Are ITSM Tools Still ITSM Tools?

ITSM Tools

The answer is of course “yes.” But it’s also “no.” And, co-running an IT service management (ITSM)-focused website called, you might think that I’ve a vested interest in ITSM tools still being called this. But I’d like to think that I’m bigger than that, especially when something’s name has the possibility of holding it back.

In answering the titular question, this article looks at the current state of ITSM tools and their capabilities/use cases. Proposing new names along the way. Before finally making a judgment call on the new name.

This article by @StephenMann looks at the current state of #ITSM tools and their capabilities/use cases, questioning whether they should be renamed to something else entirely. Share on X

How IT Service Management tools do so much more than ITSM these days

There are three areas here that are front of mind for me, where ITSM tools now provide:

  1. Additional IT management capabilities that go beyond traditional ITSM needs. Although the dividing line has moved somewhat with the release of ITIL 4 and its new practices. So, this includes overarching capabilities such as IT asset management (ITAM) and IT operations management (ITOM), and capabilities such as discovery, monitoring, and automated remediation that sit within these. It also includes additional capabilities for needs related to cloud management, DevOps, and potentially employee experience. A possibility would, therefore, be for ITSM tools to now be called IT management tools. But, hold on, there’s more to consider.
  2. Non-IT use case service management capabilities. Whether this is what we’ve traditionally called enterprise service management or, more recently, back-office transformation. It’s what I define as “The use of ITSM principles and capabilities in other business areas to improve performance, service, and outcomes.” A possibility here would, therefore, be for ITSM tools to now be called enterprise service management tools or simply service management tools. But, hold on again, there’s still more to consider.
  3. Platform-based capabilities. More and more ITSM tools are offering low-code/no-code capabilities for customers to quickly create new line-of-business applications without programming skills. It’s a platform-based capability. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the business process automation (BPA) tools that seemed more popular in the early 2000s – probably because they’re now likely marketed as digital transformation tools in 2020. So, we therefore have some other possible new names – BPA tools, service automation tools, or even digital transformation tools. OK, that last one is jumping the shark and I’ve not even mentioned artificial intelligence (AI)

There might be other things to consider too, but hopefully these areas are enough to get you wondering whether ITSM tools is still the right term.

Taking a different view

While the above is logical (I hope), it’s very much an inside-out view of ITSM tools. Talking to what they do rather than what they achieve through what they do. In many ways, it begs the question as to whether IT service management, or even service management, is still a good term to use to describe what’s done and achieved through capabilities such as incident management and service level management (to name just two of ITIL 4’s 34 practices). But let’s park this for another time, to focus on that naming. Especially because I think that the conclusion re tools will also be relevant to ITSM per se.

So, how should we be looking at our tools?

More and more, we’re talking about outcomes and value creation in ITSM. So, is there an opportunity to talk about ITSM tools in terms of their outcomes rather than simply what they do to achieve those outcomes?

Think about it, we don’t do ITSM for ITSM’s sake. OK, some organizations might do. We do ITSM to achieve some specific business outcomes. Or better outcomes that then drive better business outcomes. So, what’s the outside-in view of modern ITSM tools?

Is there an opportunity to talk about ITSM tools in terms of their outcomes rather than simply what they do to achieve those outcomes? Asks @StephenMann. Share on X

What’s in a name?

This focus on outcomes is reflected in a report that I worked on with Adam Holtby, of Ovum, in late 2019. If you missed it, it’s called “Ovum Market Radar: Employee Support Tools” and is available for download from Cherwell Software whose ex-VP Marketing Matt Klassen kindly provided a related quote about the naming of our tools:

“Right now, the focus for many organizations is on transforming employee experience and organizations that have had this focus are much better equipped to deal with the crisis at hand. Modern ITSM tools definitely have a role to play in helping here, especially in the latter two capabilities called out – non-IT use cases and platform capabilities. With all internal service providers, not just IT, needing to provide employees with digital-friendly and automated remote daily work experiences that make them more productive no matter where they are.

Customers that recognize this are seeking out enterprise service management and platform capabilities. And I think we are seeing more customers wanting enterprise service management tools, or platforms, that offer ITSM capabilities (as part of an overall enterprise solution to improving the employee experience), rather than ITSM tools that can also be used outside of IT.”

Interestingly, the Ovum report is promoted as “enterprise service management”-related. Of course, it is – in that it covers enterprise service management capabilities. But it also covers so much more too. Especially related to employee experience.

In fact, when the report was being planned, we knew that it had to be more than an ITSM tool report. Plus, it also needed to be more than an enterprise service management report to reflect modern service management needs. So, the original – or working – title for the report was a market radar for employee enablement tools. A name that better reflects the outcomes of modern ITSM tool use, particularly given the rapid growth in interest in employee experience.

However, its promotion is understandable from a marketing perspective – people are currently looking for enterprise service management tools not employee support tools (which might sound limited to human resources (HR) too). And they’re definitely not looking for employee enablement tools.

Back to that new name for IT Service Management tools

So, should ITSM tools be called something else now? Yes, when I take a one-dimensional opinion.

But, will they be called something else? No. Or at least not soon. There’s too much to be lost through such a name change.

Why? Because there are still too many people looking for ITSM tools for them to be called something else. Plus, there’s likely no one looking for employee enablement tools – which is currently my preferred new name for the modern tools that do so much more than ITSM.

A quick bit of Googling backs this up:

  • “ITSM tools” = 239k results
  • “Enterprise service management tools” = 71k results
  • “Digital transformation tools” = 23k results
  • “Employee enablement tools” = 154 results.

With the following search levels for each term available from Google Trends:

  • “ITSM tools” = circa 100 searches per day
  • “Enterprise service management tools,” “Digital transformation tools,” and “Employee enablement tools” = insufficient results to report

People are still seeking ITSM tools whether they do or don’t have needs related to any or all of wider ITOM needs, enterprise service management, platform capabilities, or better employee enablement. It’s because that’s what they’ve always needed to look for (and have done so for up to three decades). And it’s still what’s being marketed to them.

Consequently, at the moment, ITSM tools look likely to never stop being called this. In the same way that some tool vendors still market and sell IT help desk tools, because these are what their target market is still looking and asking for. And those who are calling for ITSM tools to now be called service management tools are both missing the difficulty of creating a new technology classification and the opportunity to move from inside-out to outside-in nomenclature for these tools that can offer so much assistance to organizations.

What do you think? Does your organization still want an ITSM tool or would a different name be better? If so, what would you call ITSM tools?

Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals.

Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), 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 product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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