service management must be to actively address the concerns of your unique business environment.


It can be easy to think of reasons why change is not practical, feasible, affordable, etc. That’s incredibly natural. One of the hardest things for us as humans is to allow our habits to be challenged by new ways of working. This exposes processes, and can create feelings of vulnerability among the people who own and participate in them.


The opportunity to address these concerns starts with the very first conversation(s) you have with stakeholders and colleagues at all levels. Don’t wait until the business plan. But don’t forget to address them there, as well. Get advice on how to communicate better service management from Stephen Mann and Rebecca Beach.


Final thoughts

Where will you be in 10 years? Applying service management best practices to the first mission to Mars? Telling our kids about the good ole days, when we still logged into a Service Catalog via our PC, rather than the device-free brain chip that the next generation will boldly pioneer?


Perhaps we will be reminiscing about the fact that there was once a day when service management beyond IT did not yet have its own standardized terminology, let alone processes.


Can you believe it?, we’ll ask the lady next to us at SITS26. How much revenue was lost due to each organization reinventing the wheel every time process automation surfaced as a non-IT project?


No kidding, she’ll probably reply, shrugging her shoulders with a teacake in one hand and a black coffee in the other. The CIO at my old job fell out with the HR director when he tried to make her start calling every HR case an incident! She was not one to be told how to run her department. And ultimately she took offence to the idea that any sort of HR ‘incident’ might be interrupting business services, even though this wasn’t really the case. But that’s how she understood it.


If we are to continue improving the image of IT throughout our organizations, then we need to actively engage in industry-wide discussions about the best ways to bring a level of standardization to service management beyond IT. And we must seek to improve the way in which we message the extraordinary end user benefits that can be achieved when we fully leverage process optimization, self-service and other ITIL-inspired best practices across the organization.


These transformational discussions should begin here, now. Let’s make them happen in 2016, so that we can reflect on the benefits in 2026.


What do you think? Should there be greater standardization of service management outside IT? Let’s chat on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Google+.


Recommended reading

If you’d like to discover how an organization made service management work not just for their IT department, but for multiple departments including Finance, HR, Facilities and even Accommodation and Agriculture, check out our service management case study featuring The Scottish Government.


We’ve also produced how-to guides to help you build a business case for IT investment, successfully migrate to a new ITSM platform and learn how to integrate ITSM and ITAM.


If you’re looking for third-party analyst guidance on selecting a service management solution, we recommend you review Info-Tech’s Enterprise Service Desk Software Report and the Gartner Magic Quadrant 2015.


View more whitepapers, videos, presentations and case studies in our service management resources section.


About us

Axios Systems
For more than 25 years, Axios Systems has been committed to innovation by providing rapid deployment of Service Management software. With an exclusive focus on Service Management, Axios is recognized as a world leader, by the leading analysts and their global client base.


Axios’s enterprise software, assyst, is purpose-built, designed to transform IT departments from technology-focused cost centers into profitable business-focused customer service teams. assyst adds tangible value to each client’s organization by building on the ITIL® framework to help solve their business challenges.


Axios is headquartered in the UK, with offices across Europe, the Americas, Middle East and Asia Pacific. For more information about Axios Systems, please visit us:






1 Global Cloud-based ITSM Market 2015-2019, Technavio, December 2015.

2 Digital Marketplace, GOV.UK, November 2015.

3 IT Service Management: A Cross-national Study of ITIL Adoption, Communications of the Association for Information Systems, February 2014.

4 ISO drives rise in ITIL adoption, Axios Systems, April 2007.

5 Trends 2006: New Generation For Service Desks, Forrester Research, Inc., December 2005.

6 2015 CIO survey: UK edition, Deloitte, 2015.

7 Your comprehensive guide to optimizing IT service management in 2016, Axios Systems, January 2016.

8 Trends 2006: New Generation For Service Desks, Forrester Research, Inc., December 2005.

9 Your comprehensive guide to optimizing IT service management in 2016, Axios Systems, January 2016.

10 Trends 2006: New Generation For Service Desks, Forrester Research, Inc., December 2005.

11 Service Desk Benchmarking Report 2013, SDI, November 2013.

12 Survey Analysis: IT Service Management Value Perspectives From Europe, Gartner, February 2014.

13 All About ITIL, Quocirca, July 2006.

14 The Growing Importance of ITSM, CIO Update, August 2006.

15 Axios Systems Research Series, part 2: Regional gulfs in service management beyond IT, Axios Systems, November 2015.