What is an SMO

Date: 25/07/2023| Category: Best Practices Glossary| Tags:

There is no standard definition for a Service Management office. The centralised office adapts to the organisation and its current needs, overseeing the management and delivering of services. Comparing multiple definitions, we can however say that the SMO represents an IT governance mechanism that defines, monitors and audits processes that are in operation or in transition.

Installing an SMO seeks to enable effective service management, which is crucial for business success and competitiveness in modern business environments. Effective service management allows organisations to improve customer satisfaction, enhance operational efficiency, drive business value, mitigate risks and foster continuous improvement.

The SMO seeks to improve service management by adapting to best practices, learned experiences and resources to its service management ecosystem.

Role of a service management office

The specific role of an SMO can vary depending on the organisation’s size, industry and service management maturity. The SMO can be made up by multiple professionals, or a single person. An SMO can function as a centre of excellence or something that needs broader practices and relationship building to develop enterprise service management.

Thus, the SMO is not static and this automatically means that not one SMO is the same. The roles, responsibilities and contribution to the organisation can widely differ. However, some more common responsibilities of the SMO are:

  • Establishing and enforcing service management policies, processes and standards based on the Best Practices
  • Govern the processes, frameworks, methodologies and IT standards
  • Developing and maintaining the service portfolio and catalogue
  • Defining, monitoring and reporting on service level agreements (SLAs) and key performance indicators (KPI)
  • Guaranteeing compliances with the end-to-end service strategy
  • Serves as a focal point for service management activities, seeking to provide guidance and support

Benefits of an SMO

The SMO is about having an extra focus on service management, supporting the role of the service manager and relationship building between the enterprise and the IT department. Installing an SMO can help the organisation:

  • Optimise service management practices: operational efficiency is improved by streamlined processes
  • Enhance service quality: the use of Best Practices, SLA’s and KPI’s result in consistent and high-quality service delivery, which in turn increases customer satisfaction
  • Align business objectives: the SMO includes all stakeholders and that service is aligned with the organisation’s overall business objectives
  • Continuous improvement: the SMO promotes a culture of continuous improvement
  • Governance and compliance: the establishment of governance frameworks, policies and procedures ensures compliance with industry standards and regulations

The SMO can also help define the service management practices and become the body that deploys the 7 ITIL guiding principles for an organisation. It can bring the principles to life, filling gaps where company policies do not exist and empower employees lower down in the organisation to make good decisions.

However, to gain all above mentioned benefits from an SMO, an organisation needs clarity on its vision and goals. Both within the IT and in the non-IT service providers across the enterprise.

Implementing an SMO

The implementation process of an SMO means deciding on what type of SMO the organisation needs. Whether it will simply be a centre of excellence, or something that needs broader practices and relationship building to develop enterprise service management.

Based on this, its vision and goals for both the IT and the non-IT service providers across the organisation need to be set. It must be kept in mind that it should also be defined who will champion and fund the initiative and what the milestones will be.

To have the SMO fully up and running, there must also be decided what the governance structure will be and resources and staffing requirements should be identified. Once in place, service management processes and frameworks should be elaborated and actively put in place to reach the full scope of the SMO.


The term SMO is similar to the term PMO. Both of these aim to improve the organisational effectiveness but are active in very different parts of the organisation. An SMO focuses on managing the delivery of services, while the PMO is responsible for managing and overseeing projects throughout their lifecycle. The SMO is service-centric while the PMO is project-centric.

Both the SMO and the PMO are not the same in any organisation, they are always unique to the organisation needs, environment and business objectives. However, where a PMO is often described as a source of control, an SMO is more about strong relationship building.

As the focus area of the SMO and the PMO differ, they can both exist within an organisation and even work closely together. Connecting the two mechanisms enables organisations to execute continuous service-important initiatives that result in better quality services for all end-users.

Effective service delivery

In short, the Service Management Office (SMO) serves as the backbone of effective service delivery within organisations. It plays an important role in improving service delivery, overall customer satisfaction and encourages an environment of continuous improvement. The SMO offers a framework for delivering consistent and high quality service.

Sources: Marrone, M., Hanton, R., & Wagner, C. (2018). Service Management Office (SMO): An Integrated Model. In Handbook of Service Science, Volume II (pp. 113-132). Springer. Axelos: SMO and ITIL4, Creating specialist skills in the SMO, What does an SMO offer

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