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6 ITSM Tool-Selection Questions & Answers

By | January 23, 2018 in ITSM

ITSM Tool Selection Checklist

With organizations continuing to regularly switch ITSM solutions, every 3-6 years (according to industry analysts), it’s become an unfortunate, unwanted, and expensive technology-investment cycle that needs to be broken.

That’s why I was invited by the fine people at SysAid to present my recent webinar Your 7-Point Checklist for Selecting the Right ITSM Tool. I wanted to give you my recommendations and tips of how to find the right fit for your organization’s needs.

The webinar raised a number of good questions, and since there wasn’t time to answer them all, I wanted to follow up with this Q&A blog for the benefit of all.

(And if you haven’t watched the webinar yet, go do that too – it’s available on-demand.)

Q&A with Emphasis on the “A”

The questions here are based on the questions we received during the live event. I took the liberty of expanding on a few for the purpose of learning and spreading the (wealth of) knowledge.

Here we go…

1. What would you say is the most important tip in the webinar?

Let me start with a quick review of my recommended 7-point checklist:

  1. ITSM process enablement
  2. Usability
  3. Self-service
  4. Business intelligence (BI) and reporting
  5. Automation
  6. Configuration, customization, and integrations
  7. Vendor relationship and (lack of) communication

For each one of these I had 5 tips – making a total of 35. All are valuable, but if one – and only one – was to be highlighted as being the most important, then I would go for the tip I deliberately left until the end of the webinar:

“Agree on the organizational value of the vendor relationship (along with other business requirements).”

And the great Stuart Rance quote I used:

“Select a vendor you think you can work with.”

The quality, and effectiveness, of the vendor relationship is a growing area of concern (and impediment) for ITSM-tool customers, and a possible barrier to later tool exploitation. As is the lack of ongoing communication. So, it’s important to undertake sufficient research into what existing customers think of their ITSM vendor to help ensure that your organization gets what it needs in terms of relationship and communication.

2. Is the ITSM tools market highly SaaS/cloud focused now?

The short answer is yes. How this is measured though can be difficult. Because, firstly there was a point – at the start of the millennium – where the majority of ITSM tools were bought and deployed using the on-premises model. It has taken time for this to shrink, no matter the proportion of new ITSM tool sales (including ITSM tool replacements from the same, or new vendors) that use the SaaS delivery model.

Then, how do you measure the SaaS share of the market? It could be in terms of customer numbers (which neglects customer size), revenues, or number of seats/subscriptions. Plus, some geographies/countries are more SaaS-friendly, while others are sticking with on-premises due to various inhibitors including local data legislation.

In terms of quantification, UK-focused research by the Service Desk Institute (SDI) – delivered in a report called “SaaS vs On-Premise” – shows that, in the UK at least, SaaS has now nudged ahead of the legacy of on-premises ITSM tools (51%:49% in customer numbers). In SysAid’s instance, the overall global customer split is similar to the SDI figures, with new sales now 72% SaaS and 28% on-premises as both new and existing customers look to reap the benefits of the SaaS delivery model.

3. How important will automation be going forward?

This question is better if I flip it and we consider better IT and business outcomes available through the exploitation of automation.

So, moving forward, how important will the following be to an IT department in better meeting business needs?

  • Increased speed of execution (from incident resolution, through change, to analytics and reporting)
  • An improved end-user/customer experience
  • Cost reductions
  • Reduced human intervention and “human error,” and
  • Increased task or process adaptability

The answer has to be “very.” Especially in the context of existing and future IT recruitment issues (related to the availability of certain IT skills through to growing limitations with cross-border recruitment).

IT will also follow (or lead) other lines of business in optimizing business processes:

  1. Minimizing the reliance on manual activities and the people that do them
  2. Leveraging artificial intelligence to not only improve business processes but to also provide greater insight into performance and improvement opportunities

In the same way that information technology started a workplace revolution in the 1980s, automation, and in particular AI, will continue to improve how work “gets done” and the associated business outcomes.

4. Are there really hundreds of IT help desk and ITSM tools on the market?

While industry analyst reports tend to include 10-15 ITSM tools to make report completion manageable, there are many more out there. Although, not all are suitable to every organization. For instance, some might be best suited to smaller organizations and to specific industry verticals.

In the 2017 ITSM Magic Quadrant, Gartner – a global research and advisory company – states that there are over 450 ITSM tools on the market. With these ranging from the most basic of IT help desk “ticketing systems” through to ITSM suites designed for the largest of enterprises.

However, as I stated in the webinar, the important thing is not to be snow-blinded and instead to understand which ITSM tools (and vendors) are best suited to organizations similar to your own. In addition to the type of relationship you require with your ITSM tool vendor (as per question #1), this will include requirements driven by:

  • The required use case or cases – for instance the most basic of ITSM or service desk tools might be perfect for meeting just one particular need within the largest of enterprises.
  • The industry or vertical – for instance, some ITSM tools actively cater to higher education needs while some tools are actively targeted to government organizations.
  • The organization’s level of ITSM maturity – for instance, the need to have a wide spectrum of ITIL process coverage, or capability-depth in a number ITSM processes.
  • The geography, or location, where the ITSM tool will be employed – notwithstanding language complexities, different countries have different approaches to ITSM. It will also affect the SaaS versus on-premises delivery model decision.
  • The company approach to ITSM – ITSM means different things to different people, and this affects how they, and the organizations they work for, use it and thus how they need an ITSM tool to support their objectives and activities.
  • Non-ITSM IT needs – for instance, the need for non-core-ITSM capabilities (within the ITSM tool) such as IT asset management (ITAM) and/or IT operations management (ITOM).
  • Non-IT needs – this is the use of the ITSM tool by other lines of business, such as facilities and HR, in what is now commonly termed enterprise service management.

5. Are tool issues truly always tool issues?

The quick answer is no. But it’s far more complicated than one thinks due to the requirement for internal reflection and total honesty when trying to understand and agree the real root causes of dissatisfaction with the incumbent ITSM tool.

For example, is the real issue a lack of suitable people? In particular where the downward pressure on team sizes – or the inability to recruit new staff with the right skills – means that an organization can’t do what needs to be done even with an appropriate ITSM tool. The ITSM tool, however, still often takes the blame – “People are working really, really hard – the ITSM tool must be the issue.”

Or organizational issues related to one or more of:

  • Culture
  • Processes
  • Knowledge, and
  • Data

are such that any new ITSM tool is insufficient to fix them.

So be careful – your organization might well need a better-fitting ITSM tool but it might also need to change more than a tool.

6. Is there a natural progress or planning path to prepare an organization for digital transformation?

As I suggested during the webinar, someone like Charles Araujo – an industry analyst, author, and Founder of the Institute for Digital Transformation – is best positioned to answer questions related to digital transformation. Here’s an abridged version of his answer:

“First and foremost, organizations must understand that digital transformation is NOT about technology. It is primarily a business transformation driven by a shift in power away from the organization and to the customer. That means that the essence of digital transformation is a move away from optimization and efficiency (organizational-centricity) to a focus on the customer journey and engaging them effectively and on their terms at every step along it (customer-centricity).

In addition, organizations must view digital transformation as an on-going process — not some project to complete and check-off the list. A core element of this process is the reimagining of organizational roles. It is virtually impossible to execute a digital transformation and leave the organization in the same state structurally or organizationally. But in most cases, this is exactly what you see — a clear sign that no true transformation has occurred.

So, the short answer to the question is to:

  • First, understand the true nature of digital transformation and its business and reorganizational context.
  • Second, accept that digital transformation is a new organizational state – it is on-going, persistent, and represents a new cultural norm.
  • Third, prepare your organization for the stress induced by entering this perpetual transformation state and maintain that state of readiness by focusing on the four dimensions of readiness.
  • Fourth, once the necessary preparatory work has been completed, organizations should develop an initial transformation strategy driven by the desired business transformation and move to customer centricity (this is where most organizations start!)

As you can imagine, there’s a LOT more to say on this subject. Please feel free to contact me on Twitter if you have any questions or comments.”

Hopefully this blog has been helpful whether you attended the webinar or not – remember that this is available on-demand – and please share details of your own ITSM tool successes in the comments section below.

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Stephen Mann

About Stephen Mann

Stephen Mann is an independent IT and IT service management content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. In his career, he’s held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and most recently product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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