The Key ITSM Success Challenges and How to Surmount Them

If your organization struggles to achieve the IT service management (ITSM) it needs, it might be because of one or more of the common ITSM success challenges. If nothing else, it’s good to see that other organizations are “in a similar boat” regarding ITSM maturity – with ITSM success versus corporate expectations not guaranteed.  To help, this blog looks at how your peers are faring with ITSM, including what is commonly holding them back. It also offers up some guidance on how best to remove the two key challenges stifling ITSM success.

How ITSM pros rate their organizations’ levels of ITSM success

The AXELOS 2022 ITSM Benchmarking Report and survey found that half of ITSM pros (48%) feel that their organizations’ ITSM capabilities are “great” or “good.” While one quarter (27%) feel they are “getting there,” and another quarter (22%) that they have “still much to improve upon.”

So there’s roughly a 50:50 split between the organizations with ITSM success and those needing greater improvement (to achieve the desired level of ITSM capabilities). Interestingly, the survey also identified that the smallest organizations (1–49 employees) and largest organizations (5000+ employees) are most likely to report “great” ITSM success. But what has caused the lack of success?

The key ITSM challenges

The AXELOS survey also asked what’s stopping, or slowing down, either ITSM adoption success or the needed improvement in organizations. The respondent choices are shown in the table below based on some pre-defined options and the ability only to choose their primary challenge.


Response Percentage
Lack of buy-in from senior management 16%
ITSM does not have enough influence 13%
Inefficient work practices 12%
Changing scope/expectations 11%
Lacking the right people 11%
Lack of collaboration across teams 10%
Lack of skills and training 8%
Poor communication 7%
Unrealistic budgets/resources 7%
Lack of effective tools 4%
Over-ambitious timeframes 2%

Source: AXELOS, 2022 ITSM Benchmarking Report

The “lack of buy-in from senior management” is the highest placed primary obstacle to ITSM success, with this similar to the second-placed “ITSM does not have enough influence.” These challenges are returned to later.

After these, the mid-table is filled with people-and-process-related challenges. However, it’s interesting to note that corporate ITSM tools are rarely called out as the key challenge to ITSM success. But, of course, suboptimal ITSM tooling might be a contributing factor to other primary challenges. For example, the corporate ITSM tool’s lack of automation capabilities might significantly contribute to the third-placed “inefficient work practices” challenge.

It’s also a case of “it depends”

The above list of primary ITSM-success challenges relates to various organizations of different sizes, in different industries, and in different countries. They also have different self-ratings of ITSM success. Some interesting commonalities and differences are that:

  • The “lack of buy-in from senior management” challenge was commonly significant across all four ITSM success options, as was “inefficient work practices” for all bar those reporting “great” ITSM success (which makes sense).
  • The organizations with “still much to improve upon” had three key challenges that accounted for close to two-thirds of responses: “ITSM does not have enough influence,” “lack of buy-in from senior management,” and “inefficient work practices.”
  • For the smallest organizations (1–49 employees), “ITSM does not have enough influence” was the most common key challenge at close to 30% of responses. However, there were no “inefficient work practices” responses.

So, the primary obstacle to ITSM success will depend on specific organizational attributes. Still, it’s likely that, whatever these are, the “lack of buy-in from senior management” and “ITSM does not have enough influence” will be relevant.

Raising the influence of ITSM – changing performance metrics

In some ways, ITSM suffers from the same issue as IT per se – where the adage that “IT is like air – no one notices it until it’s not there” applies. Such that when ITSM capabilities are working well, no one notices. Then when they are not, everyone notices. It’s the proverbial “being caught between a rock and a hard place.”

“But what about the business influence created by ITSM reporting?” I hear you cry.

This is, in many ways, one of the biggest barriers to improving ITSM’s level of influence – with some of the common ITSM metrics mistakes preventing business stakeholders from understanding and appreciating the value of ITSM (and successful ITSM in particular). For example, commonly employed ITSM metrics focus on what IT does rather than what it achieves. If nothing else, this is what IT thinks is important rather than the needs of the business stakeholders who need to be influenced. To make matters worse, ITSM success might be measured at the point of IT service creation rather than consumption – creating a further gulf between the IT and business-stakeholder views of ITSM performance (and business value).

So addressing the ITSM metrics status quo is a good start – moving from the traditionally popular ITSM metrics to performance measures that are meaningful to business stakeholders. This change should, in particular, move their focus from IT operations to business outcomes (and value).

Raising the influence of ITSM – focusing on what matters most

Once performance measures are reviewed (although in reality, this is likely to happen in parallel), and thanks to a better understanding of how ITSM adds or destroys business value, ITSM capabilities can be better aligned to business needs and “what matters most.” For example, in the context of IT support, it’s likely that increased IT service desk speed or efficiency is not enough – because this relates purely to operations and can overlook the outcomes.

However, this opportunity to focus on what matters most relates to the business-as-usual ITSM capabilities and the improvements and innovations brought in to serve business needs (and expectations) better. For example, introducing or ramping up problem management activity to reduce the business impact of repeat incidents. Or using intelligent automation to deliver “better, faster, cheaper” support for simpler IT issues and requests, freeing ITSM personnel to focus on higher value-adding work.

Importantly, these changes are focused on what matters most – and what matters most to the business, not IT.

There are other ways to increase the influence of, and senior buy-in to, ITSM but addressing these two opportunities provides a robust platform for removing the key challenges that hinder or prevent ITSM success.



Picture of Michal Hayet
Michal Hayet
Michal joined that’s IT Technologies in 2017. She has over 19 years of experience in Information Technology. Before working at that’s IT Technologies, she served as ECI’s IT applications manager, principal application manager for Oracle, and IT CRM team manager at Motorola Israel. Michal has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences and an MBA, Specialization in Information Systems, from the Bar-Ilan University.