ITIL service operations processes

Understanding the 5 ITIL service operations processes

Reading time: about 7 min


  • IT and Engineering

When it comes to organizing and executing your service management strategies, you might run into challenges managing your steady state and keeping everyone on the same page.

As companies continue to grow and respond to emerging technology, IT will continue to adapt and change. Optimizing your IT service management (ITSM) operations to keep up with the changing demands of customers is an ever-moving target.

To support their ITSM needs, many businesses have adopted the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework— it is comprised of five separate publications that outline flexible good practices and processes for successful service management. As you implement or refine existing ITIL service operation practices throughout your org, pay careful attention to the processes outlined in service operations—it’s where most customers perceive value.

Service support and service operations

You may have experienced challenges as you try to balance internal and external views of IT services, stability and responsiveness, cost and quality, and reactive and proactive service delivery. How you choose to prioritize and outline the processes in each of these areas can directly impact the customer’s perception of your IT organization—for better or worse.

ITIL service operations provide ITSM support with five main processes and four functions that tackle day-to-day tasks, user requests, fixing problems, managing infrastructure, and more. When the five processes are implemented effectively, they reinforce an organization’s IT support structure.

5 processes of service ops

When it comes to supporting your ITIL service operation practices, supporting the consumer should be front and center. There are five ITIL service operation processes that are the foundation of an effective IT support structure that need to run smoothly and efficiently to ensure a positive customer experience. 

Event management 

Just as the name suggests it is about managing events throughout their life cycle, which includes detecting events, monitoring a state of change, and sequencing and categorizing events to determine the best course of action. It ensures all operations run smoothly and that each event is handled in a timely manner with the appropriate response. 

There are three types of events: 

  • Information: Logs and reports such as basic status updates.
  • Warning: Activities outside of the normal operations.
  • Exception: Events that indicate something is wrong and services have been negatively impacted, such as a service network being down. 

Check out the key activities of event management within ITIL service operations: 

  • Event occurrence
  • Event notification 
  • Event detection 
  • Event logged 
  • Event filtering and correlation 
  • Event response
  • Closing the event 

Incident management

At some point, users and customers will likely encounter an issue with your product or service. Typically it is unplanned and results in poor quality of service. That’s where the incident management process comes in. Through this process your team detects, logs, records, and resolves issues as quickly as possible to avoid downtime and to minimize impacts on users and the business. Incident management ensures that levels of service quality are upheld and maintained. Here are the steps involved in incident management.  

  • Logging 
  • Prioritization 
  • Investigation 
  • Communication 
  • Resolution 
  • Review 
  • Closure

Request fulfillment 

A big piece of ITIL service operations is tackling (mostly small) user demands, such as password changes and software installations. Requests need to be handled quickly, efficiently, and with clear communication. Request fulfillment helps improve productivity and standardize processes for users to help avoid incidents and monitor customer satisfaction. Below are the activities associated with request fulfillment:

  • Fulfillment support 
  • Logging and categorization 
  • Model execution 
  • Monitoring and escalation 
  • Closure and evaluation

Access management

Also known as identity management or rights management, access management involves granting rights to authorized users and preventing access from non-users. This process also requires team members to maintain and oversee that the policies surrounding security and information management are implemented and executed correctly. Access management gives organizations the ability to maintain a secure environment that prevents data breaches and unauthorized usage. Check out the key strategies to access management:

  • Request access 
  • Verification 
  • Providing rights 
  • Monitoring identity status
  • Logging and tracking access 
  • Removing or restricting rights  

Problem management

The last ITIL service operations process manages all problems in the lifecycle and tries to prevent recurring incidents. The main goal of problem management is to establish a stable IT infrastructure and improve its applications and services. The three phases of problem management are problem identification, problem control, and error control.

4 functions of ITIL service operations

Successful ITIL service operations processes rely on the four aforementioned functions in order to manage and deliver IT services. Each function is responsible for performing essential tasks that keep all ITIL service operations running smoothly. Additionally, these functions can be housed within one unit or broken up and performed by different departments to fit the needs of the organization.  

  • Service desk: As the customer-facing function, the service desk acts as the single point of contact between the service providers and users. It manages incidents, requests, communication, and often many incident management activities. Having an effective service desk creates a positive perception of your IT organization and builds trust with your users. 

    The service desk is often confused for or grouped with the help desk, but they are different. A help desk is reactive and focused on solving specific IT issues quickly and efficiently. Typically the help desk offers basic incident request management and is used by smaller organizations that do not rely heavily on IT. The service desk, on the other hand,  is broader in scope and focuses on the wider needs of the organization. The primary goal of a service desk is to improve the IT processes across the company, including the help desk.  
  • Technical management: This function is made up of departments and teams that provide expert knowledge and technical skills for IT services and IT infrastructure. Technical management ensures and maintains a stable technical infrastructure by testing, managing, and refining IT services and technology.

  • Application management: With this function, teams manage applications throughout their lifecycles to support the organization’s business processes. It touches on each of the organization’s applications from purchasing to identifying the functional requirements needed for the application.

  • IT operations management: Performs daily activities needed to manage IT services and support infrastructure (e.g., facilities management) to ensure the overall success of operations. IT operations management tends to focus on the day-to-day activities that are frequently repeated to streamline processes and maintain stability within service operations.

As you’ve likely witnessed in your own organization, delivering and managing IT services requires multiple complex processes and departments and plenty of bandwidth. It’s hard to know where to start when you engage in the continual improvement stage of the service management lifecycle. Because most users who experience disruptions contact your ITIL service desk, that’s a good place to start.

Measure ITIL operations success

As you implement ITIL service operations processes, how will you know if you’re improving? There are a number of metrics you can use to monitor performance and measure success over time to help you continually improve. 

Here are just a few ITIL operations KPIs to keep in mind:

  • Incident response time: This is how long it takes between when the incident report comes in and when it is resolved. The average time is called the mean time to resolve (MTTR). A low MTTR indicates quick and effective service.
  • First-time fix rate: This is the percentage of incidents that were resolved the first time, without repeated calls. A high first-time fix rate indicates efficient and quality service. 
  • Number of active tickets: This is how many tickets you have open at any given time. This metric can tell you how well you’re service desk is staffed—a low number helps prevent overwhelm for the desk and keeps customers happy.
  • Cost per ticket: Measuring cost breakdowns by ticket can help you assess your staffing needs and budget management. Higher costs can indicate a need for further process improvement.

Improve your service operation management

Now that you have a fundamental understanding of the processes and functions required to run successful service operations, the next step is to leverage your service desk management. Once you have the right people, processes, and technology in place to efficiently handle incidents and service requests, you can begin to integrate your service operations with your service desk management to become the frontline of your IT support.

Itil service operation

Learn six strategies for strengthening your service desk management in Lucidchart.

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About Lucidchart

Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit

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