IT service management (ITSM) software can make or break an IT service desk, and adversely affect the IT services it’s trying to support. But what makes one piece of ITSM software better than another? What, in addition to providing the required ITSM capabilities, should influence your choice to invest in a particular ITSM tool?

In a market flooded with ITSM tool options, here are four features (broadly speaking) to factor into your decision making process:

  1. Viable software vendor

When a company buys, or invests in, an ITSM product they’re also investing in an ITSM tool vendor. It’s a relationship that doesn’t end once the tool is implemented.

This is a long-term partnership, so you’ll need an ITSM tool vendor that:

  • Is reliable to contact
  • Is preferably in a period of expansion (rather than losing market share), and
  • Will stay in business for the foreseeable future to allow scope for future development and ongoing product support.

Ultimately, before investing in an ITSM solution, it’s wise to consider whether the VENDOR, as well as the product, will be a worthwhile investment of your time and money.

  1. Strong implementation capabilities

Implementation can make or break an ITSM tool (and thus the service desk in turn).

Key to success is a strong implementation team, not only setting up the ITSM tool to reflect the business’s requirements for ITSM processes, but also providing ITSM integrations into the business and other IT tools. It’s rare for companies to “go it alone” with ITSM tools these days, so assess the implementation capabilities of, and successes for, either the ITSM tool vendor or their partners.

Ultimately, enticing features in an ITSM product will mean little without the implementation know-how to make them work for your organization.

  1. Ease of use

ITSM software that’s “easy to use” empowers staff to utilize it effectively. This minimizes the training time needed for users of the tool and lessens staff frustration, and reticence to change tools, during this time due to a swift and productive learning process. Key to this is how easily the software can be embedded into existing operational processes – a tool that’s easy to embed quickens staff uptake (of the tool) as they adapt to new ways of working in tandem with the new tool.

But the real killer is in day-to-day operations. ITSM tools that are difficult to use, and incorporate within existing processes, decrease staff morale and slow down productivity as users are bogged down in fighting with the tool rather than being enabled and empowered by it. Ultimately, inefficiency costs, maybe even more than the tool did.

  1. Flexibility

This is a less straight-forward feature. The level of flexibility should suit a business’s requirements, as flexibility in tooling can be a blessing or a curse.

A highly-flexible tool is adaptable and allows for a large amount of customization but the cost is that it’ll usually be harder to use. On the other hand, a tool with less flexibility is often easier to use due to the lower level of customization but might be less adaptable (despite strong configuration capabilities).

Similarly, a more flexible tool, while it can provide a solid return on investment (ROI) if a range of functions are used, can often prove costly and time consuming to maintain over time in light of the effect of upgrades/updates.  

Ultimately, when choosing an ITSM tool, the level of flexibility should be carefully considered to ensure that you’re getting the right level of flexibility for your company’s real needs. A tool that’s needed to perform a wide variety of functions might need more customization, whereas if it’s to be used for common ITSM best practice process then the opposite applies.

With these four features covered, you can be confident that your new ITSM tool stands every chance of being a success. Software from a viable vendor gives you security going forward. A strong implementation capability allows the tool to be put in place swiftly with maximum benefits. An easy-to-use tool empowers users and speeds up the learning process. While a suitably flexible tool allows for sufficient configuration and customization without making the tool needlessly complex. What other feature would you recommend to others investing in a new ITSM tool?

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Richard is the Lead Service Management Consultant for Thebes Group. He has over 15 years’ experience in service management, is an ITIL expert, and has helped drive many organizations in their efforts to implement and imbed mature service management processes. This has comprised of numerous Incident, request, problem, change, configuration and release management processes, in a variety of environments. His approach is always to look for pragmatic solutions, which provide clear benefit and help achieve valuable business goals. Richard is also the chair of the BCS Configuration Management Specialist Group (CMSG), and a committee member of the BCS Service Management Specialist Group (SMSG). In addition, he speaks publicly, at a number of industry events including BCS, itSMF and Gartner conferences, as well as on a number of webcast and webinars.
  • Ed Milligan

    Richard,

    Your last paragraph of point #3 is critical: “ITSM tools that are difficult to use, and incorporate within existing processes, decrease staff morale and slow down productivity as users are bogged down in fighting with the tool rather than being enabled and empowered by it.”

    There is an assumption that a tool is going to fix bad processes. Tools only make bad or undocumented processes worse. Unfortunately, many implementing process automation software don’t take the necessary time investment to workflow-map out what the organization is doing to support/provide services which has the potential to create unintended negative impacts to customers upon software implementation.

    Using your guidelines to select an ITSM tool AFTER an organization has documented and agreed upon their processes, makes for a better transition to and implementation of ITSM process automation. Of course, socializing the changes with customers and training the staff adopting the automation tool is an absolute necessity.