IT Executives: Making Sense of ITIL and MSPs

IT executives are generally familiar with the ITIL methodology and understand that it’s the gold standard for service desk performance. But for IT executives who are evaluating Managed Service Providers (MSPs), a more complete understanding of ITIL and how it applies to incoming issues is required. To make the right MSP choice, IT executives should be able to evaluate MSPs and be familiar with key service metrics.


First things first: What is ITIL?

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, and it defines globally recognized best practices for a vast range of IT services, including managed services. It’s not the only international standard, but the ITIL has proven effective via numerous deployments all over the world for many years, and it is continuously refined and updated.

One of the key advantages of ITIL is that it’s designed to integrate seamlessly into an IT organization’s workflow. As a flexible standard with a strong track record of success, IT MSPs worldwide embrace ITIL as their framework. IT MSPs focus particularly on ITIL’s Service Operations volume and the Problem Management and Incident Management principles it outlines.

How do ITIL Problem Management and ITIL Incident Management Work?

ITIL problem management and ITIL incident management define procedures for resolving issues that are reported to a service desk. Initially, an issue is treated as an “incident” for the service team to resolve. Service desk personnel collect contact and location information, identify the IT asset and categorize the incident according to impact and urgency, which sets a timeframe for resolution. Service desk professionals then analyze and resolve the issue.

Typically, ITIL problem management protocols are engaged if the incident involves multiple users or if it indicates proof of a larger issue, such as a downed server that could have a company-wide effect. Using ITIL problem management standards, the service desk conducts a root cause analysis to identify systemic issues. The team then works to remediate the problem and restore service more broadly.

Should IT executives outsource service desk operations?

There’s a broad trend that cuts across industries to outsource functions that don’t fall into an organization’s core competencies. Most IT executives don’t consider service desk operations a core competency, and their busy teams have plenty of other tasks to manage that do fall within their primary mission, so many executives choose to outsource the service desk function.

There are distinct advantages to utilizing IT help desk services — when a company hires the right MSP partner. MSPs that adhere to ITIL principles measure performance around four standards: speed-of-answer, first contact resolution, abandon rate and customer satisfaction. Partnering with the right MSP ensures that employees can focus on business objectives rather than dealing with IT incidents and problems.

What should IT executives look for in an MSP partner?

IT executives who are choosing an MSP should look at performance as defined by all four ITIL metrics described above — focusing especially on first contact resolution. MSP partners who can resolve the most issues on first contact are more efficient overall because they return users to productivity quickly and use less time and fewer resources than MSPs that frequently escalate service calls.

MSP requirements also vary according to company needs, such as service hours. But the bottom line is that an MSP that can resolve issues quickly adds considerable value. For a more in-depth look at ITIL, how it affects MSP operations and what to look for in an MSP provider, download the full Q&A here, and reach out to us today for more information on how ITS can be a valuable partner for your enterprise IT operations.

John Raos is Operations Vice President for Innovative Technology Solutions.