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What is a Service Management Office? Everything you need to know.

What is a Service Management Office. Everything you need to know.

A Service Management Office (S M O) is a center of excellence within your organization chartered to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of delivering IT Service Management (ITSM) services. 

The SMO, or Service Management Office, is a crucial component of any organization's ITSM strategy.  It is a center of excellence that combines the necessary skills to implement and manage a Service Management program.    

The SMO leverages industry-standard best practices like ITIL® and incorporates modern ITSM tools to optimize your organization's IT environment.

The SMO's ultimate goal is to support your Service Management Program, which encompasses all the activities required to design, build, implement, operate, and improve the services you provide to your customers.

By applying ITSM principles and tools, the SMO can help your organization achieve greater efficiency, compliance, and responsiveness to changing business needs.

So, if you want to streamline your IT operations and maximize the value of your IT investments, the SMO is the way to go.


Service Management Definition

Service management may have its roots in the early days of mainframe computing, but that doesn't make it a dinosaur.  

The importance of service management is even more crucial today than ever before.

In today's fast-paced business environment, organizations need to keep up with the latest technology trends, increase efficiency, and drive innovation to remain competitive.

The definition of Service Management is "a comprehensive framework for managing IT activities to support business strategy, ensuring that IT organizations optimize how they design, build, implement, operate, and improve the services they deliver to their customers.  ITSM combines elements of organizational structure, processes, and supporting tools to support this mandate".

With the adoption of concepts from Agile, DevOps, and Value Stream Mapping, ITSM has evolved to meet current challenges and become the de facto framework for IT organizations. Therefore, organizations that prioritize service management are better equipped to meet the changing needs of their customers and stay ahead of the competition. 

Too many organizations have a narrow view of service management.  ITSM is often mistaken as just a software platform, but it's much more than that.  It's a comprehensive framework for managing IT that takes into account the key elements of People, Processes, and Technology.

For more information on ITSM, check out our blog post: What is IT Service Management? A Complete Guide.



The Goal of the Service Management Office

So what does SMO mean in your organization? 

Too many organizations see the SMO solely as the group responsible for the service management platform (i.e. BMC, Easyvista, Freshservice, Ivanti, or ServiceNow).    They see it as a pure technology focus.

The primary objective of the SMO is service delivery and service quality.   This means an equal focus on people, processes, and technology.   

The SMO provides a centralized function with the necessary skills and knowledge to assist individual departments in designing, implementing, and enhancing their IT and business processes.

The SMO ensures that each department has agile and efficient processes that work well within the broader context of the organization as a whole. By doing so, the SMO helps organizations achieve their ITSM activities efficiently, compliantly, and responsively to changing business needs.

 While centralized control helps to ensure compliance with standards, policies, and procedures, it can also lead to bureaucratic bottlenecks and stifle innovation. On the other hand, operating with too much agility can result in a lack of oversight and technical debt.

Therefore, IT organizations must find the right balance to ensure that ITSM activities are efficient, compliant, and responsive to changing business needs.  

The SMO will help you achieve that balance while delivering higher levels of customer satisfaction!



While different in purpose, the PMO & SMO both provide a central point of focus within the organization to drive efficiency and effectiveness.  

The difference between a PMO & SMO is their area of focus.

The PMO coordinates projects, which are temporary endeavors to achieve a specific outcome. They have clear start and end dates. Examples include implementing a new ERP system or ITSM tool.

The PMO often aligns with best practices from the Project Management Institute (PMI) or the PRINCE2 project management methodology.

The Service Management Office coordinates the continuous activities of managing ITSM services. Examples would include Process Design, ITSM Tool Support, Process Governance, and Continual Service Improvement. 

The SMO leverages complementary disciplines such as Business Process Management, COBIT®, ISO20000, ITIL®, Lean IT, and Six Sigma (to name a few).

Digital Transformation Office vs PMO or SMO

The Digital Transformation Office merges business and IT team members to spearhead the digitization of crucial business processes across the organization. This team detects opportunities, strategizes, formulates processes, handpicks and implements cutting-edge technology, and propels the company towards corporate evolution.

The Digital Transformation Office shares much in common with the SMO or PMO.  

Check out this article on how the SMO can be leveraged to drive Digital Transformation.  

Having both an SMO & PMO

Many organizations have recognized the significant benefits of having both an SMO & PMO that work closely together.  

The PMO manages delivery projects of new IT capabilities while the SMO coordinates the activities that help an organization use those capabilities to generate business value.  

For example, the PMO may drive a ServiceNow implementation, while the SMO will manage the processes and drive continuous improvement once the installation is complete.

Connecting these two functions enables an organization to execute continuous service-improvement initiatives that result in better quality services for all end-users.

Click here to learn more about the importance of an ITIL PMO.


Service Management Office Organizational Structure

There are two models for the Service Management Office. Choose the approach that best aligns with your organization's size and culture. 

Centralized SMO is one where the SMO will directly manage and oversee all employees working on service-management activities. You typically see this in smaller IT organizations.

Decentralized SMO combines dedicated and "dotted line" resources. People with highly specialized skills (for example, process design specialists or ITSM tool specialists) could report directly to the SMO. In contrast, folks with departmental knowledge (for example, the service desk process owner or the release manager) could "dotted line" report to the SMO. In this model, the function of the SMO is to provide advice, guidance, and specific technical knowledge. 

Centralized SMO

A centralized SMO model typically oversees the service deskincident managementproblem managementchange management, Request Management, and IT Asset Management processes.

The centralized SMO may also own the service catalog, SLAs, service-level monitoring, process reporting, and ITSM tools (ServiceDesk tools, asset management software, event management software, CMDB, or other ITSM systems).  

In this model, the roles of the process owner and process manager may reside within the individual business or IT groups closer to the end-users of services.

Decentralized SMO

In this model, the SMO may have a much smaller mandate and do little more than set policy and standards, define processes, and provide training to service-management practitioners distributed throughout the organization.

Here are some things to consider when implementing your SMO.

  • SMO Executive Sponsorship
  • SMO Reporting Structure
  • ITSM Roles and Responsibilities
  • ITSM Standards
  • ITSM governance

Implementing a Service Management Office

  Here are some things to consider when implementing your SMO.

  • Implementation Assistance
  • SMO Executive Sponsorship
  • SMO Reporting Structure
  • ITSM Roles and Responsibilities
  • ITSM Standards
  • ITSM Training
  • ITSM governance

Check out this educational webinar on Implementing a Service Management Office featuring the SMO team at Columbia University.   Then continue reading to learn more about implementation considerations.



Implementation Assistance

When implementing an SMO it's best to engage an independent IT Service Management Consultant or a consulting company experienced in IT Service Management Business Consulting.  This will help you avoid costly mistakes.  Another option is to hire an SMO executive with a track record of implementing an SMO.


SMO Executive Sponsorship

The SMO should have an influential executive sponsor who understands the value of service management and is genuinely interested in ensuring the SMO is successful. An effective Executive Sponsor gets the SMO involved early in service design and gives them a seat at the table with the other departments within the IT organization.

SMO Reporting Structure

Do not take this lightly. Where you place the SMO in your organization will directly affect its chance for success. You do not want to create an "ivory tower" with minimal influence.  

Many companies place the SMO on par with the PMO, Application Development, Support, IT Operations, Enterprise Architecture, and Security departments. This placement helps make service management a critical part of all IT functions. 

ITSM Roles and Responsibilities

Regardless of which model you adopt, centralized or decentralized, you will need people to perform the following roles. Actual titles may vary from company to company.

Director, Service Management Office

Responsible for coordinating the activities of the Service Management Office. Sets the overall strategy and creates the operational plan. Management responsibilities for the full-time members of the SMO. Reports to senior IT Leadership.

ITSM Solutions Architect

Responsible for developing the overall ITSM architecture consisting of process, governance, and tool frameworks. Works with the business to create specific solutions for their needs. The architect stays abreast of best practices and advancements in the ITSM industry and works to incorporate those standards into the company. 

ITSM Process Designers

Also known as business process analysts, the designers have specific knowledge in designing ITSM processes and capturing functional requirements and technical specifications essential for business process automation. Other skills include workshop facilitation and expertise with process modeling software.  Learn the difference between an incident and a service request.

ITSM Process Owners and Managers

The Process Owner is a senior manager with the ability and authority to ensure the process is rolled out and used by all departments within the IT organization. The Process Manager is responsible for the day-to-day execution of the process. These roles often reside within the business and dotted-line reports to the SMO.

ITSM Tool Specialists

Responsible for implementing, configuring, administering, or developing solutions within the ITSM tools.

ITSM Reporting, Governance, and Continual Improvement

Responsible for producing process analytics, establishing and monitoring process controls, identifying process gaps, and implementing process improvements. 

ITSM Training and Communications

Responsible for developing awareness and communication programs in support of the ITSM program. Also responsible for developing and delivering ITSM process and tool training.

Best SMO structure

ITSM Standards

The good news is that you do not have to start from scratch. There are many mature and well-documented standards that you can leverage. We recommend ITIL® for processes and practices, COBIT® for governance, and Agile & DevOps for development. You may also want to consider other frameworks such as Business Process Management, Lean IT, and various ISO standards.  


ITSM Training

ITSM provides a consistent framework and language for Service Management.  Investing in Service Management courses is one of the best ways to ensure a common understanding of the critical ITSM concepts across your IT department.    

Many training courses are available in specific domains, like ITIL or DevOps.  These courses require the student to take a certification exam.  

Some leading IT education companies have designed a standalone IT Service Management course. The best IT service management courses, resulting in ITSM certification, can be found at Pink Elephant or ITSM Academy

We at Navvia offer a FREE ITSM Awareness Course (no certification).  This 90-minute course (delivered over Zoom) is available monthly.  Click here to sign up.


ITSM Governance

Take your eye off the ball; your process will erode over time, resulting in inefficiencies, dissatisfaction, and potential process failures.  

  • Work with the audit department to design processes meeting corporate governance requirements.
  • Measure process efficiency and implement corrective action
  • Measure employee satisfaction and implement process improvements that meet the needs of your employees

In Conclusion

Success comes with focus, and the Service Management Office is the best way to focus your ITSM initiative.  Learn how the Navvia Process Designer supports the Service Management Office!



A strong SMO centralizes shared capabilities, allows you to build and leverage critical skills, and creates the structure for customer service management and continual service improvement. Together, this will reduce costs and improve satisfaction with the services that IT delivers!