ITSM Technology Advice – What is it Worth?30/10/12

The ITSM Antipodean Podcast team just finished recording episode 25 in which Rob England, Tristan Boot and I discussed the various guidance available to assist organisations with ITSM tool selection. It was an interesting conversation which I though I would capture and expand on here.

A lot has been written recently regarding the Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Management and Support Tools. Both Rob England and Chris Dancy amongst others have made comment on the re-emergence of the quadrant.

There are currently no “Leaders” in the Magic Quadrant, which is interesting. There are only two “Challengers”, which are ServiceNow and BMC Software. A bunch of other tools are all sitting in the quadrant labelled “Niche Players”.

However, this bunch only comprises 8 offerings and we know that there are many more ITSM technologies available in the market place.

So where else can we look?

PinkVERIFY has been around since 1998. PinkVERIFY applies a stamp of approval to ITSM tools based on assessment of its ability to support ITIL processes. The assessment criteria are available for viewing and they are relatively basic requirements. For instance the Incident Management assessment criteria includes the need to use ITIL terms and definitions; allow access controls to open, modify and close incidents based on pre-established conditions; produce management reports; contain incident models; provide an audit trail and the archiving of closed records.

PinkVERIFY is a good place to start if you want to view a good range of tools available. However, there is an element of caution. Firstly check that the PinkVERIFY stamp of approval has been given for all of the processes that you intend to implement. Rob England gave a cautionary tale on the podcast. He has been working with an organisation that has a tool that does not meet their needs. Some of those needs such as change models are fairly basic. The lack of change models means that every change has to have an approver. Rob questioned why this tool was chosen and the response was that the organisation was in a hurry and this tool had the PinkVERIFY stamp of approval. Therefore they decided that it would meet their needs. What they didn’t check was that the PinkVERIFY stamp of approval has only been given for one process – incident management!

The other air of caution is that if you have discovered a tool that you believe meets all of your needs and it isn’t on the PinkVERIFY list – don’t discard it. It might be the tool for you. It should raise a red flag that the vendor hasn’t sought PinkVERIFY approval, as this is currently probably the largest, independent assessor of ITSM tools. So at least question the vendor as to why they haven’t sought PinkVERIFY assessment up to now. There may be a valid reason.

There is also the ITIL Software Scheme. Through the UK Cabinet Office, the APM Group has established an ITIL Software Scheme, which allows software tool vendors to obtain endorsement for an ITIL based tool. Endorsement allows tool vendors to hold a valid Trade Mark Licence and use the Process Compliant badge.

However, there seems to be little uptake of the ITIL Software Scheme endorsement. There are 5 holders of the Gold level endorsement, 3 holders of the Silver level endorsement and 16 holders of the Bronze level endorsement. The PinkVERIFY 3.1 Toolset list contains nearly 40 tools.

The ITIL Software Scheme is another good place to look for independent assessment of tools but PinkVERIFY has the more extensive list.

The ITIL Software Scheme now provides the assessment criteria to vendors in advance of an assessment whereas initially it didn’t. Therefore vendors were putting forward their tools for assessment and getting rejected, as they had no visibility of what they were being assessed against. Maybe this history has led to a lack of take-up of the scheme.

Unlike PinkVERIFY, the assessment criteria are only available on request. The ITIL Official Website does provide some examples such as the tool should automatically assign a unique reference number to each RFC and incident records should contain fields to record the status of an incident such as active, waiting, closed etc. So again, these are fairly basis requirements.

Another list of available tools is the Listly list that Chris Dancy started in order to crowd source people’s favourite tools. There are 75 tools listed and people have voted for their favourites. What this list does is provide you with a range of available tools but the voting should not be taken as a credible source as to which tools are better than others. Vendors could encourage all of their staff to jump online and vote for their tool. Therefore the bigger the organisation or the more prescriptive they are about what employee’s should do, the more votes the tool will get.

So all of these sources provide knowledge of what is available and should be used as a reference point.

After discussing the pros and cons of each of these sources, the podcast team discussed what organisations really need to do when selecting tools.

Some key points are to determine what YOU need. What is the business strategy? What is the IT strategy? What are the goals and objectives? Does the tool you are considering meet all of these?

Are there local skills to support the tools and does the vendor have a local presence?

Specifying the functionality requirements in an RFI/RFP is fine but the points above should take precedence.

Talk to industry colleagues. Use social media channels to find out more information. Use forums like itSMF. Ask questions at seminar, local interest groups and special interest groups. Ask questions about vendor capability, quality and availability of support, implementation and upgrade experiences. This type of interaction will give you a far better feel for the vendor and their offering than any response to an RFI!

A great source of guidance on tool selection is the recently published itSMF International book “IT Tools for the Business When the Business is IT” by Robert Falowitz. I did a review of the book for the itSMF Australia bulletin and At Your Service, which can be read here.

I recently wrote an article and used the analogy that selecting an ITSM tool is like buying a house. It is a big investment and therefore the right considerations are crucial. The article was sponsored by Axios Systems but it is vendor agnostic. It can be downloaded from the Axios website here.

Finally, the biggest mistake that organisations make when implementing new technology, is to ignore the organisational change aspect. Organisational change management is critical when a change is going to have an impact on people whether it is through the introduction of new tools or processes, or both.

Now let me tell you about Balanced Diversity!